HMS Queen Elizabeth has sailed from her home port of Portsmouth to conduct training with UK F-35 Lightning jets in home waters.

Specifically, the ship is sailing to conduct Carrier Qualifications as well as Landing Signal Officer qualifications with 207 Squadron, the UK’s F-35 Lightning training squadron.

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer, Captain Angus Essenhigh, said in a news release:

“It is a real honour for me to be taking HMS Queen Elizabeth to sea for the first time as her new Commanding Officer. This period at sea will build on the successes of the Westlant 19 deployment, providing a fantastic opportunity for the ship to further its generation towards carrier strike, and will train and qualify UK F-35 pilots in UK waters for the very first time.”

Lieutenant Commander Richard Turrell, Flight Deck Officer on HMS Queen Elizabeth, added:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to further integrate and qualify United Kingdom F-35 pilots, ground crews and aircraft on board HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters. My team are excited to get to sea and continue the development of our ship to air wing partnership throughout 2020 and beyond to deploying with full carrier strike capability in 2021.”

207 Squadron will be flying aircraft to and from the decks, day and night from their base at RAF Marham. Six pilots, both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, will carry out their aircraft carrier qualification in that time.

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Wonder if she’s going to meet up with:

THAT would be a sight.



Given they are deploying to the North Sea I would say there is a good chance of either QE or perhaps POW meeting up with Charles De Gaule. Would be quite a sight.

andy reeves

she’s old now, but with a fresh coat of paint, she still looks the part

Supportive Bloke

Launched 1996 (ish) so maybe half way through her life span?

Assuming CDG is engineered to a 50 yr life like the UK or US big flat tops are.


Yes after numorous problems only started service in 2001 so probably plenty of life in her yet.


that’s what I like about you Helions, always informative, enthusiastic, respectful. Keep posting.


Thank you all.



So at the end of this year we’ll another 12 carrier qualified pilots.

Anyone any idea how many that is in total now. I am guessing that most if not all of 617sqn are carrier qualified? So would that make about 20 – 24 in total, enough to support one frontline carrier squadron perhaps?

It is good to see this sort of progress, well done to all involved.

andy reeves

my mate in the r.a.f reckons that a full squadron could now operate from Q.E but as p.o.w has yet to begin aircraft trials, it couldn’t YET


Hi Andy,

Sorry if I’m being dumb but are you suggesting that as POW needs aircraft / pilots for trials then there isn’t the number to deploy a full squadron on QE, yet?

Makes sense looking at the numbers. This years ‘graduates’ are a pretty important to QE’s deployment then…

andy reeves

so far the u.k has around 20 35 B. plus three kept in the u.s for training and maintenance. GIVEN THAT A SQUADRON IS GENERALLY ACCEPTED TO HAVE 12-24 AIRCRAFT, THEN AN OPERATIONAL SQUADRON INITIALLY EMBEDDED IN ONE OF THE CARRIERS EACH THEN.SHIP. training not dumb at all, the fact that we keep hearing things about joint exercises e.t.c we don’t recently get information on issues such as, this the issues, that really interest, dragon fire e.t.c are not readily available t would seem. the position and effectiveness is governed completely by pilots trained and how many f 35’s’hank the… Read more »


As the US marines are delaying receiving some of their Bs in favour of earlier C deliveries would that potentially leave earlier delivery of Bs to us I wonder should we want them? Not that that is likely to happen.


The USMC still operate the F18A/Bs and are desperate to get rid of them. They have forgone upgrading them to purchase the C’s, but to also to pay for the MUX UAV.

andy reeves

now keep them f 35’s coming


The official combat radius for F-35B with I assume whatever (internal?) weapons load the USMC specified is 450nm.

So the $64,000 question is what is the Rafale M combat radius with the equivalent weapons load?


From what’s out there from bid presentations it has a combat radius of 920nm with three external fuel tanks but that’s AA only, if you add 2 scalps that goes to 720nm.

Without the full load of external fuel tanks it looks like it would be less than 450nms


You can see where I’m going with this. QE F-35Bs will benefit from the ski-jump and not having to carry fuel for a go around after an aborted traps landing. So give or take options like external drop tanks and external stores I reckon the UK and French carriers have a comparable combat strike capability, both somewhat less than that from the F-35C.


There’s also inflight refueling. While we’ve yet to develop carrier-based tankers the RAF or allies could deploy tankers in support of strikes etc over most of the globe.


Yes indeed. Per my reply to Julian


Good question and quite an encouraging answer from Jonathan that, on baseline internal fuel load only, the F-35B can more than hold its own vs Rafale M as far as combat radius goes. I had a look at the Rafale Wikipedia entry and wasn’t expert enough to unpick the data to compare like with like (all the Wikipedia ranges tended to include more than just internal tanks) but as well as Rafale drop tanks I saw mention of conformal tanks (CTs). Presumably if properly designed CTs would be more stealth-friendly than drop tanks for F-35B. The Israelis were considering developing… Read more »


Excellent points made, but why can’t F35B’s fly stealth missions with standard drop tanks and then discard them before coming into detection range of the target? Granted in peacetime that would be an unnecessary expense, but in wartime….also, does anyone know if the F35 is piped for internal weapons bay fuel tanks, ie for long range reconnaissance ?


Most if not all of the close support missions against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, whether flown by F-18s from a USN carrier, Typhoons from Cyprus or Rafale from Al Dhafra are refuelled several times by land based tankers. The US 308th expeditionary wing is based out of Al Dhafra and supports the French Rafales. Most of the worlds population lives within 200 miles of the coast. QE could launch F-35B 200 miles from land launched AShM and strike these targets and/or provide close support. Storm Shadow would significantly increase its strike range. It’s about 1000km from the top of… Read more »


The F35B has a slightly wider airframe then the A or C versions. This is so it can accommodate the lift fan. Israel has stumped up the funding to develop CFTs and drop tanks. Lockheed-Martin have designed prototypes, so hopefully within the next couple of years we will at least see the drop tanks. There was a rumour of a fuel tank being designed to be fitted inside the weapons bay, but I’ve not heard anything about it for a while. If conformal tanks are designed for the B version, the aircraft should have no issues taking off from the… Read more »


Thanks Davey. I assume I am right that a properly designed CFT would preserve stealth a lot better than even a stealthy drop tank especially with the issue you explained a while back of attachment points on the wings potentially still compromising stealth even after jettisoning whereas a well designed CFT doesn’t get jettisoned and when fitted becomes a different fuselage contour that hopefully could be designed to still be stealthy. (Would fitting it be a fairly complex operation due to needing to tape all seams between the CFTs and the fuselage?) Sounds to me as if CFTs could be… Read more »


There are two locations that a CFT can be fitted, i.e. above the wing or below it. Below the wing, ala F15, is a non starter due to the undercarriage. However, of the drawings I’ve seen the CFTs are placed on top of the fuselage wing join. If the CFTs are correctly designed and built, there will be a very marginal knock on effect on the aircraft’s performance i.e. speed and fuel burn due to the extra drag. They should not massively increase the aircraft’s RCS. This is because they will be bonded and sealed to the airframe, so no… Read more »