Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to sail to the United States any day now for a series of trials with F-35 jets.

The four-month WESTLANT 18 deployment will see the supercarrier sail to the eastern coast of the United States to begin trials that will pave the way for the UK to operationally deploy fighter jets at sea for the first time in years.

This is the culmination of years of training, tests and trials. Last year, British personnel embarked on the USS America week for at-sea developmental testing phase 3 (DT3), the last trial that paves the way for the US Marine Corps to deploy the jet operationally on amphibious assault ships.

BAE Systems test pilot Pete Wilson said:

“This will not be a DT phase. Testing on the Queen Elizabeth will be like DTs 1, 2 and 3 combined. We don’t need to use fully instrumented aircraft; we already understand most of the loads on the aircraft systems, as we have tested that during earlier tests.”

The aircraft that will be landing on the supercarrier will belong to the Joint Operational Test team. The team’s mission is to build confidence in the aircraft towards helping clear the F-35 to make the legally mandated advance from Low Rate Initial Production to Full Rate Production. The RAF’s No 17 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron comprises ten percent of the test program in the JOTT we understand.

The reason that most if not all of the aircraft to touch down will be American isn’t some scandalous outrage (just watch how some papers report this, though) but rather most of the F-35Bs in Joint Operational Test team are American.

After speaking to one of the pilots in the test programme, we understand that the UK only has three (BK1, 2 & 4) test jets that are “orange wired” to take data for post-flight analysis, the rest being operational aircraft. Therefore, it is highly likely that the jets to go on HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year will be “mostly, if not entirely, American but flown by UK pilots”.

We were told by one of the UK pilots currently flying the jet that the reason for this is that the JOT team dictate the availability of test jets out of a pool. Our contact said:

“It would be nothing more than symbolic to make UK jets available for the trials and that comes at a significant effort since all of them are based at Edwards AFB in California, not on the East Coast where the ship trial is due to take place. 

Therefore, the most obvious and cheaper choice is to use the F-35B test jets based at Pax River, which are US ones. British test pilots like Andy Edgell, Nath Gray, will obviously fly them but there’ll be US pilots too because that’s how Joint Test works.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to sail any day this week.

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Rob Collinson

Whoah!!! HMS Queen Elizabeth to finally start using her flight deck for fast jets for the first time. Fantastic!!!

andy reeves

why sail to america? we have our water to do it our seas are as wet as the yanks.


If I had to guess, it will double as a good long-distance shakedown cruise.


did you read the article?

it’s US airframes being used – ours are coming here to work up to operational status


Come on it even explains it fully in the above article all our F35B on U.K. Soil are operational aircraft so how would it be possible for us to us test aircraft we don’t have in the country the JOINT testing team are based in the US. Read the article


Bon Voyage!

Looking forward to some good videos.



Also to note those 3 orange wired airframes will never leave the US in their current state.

Looking forward to seeing her with fixed wing aviation, and the inevitable papers/twitter rants and former service members chin waggling lol


(Chris H) mike – Given those 3 will have been bought at the highest price we are talking some £0.5 Bn worth of kit here. I am not convinced we need that resource in the USA and we could deploy them to Marham (or even Boscombe Down) to develop the airframe further. It is a very expensive exercise basing them in the States and I wonder what the Nett Benefit is …


bore off you.

Daniele Mandelli

Boscombe hopefully.


The benefit of basing the three orange wired F35 in the US is massive Chris!

It saves significant amount of time and money operating those aircraft in a common international pool close to the manufacturer and the international integration centre.

Moving those airframes to the UK and Boscombe would slow down our weapons integration program and raise costs overall.

The Americans are in effect paying for part of our release to full service program, the cost of basing a few test pilots and their families State side is a bargain!

David Stephen

More aircraft to train with and more air space to train in.


