Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has now returned to Portsmouth after completing a number of firsts for the ship, notably F-35 trials.
The Royal Navy say in a release that during the Development Trials, F-35 jets conducted 202 takeoffs from the ship’s ski ramp, 187 vertical landings, and 15 shipborne vertical landings —a landing technique unique to the UK. They also dropped 54 inert bombs, testing the weight loading in a variety of weather conditions and sea states. The operating envelopes will be further expanded during Operational Trials, scheduled for next year.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“HMS Queen Elizabeth’s inaugural deployment to the US has not only marked the return of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike capabilities, but also strengthened our special relationship with US forces. A true statement of our global reach and power, this ship will serve the United Kingdom for generations to come, keeping the nation safe and supporting our allies as we navigate increasing threats.”
Captain Nick Cooke Priest summed up the deployment, saying:
“The WESTLANT 18 deployment has been a real success; and let’s not forget that we are just a year on from the Ship being commissioned and accepted into service.
The main effort – Fixed Wing Flying trials have delivered outstanding results, which is testament to the co-operation, hard work and dedication of both the Ship’s Company and the US Integrated Test Force, assisted by the US Navy and US Marine Corps.
Their combined efforts have put us in an excellent starting position for next year’s Operational Testing. The Ship has proudly flown the flag for the UK across the Atlantic.”
Commander Air onboard, Commander James Blackmore oversaw the flight trials and said:
“Since the ship sailed from build only 17 months ago we have operated Fixed Wing – most notably the F-35B – Rotary Wing and the Tilt Rotor MV-22 Osprey – 9 different aircraft types in all. We have proved the incredible design of the Queen Elizabeth Class of ship and the partnership with the F-35B.
In that combination, we have something very special that will provide significant operational capability for decades to come, strategic choice for our government and a Task Group focus for the Royal Navy; we are truly back in the Super Carrier era.”
The deployment was also the first for the reformed UK Carrier Strike Group staff according to a Royal Navy news release, headed up by Cdre Michael Utley, who said:
“This has been an extraordinarily successful deployment on the Royal Navy’s journey to full Carrier Strike capability. It has once again demonstrated the strongest of relationships with our closest allies in the US and will underpin future work as we re-introduce fixed wing aviation at sea.
The design of HMS Queen Elizabeth, specifically built for the immensely capable F-35B Lightning II, has enabled outstanding progress which will form the basis of Operational Testing in 2019.
The other Task Group units deployed, including HMS Monmouth, our new Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tanker RFA Tidespring and the Merlin Helicopters from 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons, as well as Royal Marines and members from our sister Services, have all contributed to this significant success.”
The Task Group comprised HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Monmouth, RFA Tidespring and aircraft from 820, 845 and 814 Naval Air Squadrons, as well as Royal Marines from 42 Commando and supporting units from the US Navy and US Marine Corps, say the Royal Navy.