HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to sail from Portsmouth on Friday at 12:20pm.

The deployment ‘WESTLANT 19’, will see HMS Queen Elizabeth and her crew conduct vital deck and warfare trials with British F-35 jets. It is understood that 617 Squadron will embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time for this deployment.

The jets will conduct Operational Tests, alongside 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron, onboard the carrier in the USA during the WESTLANT 19 deployment, proving their capability at sea.

The MoD say that this is vital step on the path to the first Carrier Strike Deployment planned for 2021.

Further information can be found on the Portsmouth Harbour shipping movements website for the date of Friday the 30th of August 2019.

Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said:

“Our aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to the East Coast of the United States to conduct Operational Trials with our Lightning Force, taking this 5th generation capability to the next level as they prove their ability to operate from the sea.

For decades to come, this exciting new combination of aircraft carriers and F35B Lightnings will provide a potent, globally deployable carrier strike capability, a powerful conventional deterrent and the centrepiece of our country’s expeditionary forces.”

Recently, the 18th F-35B for the UK was delivered. Numbers right now are exactly where they’re expected to be and inline with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

2 F-35B in LRIP run 3, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 4, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 7, 4 F-35B in LRIP run 8, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 9, 3 F-35B in LRIP run 10, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 11, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 12, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 13, 8 F-35B in LRIP run 14 and 7 F-35B in LRIP run 15. This brings us to 42 in 2023. The next run brings us to the total of the first batch of aircraft, 48.

It is hoped that 138 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered by the 2030s.

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Peter Crisp

With the procurement being spread out over more than a decade the F-35 should go through quite a few changes. Are early examples expected to receive any and all upgrades and what are the chances of early aircraft being run into the ground so that newer aircraft can be kept in better shape and eek out the overall life of the program?

Jon Agar

Currently aircraft are pending a upgrade 3i this is across the entire type, as they upgrade and move forward they are upgraded. but its like un-plugging a hard drive from your lap top and a new one installed. the advances like all computer based system is fast. the Orange wired aircraft at the test site are the oldest. upgrade 3F is pending allready and allows the aircraft to change mission operations in mid air. from full air to air to air to ground. upgrades are likely to be all internal and it ways of construction, and fuel burn.


There is also at least two planned upgrades for the F135 engine. There has also been a aerodynamic investigation in adding a lerx strip to the leading edge wing joint, much like the Typhoon’s. In simulations this increased the aircraft’s roll rate and enhanced lift at supersonic speeds. Not sure if they will go ahead with it though, as it was only a simulation.


Simulations are pretty good nowadays. Assuming they were high quality simulations, at least a £1m computer tied up for 24 hours a day for 3 or 4 days at a time for each simulation run which is the sort of scale of simulation that the major F1 teams use for their full-car aerodynamic simulation runs, I would expect the F-35 design team to have a pretty high confidence in the simulation results. Whether it gets funding though is a whole other issue. On funding for enhancements, with F-35 still so controversial and still with very vocal critics, including presumably some… Read more »

andy reeves

how many f 35b do we have?

Daniele Mandelli

All coming together nicely.


Yeah sure is, I wonder if we will see large drones flying from Hms QE in future.

andy reeves

depending on take off distance requirements i’d like to see armed taranis operating from her. once weapon evaluation/load trials for taranis have been completed.


Wonder how many F-35s and Merlins will be embarking….. looking forward to seeing pictures! It’s going to be an awesome sight!


3x Merlin Mk2
3x Merlin Mk4
(Estimated) 6x 617 Squadron F-35B
3x 17 Squadron F-35B
Apparently USMC aircraft will be paying a visit.


Should imagine at least two or three orange wired F35’s, Yes? No?
Which means at present numbers, we could be looking at a squadron with some still available for training.


Not only are 617 embarking but also a flight from the USMC once the ship arrives off the east coast. So there’s probably going to be three different F35B “squadrons” operating from the ship i.e. OEU, 617 and USMC. Hopefully it will make the press?


I’m hearing it’s 7 UK F35 from all three squadrons and extra USMC aircraft – up to 4.


I thought I read 9 were flying from the UK to USA then embarking in USA.


The pictures and video from last year are still excellent to look at and watch. It will be great to see a few more jets on the flight deck this year

Stephen Morgan

I see there is also a French frigate alongside in Portsmouth. As France is also a participant in this exercise, perhaps she will form an additional escort to the HMQE task group.
I guess we will know that sometime Friday afternoon.


What’s happened/happening with the planned follow-up documentary, Britain’s Biggest Warship?


Will be airing during westlant 19


Pre lot 8 F-35 are probably not suitable for combat. Luckily the UK has only 4 of those, but it does mean the claim of 42 F-35B by 2023, is really 38 combat capable.

Nigel Collins

Yet another good reason for us to allocate serious funding to our armed forces, including ASM’s sooner rather than later.

“For decades to come, this exciting new combination of aircraft carriers and F35B Lightnings will provide a potent, globally deployable carrier strike capability, a powerful conventional deterrent and the centrepiece of our country’s expeditionary forces.”

“The study by the United States Study Center, at the University of Sydney, in Australia, warned that America’s defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific region “is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis” and could struggle to defend its allies against China.”


The Wildcats will also have Sea Venom by (2020) next year.


Why isn’t the Merlin cleared for Martlet and Sea Venom?


Apparently; The 28 Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters will be able to carry four Sea Venom missiles each, no other UK aircraft are currently planned to carry it and no surface launch variant either.


Seems a massive oversight, when T26 will only be operating Merlin.