(Chris H) This was flagged up (excuse the pun) on the ‘Navy Lookout’ Twitter feed saying this was the last weekend home for the crew. But nevertheless this is a momentous time and well done everyone involved. QE is due to be in New York in November for a formal visit so reaction will be interesting. I noted this comment in the article: ““It would be nothing more than symbolic to make UK jets available for the trials and that comes at a significant effort since all of them are based at Edwards AFB in California” Well when you are… Read more »


Yep agree totally, the public impression and views are all important, it’s something the MOD and services have forgoten, if You want politicians to fork out billions of taxpayers money you have to have public support, the best way to do this is by the impression it’s worth it and national pride. Not using the 3 UK aircraft makes perfect beurocratic and fiscal sense but it’s the wrong decision.


There will always be super nationalist bigots like Elliot it’s his reason for living no doubt, plying the dreamlike Make America Great Again mantra because is so scared of the fact it ain’t gonna happen unless he can devalue in his limited mind the value of others. Thankfully for every ‘septic’ of his ilk there are many others with a grasp on reality both there and amongst our own people, so really is it worth pandering to his ignorance when it won’t change the truth or realities or even perceptions of the overwhelming thinking majority that matter. People like him… Read more »


I don’t know whether to be amused at your incorrect perception of my reason for being or your assumption I am a bigot without knowing anything about me, my life or my family. Jack*** I would have granted you as it would be true. However being a bigot? No.
“You do not agree with me you must be a bigot.” – Argument is the mark of a lack of ability to present an argument or present analysis.


(Chris H) – Elliott Old Son we do not have to know you as a person because we judge you by the words you write. Just as I am so judged. I never knew Shakespeare but God I admire the man’s writing. You just actually proved spyinthesky’s point wonderfully. But I doubt you have the nous to understand why. You are like so many Yanks on the t’internet. You cannot stand any criticism of your country and see every discussion as a dick waving contest where you have to win. Most of your comments are put downs of the person… Read more »


Thank YOU for proving my point. You just outright confirmed my observation. “Say absolutely everything I agree with or you are not just a bigot but a ignorant bigot.” Your use of the word “decent” American. What’s next oh that’s “he is one of the good ones.” Look in a damn mirror before you call someone a bigot. Your criticizing of someone for being unable to take criticism of their country is hilarious coming from you. Look back over your own comments and you will see a never ending litany of your attacking anything that is critical of Britain followed… Read more »

andy reeves

shakesphere? never understood a word he wrote!

Robert Blay

But the 9 British F35s we have at Marham are not test aircraft, they are operational, they do not have the correct test equipment installed for such trials.


The other side of this is that yes it would be nice to habe a uk test force bringing things online with only 3 uk a/c that would take far longer than it will with 6 8 9 a/c all working at the same time. As has been said it’s a joint test programme. There are other considerations in this tgat go towards the F35 programme as a whole not just us.

Phil charlton

No they don’t Robert.

Paul T

Ive read the article as best as I can – does the quote from the test pilot suggest the Aircraft landing on the QE don’t actually have to be ‘orange wired test’ ones ?

David Stone

617 Squadron at RAF Marham are a bit busy building themselves up to gaining IOC with the new F35B. It would be more important to get them fully operational than take time out to test systems on the carrier, particularly when there are jets in the U.S for just such a purpose. British or American aircraft, it doesn’t matter really. It’ll be a British pilot that will touch down first (I hope). Don’t think the Americans complained when our people joined in the USS Wasp trials


Just adding that those airframes wont be to any standard near frontline, especially with a lot of measurement equipment, along with any future upgrades and lacking a lot of frontline equipment. By contract, security and the needs of the evaluation program they simply wont leave the continental US until they are converted to frontline standard (and by then they’ll be the hardest worked airframes in our fleet). Thats not to say they wont possibly be part of the aircraft that’ll land on her later this year, but as mentioned that’ll be assessed as to the needs of the program. Its… Read more »

Ben P

All our F-35s will be up to the same standard by years end. Was confirmed by one of the UK test pilots.

Ben P

The US ones will be kept at the latest standard, as they are there to test new upgrades etc…


*awaiting Elliot’s reply while chewing popcorn*


I do hope you remember the butter. Bland popcorn is a terrible waste of calories.

