Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed Portsmouth this afternoon.

The vessel will be conducting flight trials and other forms of training before sailing to the United States in five weeks time.

The Ministry of Defence say that whilst in the Washington area the carrier will host the Atlantic Future Forum, which aims at ‘bringing the US and UK industry and military together to address the changing nature of warfare and shared threats both allies face at home and abroad’.

F-35B jets on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

“HMS Queen Elizabeth represents the best of British innovation and is a true embodiment of our international ambition. The fact that this important ship will have visited the US twice within her short service thus far is testament to our enduring transatlantic defence relationship.

In the week that we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings it is only right that we continue to look at how we can deepen our global partnerships to promote peace and deter future conflict.”

F-35Bs on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The deployment ‘WESTLANT 19’, will see HMS Queen Elizabeth and her crew conduct vital deck and warfare trials with British F-35 jets from 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron based in the USA and 617 Squadron based at RAF Marham, as well rotary wing training with Merlin and Wildcat helicopters, added the MoD in a release.

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With two, squadrons might we expect to see all 14 of our jets onboard ?


The article says that 617 SQN and 17 SQN will be involved in trials. will 617 sqn conduct its operations from the UK whilst HMSQE is in UK waters or will 617 SQN travel with the ship (they are currently at Akrotiri?) Will this count as the first maritime training for 617 SQN resulting in basic carrier ops qualification?


This report ( says “Several F-35B Lightning aircraft from 617 Squadron, flew from their base at RAF Marham in Norfolk to spend six weeks at RAF Akrotiri as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn”. That report was dated 22nd May so that exercise is only due to go on for another 2.5 or 3 weeks and according to this UKDJ article that we’re commenting on QE isn’t sailing for the USA for another 5 weeks so plenty of time to get those planes back from Akrotiri and onto QE while she’s still in UK waters I would have thought. Also, the… Read more »


yes, that all sounds coherent. Sounds like things have moved up a couple of gears for Dambusters

Daniele Mandelli

I assumed there would be but a handful of F35 on board. Difference this time is that they are British aircraft.


Considering what’s happened since the first series I would have thought they already have plenty for the next one. If they wait till this is over all that video taken since the first shake down will start to be be very out of date the time it gets edited and screened. Good for the start of a third series perhaps building up to its first true assignment out east maybe.

Chris H

@Julian1 – Its an educated guess from me and what I have read but 617 have 9 aircraft in the UK (or wherever). We have a total of 17 aircraft, 3 are Orange Wired for weapons and other T & E and so I would think the other 5 currently in the USA will ‘fly on’ to QE and be brought home care of the Andrew Delivery Service …
I wouldn’t be surprised if the USMC aren’t using this trip to get some of their pilots certified on QE as well.


Thats a good idea to get the next batch of aircraft home BUT 207 R is meant to be standing up in July -this summer at least – and assuming they want the next batch of aircraft before/shortly after said stand-up, that won’t happen if WESTLAN 19 runs for months and QE then ferries the aircraft home. Of course 207 R could just stand up with no aircraft a bit like 617 did itself early last year…

Chris H

@Julian1 – good point well made. I am not sure that each squadron will have dedicated airframes to start with as they will all be based at Marham apart from 17(R) at Edwards AFB. Indeed UK and USMC pilots and maintainers share RAF and USMC aircraft as required in the USA. Plus I am not sure how an OCU Squadron will operate single seater fighters given their training role. Lateral thinking says stand up 207(R) on board QE and start flying the 5 x F-35s in the USA and off QE on the way home. As I see it come… Read more »


I was under the impression that she was conducting Apache trials in this sailing?


Maybe most or all of the Apache trials in the 5 weeks before she sets off across the Atlantic? Also maybe, as per my comment to Julian1 above, perhaps at the end of that keeping a few on board for the crossing to get some experience of handling & maintenance in various sea states?

Daniele Mandelli

Apache. Wildcat. Merlin. Chinook. Tailored Air Group of the LPH variety.


Nice to see her finally sail for USA, let’s hope all goes well and we see a British carrier battle group sooner than planned.


he’s not going to the US yet. This is for trials off the UK coast with helicopters amongst other things (suspect a solid stores RAS with Fort Vic as well). She’ll then return to Portsmouth before setting off to the states.


She might be beautiful in some eyes….but she still looks as if she has been designed by Lego to me!


That’s just it, it’s all subjective!
I think she looks like a bathtub from some angles…

The most important thing is, we project power again! I just hope the bean counters in Whitehall realise, a carrier is only as good as its escort group.


Yes, and the aircraft that it carries!!!!

Gavin Gordon

I note that the latest software upgrade for the F35 (3F, if memory serves correctly) has made the aircraft a more competent dogfighter as well as apparently increasing it’s situational awareness & ‘networking skills’.


Do you have a good site that you use/recommend for tracking the status & contents of the various software upgrades? Which upgrades are the various key UK weapons integrations scheduled for e.g. Meteor & Spear Cap 3?

Note to George Allison – as QE gets closer to sailing to the USA maybe not a bad time to do a refresher/update info article on what is planned when for the UK weapons integrations and other stuff of particular interest to the UK purchases/use.

Gavin Gordon

Got that snippet from US platform Breaking Defense a few days back, which is generally helpful for a concurrent view of American defence issues. Nothing magical about my knowledge base, unfortunately.


Its a bit commercial, but try
This is a joint Lockheed Martin and US Mil site on the F35 and its development.