About time, I was watching a documentary about the lynx yesterday and it was amazing, fastest helicopter on earth for decades, so would that make the wildcat faster now ? Or have they even tried I wonder. But that lynx documentary with the lynx in the falklands was great I didn’t know 3 ships and one submarine were hit by lynx weapons like sea skua and a torpedo and put out of action by the lynx helicopter, Hell I didn’t even know we sent 27 lynx to the falklands war and we lost no lynx.


We did lose Lynx – just not in ‘direct’ combat -by that I mean shootdowns-. 3 were lost aboard Ardent, Coventry and Atlantic Conveyor.


“It is hoped that 138 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered by the 2030s.“ One would hope; although it is also conceivable that with such a long delivery schedule we will not operate all aircraft at the same time, and perhaps the most we will have in active service at any one time during the F35’s service life will top out around the 100 mark. This just about covers the old Harrier fleet (with a much more capable aircraft than Harrier, which is undoubtably a force multiplier), but the Tornado fleet has been retired without replacement, and not much is… Read more »

Steve R

Only issue with having both A and B variants is that although it could save money which could then be used on more airframes, once you take into account that we would need two separate OCU squadrons, one each for the A and B variants, and then two separate pools of spares, the might not be any extra aircraft available for combat, compared to if we just stuck with the B variant. The only way I think we could order F35A would be if there were a significant increase in defence spending; say to 2.75-3% of GDP. If that were… Read more »


If the Japanese can do it we can. We had 4 different kinds of fast jets not so long ago, two different F35s shouldn’t be that difficult to maintain without spending billions extra. We have cut so many of our squadrons and warships so we should have the dam money. But they always say we don’t have it for a reason even if we do have it. There’s a saying – always say your skint but never be skint. Look at all the aircraft alone we have lost it hundreds and hundreds and 5000 RAF personnel in 2010. We have… Read more »

Steve R

The difference is that the Japanese are not also building 4 new ballistic missile submarines at the cost of £31billion+ I agree that we should order some F35As. But only if they are in addition to the current order for 138 F35Bs, not instead of. If 138 is all we get, and even then maybe only 80-90 actually in service at any one time, then they all need to be able to jump onto our carriers when the need arises. By all means, if MoD gets a substantial budget boost from the Treasury then I’d say order F35As and make… Read more »


Yeah with the drawn out ordering I agree we would be lucky to have 90 in service at one time, so best to stick with F35B.

I do find it frustrating that the Tornado fleet has been allowed to be retired with nothing to replace it, not even a future design study or a commitment to expanding our drone capabilities. At the very least we could get some more Typhoons and get them upgraded with AESA radar, conformal fuel tanks, and the increased thrust EF200 engines


I don’t think we will ever see more than 80 F35bs active at one time and that’s being generous as not all will be front line capable!! They are being delivered too slow. We need large numbers of fast jets like we used to have, and we as a country have never been as rich as we are today so we can afford it, we had a millitary 3x our current size when we were a far poorer nation a few decades back. It’s political will, and I’ve not heard one politician talk about how they’ll help our millitary and… Read more »


I wonder how many low rate initial production contracts there are going to be, If memory serves 2015 then 2018 was going to be the last before Full rate production kicked in. They are due to stop making F35’s in about 11 years from now and the current production rate exceeds the production rate of every other western fighter combined. Thankfully we did not buy too many in the first lots that we would have to write off now but one wonders how the Americans put up with us being a tier 1 partner and buying less jets than almost… Read more »


The QE Class is the first properly thought through and designed full size STOVL carrier, so it will be interesting once they are in full service to see how they perform alongside other carriers, specifically the Nimitz class and CDG. The Invincibles and the various foreign knock offs have always been limited by their size and constrained deck space, while the Sea Harrier was also tasked to do roles the original air frame was never intended for, and was another compromise. The FA2 did much to address this, and was a very capable aircraft, but ultimately the sub-sonic speed, poor… Read more »


You raise a very important point regarding AEW. The US Navy trialled an Osprey with a crowsnest style of radar over 10 years ago. The radar was attached to the ramp and then lowered in flight. It worked, but it didn’t have the range the Navy were looking for. Jump forward 10 years, the USMC and Navy are urgently looking at the Lightning carrier concept. Primarily due to the delays with the Ford class that can’t operate the F35C. The major issue is that the Wasp class does not have a catapult or arrestor wires, so a Hawkeye cannot operate… Read more »


Cheers DaveyB, that’s very interesting – the V247 programme sounds like a great opportunity down the line for the RN. I was also thinking whether the V280 Valor might be a suitable manned platform, but if the Americans are ploughing the money into V247 to do AEW anyway then we may as well wait for that.

Being able to deploy V247 from T45 and use it for AAW target cuing for surface vessels would be an excellent additional capability for the surface fleet…


Yes, there has been a US Navy Vice-Admiral giving a brief on how they are investigating dealing with swarm attacks on future carrier battle groups. He described using a VTOL asset from the back of a Ticonderoga cruiser. The cruiser would purely be armed for air defence. The Ticos have 122 MK41 VLS cells so would carry a mix of long, medium and quad packed short range missiles. Now, if the ship had a V247 using a APG-81 derivative radar. This would give it a very good over the horizon capability. Using a multi-functional advanced data link (MADL), Link-16 data… Read more »

Steve Martin

It’s a pleasant change to read the list of units participating in this deployment. It does seem we’re moving closer to the size of a full deployment. They’re not listed here but are any Royal Marines deploying on the exercise this time, aside from the assumed FPG lot?


Good point – 845 NAS is taking part presumably they’ll also be practising how commando forces are included into the air group

James Fennell

845 will perform COD and plane guard duties too, I guess.

Roger Rea

Safe trip lads and lasses. Stay safe, I hope you have calm seas