David Steeper

Now come on ladies play nice ! I’ve taken a fair amount of criticism myself on these pages but I always remember a quote. ‘The only way to ensure no-one ever thinks you’re an idiot is to never say anything’


(Chris H) David Steeper – that is a great truism and why I prove mysel the village idiot frequently – But please please forgive me as I can’t resist referring to Elliott by quoting Oscar Wilde who said:

“It is far better to let people think you are an idiot than put pen to paper and prove it”


(Chris H) **myself to be **


Most of the calories are in the butter, the beautiful thing about plain popcorn is the truly astronomical amount you can eat without over doing the calories.


Chris H. Its not the cost of flying the jets, its the disruption to the entire f35 program. Those jet have be already planned into continue other testing, some may well be only wired for certain tests. Pax river is where all carrier test is done, the jet there have done the ski jump trials at Pax River.

I 100% guarantee this is not as simple as flying the jets across the US.


(Chris H) expat – I never once said let alone believe any of this is ‘simple’. My point was whatever the cost (in disruption, fuel, man hours, airframe hours, maintenance etc etc) it is worth it for the symbolism it will present to the world. You only ever get to make a first impression once. And if the RN / MoD cannot see that then we are in deeper crap than I thought. As for your point about these 3 aircraft being planned for other tests and so are not available well this has been planned for over 3 years.… Read more »


So you would prefer Britain to convert 3 of its own aircraft to “orange wire” test aircraft and take them permanently out of operation to turn them into test planes, rather then use the “test pool” the US already has coded as test aircraft?


Any thoughts on the escort group will be?
Ok she isn’t sailing into action but she will be heading into international waters without her primary weapon, the F35B in place.


HMS Defender perhaps? Along with a couple of the most recently refurbished T23s – HMS Kent and? Also an Astute, a Tide, and a Fort…


David Stephen

It was supposed to be HMS Montrose but I visited her recently and according to some of her crew they have been bumped in favour of HMS Somerset.


Is Montrose is a GP frigate where Somerset is ASW? If so I could see awareness of Russian subs is needed crossing the Atlantic.

Robert Blay

And who exactly is going to have a pop at it as it sails across the Atlantic? This isn’t a story out of a Tom Clancy novel.


I’m sure there will be an escort of some description, risks are there even if they are not a risk of 5×5 =25 (at war with Russia will get torpedoed on a regular basis) . The Russians would happily get all the intel they could if left alone to play with the Elizabeth ( risk score 5 x3 =15) I’m sure they would also take a couple of great shots from a periscope and splash it all over RT just to show “how weak the RN is in the face of mother Russia” (risk 5 X 3 =15) You also… Read more »

Paul T

Jonathan -it didnt take long for the RN to gain the Acoustic signature of the Moskva when it put to sea – what are the odds that the Russian Navy have not already managed to have a sneaky look at the QE during last years sea trials ?


the propellers on the QE are a relatively basic fixed pitch design – as she runs on electrical motors you don’t need a controllable pitch system to set your speed – you can do that from the electric motor with a variable speed control – in effect you can have more or less power for a given shaft speed. a submarine can really only hear cavaitation or tip signature. besides she will have an astute sat on her rear quarter everywhere she goes – a Russian SSN won’t even get close without being detected. The Russians are not interested in… Read more »


I would say that there is a high probability of the QE running aground , it seems to be the navy preferred method on a shakedown cruise with new vessels . But it is nice to see Nellie the white elephant getting to play with the dodo the flightless bird and pretending to be a valid carrier when everyone knows she is the world’s largest and most exspensive helicopter carriers ever built. But as the wonderful brown nosing Lord West said the image of a carrier was more important than its capabilities and the reduction in the surface fleet a… Read more »


I hope we’ll get more than short notice of a crack-of-dawn departure. I’ve yet to see this ship enter or exit port; would be nice to go down to the coast to see her off on her long trip.


Agreed. Would love to take the lad to go and see them off.

Ben P

Every entrance and exit has been known days in advance. You need to look harder.

barry white

“Long trip”
God i spent longer on one wave


Interested to see if the Phalanx installation is now complete as she’s now going on transatlantic deployment.

