Uniquely for a vessel of this type, it will be common to see the jump-jet F-35B appear to land conventionally.
This is a process called Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing. It is a process designed to land jump-jet aircraft that uses both the vertical thrust from the jet engine and lift from the wings, thus maximising the payload an aircraft can return with and stopping the financial waste that comes with dropping expensive weaponry in the sea in order to land vertically.
Another operational advantage of this technique is that it can increase the landing payload capacity of a V/STOL aircraft, which can be restricted when it lands vertically. It can also reduce the level of wear on the lift engines and extend their operational life. Similarly, it can reduce the amount of wear upon the deck surface of a carrier caused by the downward jet exhaust from vertical landings.
SRVL landing is under development for use with the F-35B when it enters service with the Royal Navy in 2018. Rolling landings will enable the F-35B to land on these carriers with an increased weapon and fuel load and will use the aircraft’s computer controlled disc brakes.
The Queen Elizabeth class mark a change from expressing carrier power in terms of number of aircraft carried, to the number of sortie’s that can be generated from the deck. The class are not the largest class of carrier in the world but they are most likely the smallest and least expensive carrier the Royal Navy could build which still have the advantages that large carriers offer.
Now that the UK has committed to a fleet of 138 aircraft, details on the structure of the F-35 force have been revealed.
It is expected that the UK will build a front-line fleet of 48 aircraft with each squadron having 12 jets. A fifth unit, an operational conversion unit, will also operate 12 aircraft.