Current status is additional UK weapons will be installed in Blk.4 Dates aren’t exact on that at present. But current planning is 2024-5. So…right now UK F-35B can use the following weapons: Asraam AIM-120C5 Paveway IV Thats it. No gun pods have been ordered yet for the UK. The C5’s are coming to the point at which they will need replacing or a life extension. The UK has ordered 120 AIM-120D for delivery around 2020-21. Can’t find out if this is instead of a life-ex or in addition to. The Amraam are obviously used with Typhoon. We need these D’s… Read more »


Thanks Rudeboy. A really helpful & detailed reply.

I love this new comments system where you get emails when a reply is posted. Would have totally missed this otherwise.

I assume when you say Spear you mean Spear Cap 3.

On JSM, are the Norwegians planning an F-35 integration? I suppose even if yes a danger there is that they only do internal integration/testing which would be OK for their F-35As but as I understand it the F-35B can’t carry JSM internally due to shortened weapons bay in the B.


Yes Spear Capability 3 has been filled by an order for the MBDA Spear. MBDA have confused everyone by naming the actual missile after the requirement…further confused by the fact they are looking to make 3 models of Spear: Spear, Spear Glide and Spear EW. All will be in the same form factor so should be easy integration efforts. Yes the Norgies got the US to agree to help them fund the integration of JSM into the Block IV package as a condition of them ordering F-35. It was going to be the only AShM integrated, but the US recently… Read more »


To me she looks like a next generation aircraft carrier as opposed to simply taking 1950s design concept to their ultimate degree as in the US and most other carriers. Who knows what in reality is the better solution but I have my preference. The only annoyance to me is always the British solution to the ski jump which spoils her lines and looks like an add on as it was when it was Hermes but no excuse now. But ignoring that it looks true sci-fi in the way the George Bush for example still looks like centre spreads from… Read more »

Chris H

@spyinthesky – QE is almost ‘5th Gen’ in her style …. But the thing that struck me when she was sailing with the USS George H W Bush during her Sea Trials was that her two islands placed as they are visually reduce the length of the ship quite dramatically. That flight deck with a single island to the rear would look much bigger.


The other issue is cost and time. Bunging on a ski ramp is much cheaper than EMALS, even though EMALs will be better in the long run. It also allows the carrier and aircraft to be certified much quicker. Imagine if we had fitted EMALS, where would the carrier be today? What I find interesting is how a UK company developed a electric catapult system that was originally earmarked for QE. The EMCAT system had been used for launching target drones since 2008. It was developed into EMKIT+ that launch aircraft up 10,000kg. There was an article on it in… Read more »

David E Flandry

The odd lines of the QE are for reduced signatures on radar.


Must have been a truly impressive sight when the Dreadnought era battle squadrons sailed en mass…


Richard B

Very smoky when you get 20 or 30 oil burning Super Dreadnought together. There are some great photos in the Internet.


And yet we don’t have one battleship saved for the nation, Japan has the only old British battleship preserved! The6 bought it brand new long ago, and they even modelled there Navy of the best at the time, Britain.

Rob Collinson

Using ‘Vessel Finder’ it looks as though she is sailing on her own? Should she not have at some escort? Even when she is undergoing trials? Especially as she does not have any form of shield as she has little to no offensive protection other than the CWIS Phalanx which may as of yet been not been even tested.

A perfect opportunity for an enemy to take the opportunity to wipeout this target whilst she had no support from her support group.

Robert Blay

And who exactly us going to try and wipe her out? The RN and British intelligence has enough experience to allow a carrier or any of our warships to sail across the pond un aided, or maybe an escort will sail a day or two after the QE. Who knows.

Daniele Mandelli

There is no war on. At the most the Russians might have a sub trying to get info on her characteristics, if they have not managed to do that already.

And if there was one I’m sure the Dam Neck people will be well aware, with our own Subs in attendance.

A great deal goes on in the air, over the airwaves and under the water that is not apparent, but likely given how the military work.


Agreed. No real threats right now. But full protection to be implemented for next deployment.. no half cock measures please or cost excuses.. Also note that Israel has received 17th F35. We had Tier 1 status yet that makes no difference in delivery preference it would seem. We have trained pilots stacking up but not the aircraft.
Very frustrating not least for the pilots

Chris H

@ Bill – The UK deliberately staged purchasing and delivery of its F-35s for very good reasons. Firstly we gave priority to the USMC so they could gain a politically sensitive IOC with the ‘B’. We could then ‘piggyback’ off their learning curve. And in fairness the USMC has returned the favour by committing to supplying Squadrons for duty on QE. There was also the need to stage payments given where our economy was in 2010 and finally of course the further down the LRIP process the lower the purchase price becomes. Plus of course course given the USA hands… Read more »


@Bill – Not to mention that the Israelis received the A variant (modified by IAI to their F-35I standards), which has had less problems than the other two variants. And needed the least development time. The F-35B has STOVL issues which required a greater amount of time to get right (and still getting right). The same with the F-35C with its navalization.

Besides Israel, Australia, Italy & Japan have received a comparable number of F-35As. Italy is also suppose to receive F-35Bs, as is Japan.

Bill Edmead

All good points guys and thank you. The drip feed of the aircraft and the problems being encountered after years of testing and evaluation with two monoliths waiting to achieve their true potential remain a tremendous source of frustation and alas, a pipedream. All par the course really.

Gavin Gordon

It always seemed ‘evident’, even from a layman perspective, that such a complicated engineering variant as the F35-B would require the most upkeep and have the lowest availability overall, notwithstanding it’s tactical flexibility. Still appears to leave the QE’s as more of an assault than strike platform at present, especially as & when peer opponents introduce cats. Can hope that over the vessels’ long lifespans, which should exceed all the F35 types, computer-dominated aeronautical advances may lessen the requirement for cats which have their own operational issues of course.