Sceptical Richard

She’s not going into theatre, though, is she? Phalanx, decoy launchers, etc., are theatre entry standard fit. Not going over stateside for trials. Unless those trials are for decoys and Phalanx. So I doubt time would have been allocated to ship these systems. But we shall see….


Is it really not necessary to fit guns to our ships unless ‘in theatre’. Unbelievably weak thinking.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is a commissioned WARship.


Hi folks hope all are well and what great news!!
Hopefully the MOD will be onto the UK press making a clear point of how proud the nation should be, and ensuring the importance of how the QE is representing the nation’s interest and protection around the world. About time the press are kicked into patriotic theame for once rather than negative infactual rubbish.
Good luck to QE and all the best who Will serve on her!

Sceptical Richard

Yeah but the press will write what it wants. Usually the more scandalous the better. My daughter is a normal, intelligent Cambridge graduate. Decided to be a journalist. Did a one year Master in journalism at the leading City University. Mother and I were flabagasted when she was trained to always look for the sensational side of a story and the “gotcha” element if possible. Thankfully she’s in trade journalism and doesn’t apply what she learned


My experience is it’s all about the headline and bugger the consequences.

John Clark

Personally, I’m not bothered what flags on the side of the F35b’s deployed.

It’s a multi national effort and this is just another tick on the paper.

They could have the rainbow gay flag on them for all I care! I just want to see F35’s on the deck and get a step closer to full carrier capability again!

Happy days!

Sceptical Richard

The five A400M prototypes all carried the insignia of all the participating nations. Luftwaffe, RAF, French, Spanish, Belgian And Turkish Air Forces. I seem to remember some of the prototypes of the F-16 also carried flags from all customer nations. Couldn’t the T & E F-35s do the same?

Ian Malone

Anyone else remember the Tri Partite Training Establishment at RAF Cottesmore. UK, German and Italian Tornado Aircraft all based at the same base.


Similar to the Tripartite-evaluation Squadron for the Harrier prototypes which used a roundel split into thirds representing the UK, US and West Germany. Obviously far too many F-35 partner nations for that to look any good but the idea is there.


Rfa Tideforce is now in British waters. Another plus for eventual future carrier suppory.


We may be one of the smallest Navies in the world but we are still the best so do what we are good at showing the rest of the how its done


My guess is one of the three UK orange wired F35 will be released from Edwards to Symbolically make the first landing then once that Tabloid paper driven dull formality is done the USMC orange wired aircraft will do the bulk of the work.

Personally I prefer the idea that a mix of RAF, FAA and USMC test pilots do the bulk of the work sharing practice and experience!


Hopefully they will recognise the importance of doing it this way.


That’s my hunch too re the first one, either that (one of the UK ones) or a US one temporarily commandeered into the UK fleet and given RAF roundels for the first landing. Once that is done I wouldn’t be surprised if the tempo of landings and take-offs, together with possibly extended post-flight turnaround times to service and check not only the planes themselves but also all the onboard test/monitoring equipment (e.g. to make sure nothing has lost calibration), might well mean that it simply isn’t possible to maintain the required testing timetable were only the 3 UK test aircraft… Read more »

John Pattullo

wonder why they went to the expensence of flying over our f-35’s? – should have just waited a few weeks and loaded them on the carrier for the return trip


They are currrently being used to work up to Land based IOC (Initial Operating Capability) which in essence is ‘writing the book’ on procedures, operations and limitations on peacetime and wartime flight… evrything from groundcrew and engineers, to in flight operations to the dropping of ordinance ect.
Most of the groundwork for this was done in the US but this will be in essence by ‘our’ own rules and procedures.

Once done, the greenlight will be given to initial carrier trials of our own in our own waters.


An interesting question. Looking at the whole commission/test/workup process though it does seem very well planned to me so I suspect someone in the planning team thought exactly the same thing, probably years ago, and looked at the possibility. I bet there is a compelling reason for not doing what you suggest as opposed to “oh, we never thought of that”. Perhaps it is as simple as there being no way to juggle schedules by 6 months to make the timings work and keeping the now UK-based F-35Bs in the USA for another 6 months, or however long it would… Read more »

Barry Larking

Progress. That is all that needs to be said.


What a bloody palaver just land the flaming things.


There’s no rush. She’s working on/ahead of schedule so why should the Navy risk damage to the ship/crew injury or death just by rushing through trials for a good photo op.


What! its a bloody aircraft carrier it was supposedly designed and built to land F35s 9 of which are in this country why couldn’t one of those pop down to Portsmouth and land on it?are they afraid the paint on the deck is going to fly off(lbtw looking at the state of the paint on top of the superstructures i would be) just plain ridiculous verging on farcical.

Steve M

Those aircraft are not orange wired.


OT but concerning the F35 as well…

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the RAAF should buy a few squadrons of retiring (and fully upgraded B1s with 75% of airframe life left) at fire sale prices I’m sure, to replace those F111s? Yes – the ejector seat problem has cropped up again but that can / is being fixed.

For Oz, you’d think this would be a match made by the Wizard…



I would support the purchase of a squadron for ourselves personally but it’s not going to happen. All other big powers still see the need for them and would allow us to hit harder if required.

Paul T

Helions- would I be right in saying that the article you provided advocates reighning in future purchases of F35 in favour of more FA18F (gen 4 – 4.5) aircraft due to load carrying capability ? Also with Boeing’s proposed F15x variant has the penny dropped and will orders worldwide for the F35 be dramatically reduced in favour of more potential ‘bomb trucks’ ?


Hi Paul, yes and no – It is my opinion that the timeframe in which the F35 can be considered a “silver bullet” effective strike and fighter aircraft is rapidly closing due to technology accelerating advances in both aircraft design and air defenses. Instead of 2-3 decades of frontline use, i suspect that the current iterations of the F35 will see no more than a decade and a half as the primary strike platform for the countries buying them. Not because it’s not an effective platform, it’s just being overcome by the rapid march of tech development . Case in… Read more »


I can only say good luck to the crew of QE. It will be the first time in almost forty years that the RN will be testing for large scale carrier operations. It will be the first time in history that a twin superstructure configuration has been tested, and probably the first time that a fully automated magazine handling system would be tested. SO these are many firsts not just for the RN but naval operators as a whole. I agree with the comments that she probably will have an escort group whilst crossing the Atlantic,and possibly for some time… Read more »


A missile defence system definately won’t be installed on the near future due to cost reasons, the added risk of foreign object damage and the fact that if the escorts have some of the finest missiles available then why does QE need them for point defence if she already has CIWS.


If QE is operating in a F9 gale I doubt if F35.s will be flying. Simple reason why a carrier needs her own self defence missiles and ATT’s.


Ron – I might be wrong but aren’t the Phalanx and the 30mm on platforms jutting out just below deck level hence no issue for airflow? That location, if I’m right, presumably also protects them from hot exhaust gas which is probably a big reason why they were placed just below the deck lin,. I read a while back that the F-35B heat issues didn’t only need the thermal coating, there were also some design issues that required very careful location of deck equipment to make sure nothing was in the wash area for the F-35B landing spots. I do… Read more »


The MOD can’t afford spare barrels for the ones we have fitted to other ships for gods sake.


I don’t understand the comment, or rather am unsure what conclusions you are drawing. Are you saying that there will be no live firing tests as part of the QEC commissioning or that Phalanx will never be fitted on QEC at all because of these funding issues? Surely not the later but are you saying that for cost reasons they will never do any live fire testing?


I have probably said to much as it is but but take it from me the MOD is royally screwing the taxpayers of this country.

Paul T

Ron – been having a look,there is a SeaRAM system that uses the Phalanx mount,if needed these would be an easy fit iwould have thought.

Mr Bell

Marc we can afford to equip our armed forces correctly. HMG choose not too. Instead we give £18 billion a year away in foreign aid. We have huge wastage in all sectors of government and public services. Too many managers, quangos and consultants/ free loaders. I know as served the country for 22 years continuous public service in armed forces then NHS. Not effective enough project management hence escalating costs and delays. Carrier strike is within our grasp. We just need to invest in enough F35Bs (a further confirmed order of 3 more batches of 24 each is needed)12-15 more… Read more »

David Stephen

You would need to bring back the press gangs to find enough crew.


David although you said this as a bit of humor maybe what you do not realise is that the regulations and laws governing press gangs are actually still legal today.
I found this out when I was writing a presentation on life below decks in the victorian period.
I wonder if the RN knows it is still an active law?


(Chris H) Just had a thought (I know I know) – we still have 3 (soon to be 4) new F-35s in addition to the 3 test aircraft at Edwards in the USA. What odds these 3 / 4 will be embarked on to QE after all the certification work is done for when she sails to NY and then home?


I like that idea


Great! Love it when a plan comes together. With Tide class the carrier task force is becoming reality. Looking forward to the photoshoot of QE a 45 and a 23 sailing for the US. Are any of the ASW 23’s equipped with Sea Ceptor?

Paul T

Paul – as far as I can find HM Ships Argyll,Montrose,Westminster and shortly Kent are equipped with Sea Ceptor,you would have thought that one of those would form part of the Escort group but in reality that may not be the case,we will find out for sure shortly.


Reading is fundamental… I am always amazed that people comment without reading the article, or if they did, read then their comprehension needs work well above the 2nd grade level.

Jerome Barry

Just a note: Supercarriers don’t need jump ramps. That’s for wannabe carriers.

Paul T

Jerome – think of them more along the lines of a reasonable capability for a reasonable cost – in Royal Navy terms they are Supercarriers !.


Lol elizabeth is not a wanabe carrier, just uses a different paradigm to us carriers, cats and traps was just going to be a nightmare for the UK to keep up the number of carrier qualified pilots(it kills the French). With the F35B we can carrier qualify just about ever F35B pilot avaliable within a couple of weeks. That will be very potent in a few years when we have the numbers of F35Bs avalaible, because we could go from an air wing of 12 to packed to the gunwales in weeks. Give it a decade (as long as we… Read more »

David E Flandry

There will be nothing “wanabe” about the QE when fully equipped. It will have more airpower than some entire nations, will be able to cruise the world’s oceans, and give Russia and China something extra to worry about. Its very presence in an area will inhibit any attack on UK interests or those of its allies.


Reference David Stephen’s post, if Somerset has indeed been chosen as Type 23 escort in preference to Montrose it suggetss that ASW and towed sonar are deemed more important than defence against air attack.
In any event if we see a 45 in the escort that is more than enough AAW capability for prowling Bears and probably Backfires.

[…] HMS Queen Elizabeth to sail to the United States for F-35 trials — UK Defense Journal […]


My God! Stop arguing with each other – we are Defence Allies, we aren’t trying to outdo each other! We all want the same thing – an Aircraft that does its job. We are the only Level One partner with Lockheed Martin and we share development costs which include us being responsible for providing a percentage of the Development Aircraft. Rondols mean nothing when it comes to testing and evaluation, it cuts costs and harmonises both our Air Arms meaning that in the Future, US aircraft will integrate seamlessly with UK forces and Vice Versa! I look forward to both… Read more »


I do agree with the consensus that it would be too expensive to convert the QE class carrier to cats & traps at this point in time. And also taking in to account the issues of launching and landing aircraft on a carrier in rough seas using cats & traps. As a STOVL carrier, QE class would have a potential to be a multi-role carrier, examples are: ASW platform, assault carrier, ‘blue water’ patrol carrier, war zone air dominance platform, disaster relief(LPH) platform. But the QE class will not be able to fulfil some the potential roles above, due to… Read more »


QE departs Portsmouth at 18:00 on Saturday 18th August – Just posted on QHM Portsmouth website.

[…] HMS Queen Elizabeth goes to America the Royal Navy’s new Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is headed to America for tests with the F-35B. the F35-B variant is the vertical takeoff model, and is the aircraft the […]