Fighter Jets Join Forces with British Aircraft Carrier to Make History
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Sept 28, 2018)
Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray, of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Md., makes the first ever F-35B takeoff from HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 25. Two F-35Bs landed onboard the new British aircraft carrier last week. (UK MoD photo)
The first F-35 Lightning fighter jets have landed on the deck of the United Kingdom’s new aircraft carrier, making history and marking the beginning of more than half-a-century of ‘Carrier Strike’ operations.

Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to land their stealth F-35 Lightning fighter jets on board the carrier, demonstrating the formidable force HMS Queen Elizabeth and her fleet of jets will be.

The first landings and take-offs from HMS Queen Elizabeth are the culmination of a national endeavour lasting more than a decade to bring an aircraft carrier back to the UK’s arsenal. Able to embark up to 36 of the supersonic jets, the carrier provides the Royal Navy with a capability possessed by few others.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet. This marks a rebirth of our power to strike decisively from the seas anywhere in the world.”

“The historic first landing on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth is a monumental moment in our country’s proud military history. It is also a statement of Britain’s determination to promote peace and prevent war.”

The landings mark the start of more than 500 take-offs and touch-downs set to take place from the mammoth warship during the next 11-weeks, with the jets being put through their paces in a range of weather conditions.

The return of ‘Carrier Strike’ to the UK comes eight years after a fighter jet last landed on a British carrier.

Commanding Officer, Capt Jerry Kyd, who was also the captain of HMS Ark Royal when the last Harrier took off from a carrier, said: “I am quite emotional to be here in HMS Queen Elizabeth seeing the return of fixed wing aviation, having been the captain of the aircraft carrier which launched the last Harrier at sea nearly eight years ago.”

“The regeneration of big deck carriers able to operate globally, as we are proving here on this deployment, is a major step forward for the United Kingdom’s defence and our ability to match the increasing pace of our adversaries. The first touch-downs of these impressive stealth jets shows how the United Kingdom will continue to be world leaders at sea for generations to come.”

Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Cdre Andrew Betton added: “The Queen Elizabeth Class carriers have been specifically designed and built to operate the F-35 Lightning, offering an immensely flexible and potent combination to deliver military effect around the world. Conducting these trials is a critical and exciting step on this journey and I applaud the many thousands of civilian and military personnel who have played a part in bringing the strategic ambition to reality.”

While the HMS Queen Elizabeth Class carriers will be able to project British military power across the globe for the next half-century, they can also provide humanitarian relief, deepen defence relationships with key allies and provide critical support to our forces as they are deployed across the world.

In recent operations, US aircraft carriers like the USS George HW Bush and USS Harry S. Truman have played a central role in the Gulf and the Mediterranean, conducting strikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

This week’s historic flight trials come more than 100 years after the UK’s HMS Argus became the world’s first carrier capable of safely launching and recovering naval aircraft.

The ship will go on to continue her programme off the US east coast. The flight trials are expected to take around 11 weeks, during which time the ship is also expected to call into New York.

HMS Queen Elizabeth remains set to be deployed on global operations from 2021. Britain now has sixteen of a planned 138 F-35 Lightning jets as part of its world-leading fleet of military aircraft.

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F-35 Lightning Jets Land on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the First Time
(Source: Royal Navy; issued Sept. 28, 2018)
Fast fighter jets are once again flying from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier as the first F-35s have landed on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to make history by landing their F-35 Lightning stealth jets on the flight deck of Britain's newest carrier.

Shortly afterwards, Commander Gray became the first pilot to take off using the ship's ski ramp. The flying operations mark the start of more than 500 take-offs and landings set to take place from the warship over the next 11 weeks.

Speaking shortly after the first landing on Tuesday 25 September 2018, Commander Gray said: "No words can explain how it felt to turn the corner at 500mph and see HMS Queen Elizabeth awaiting the arrival of her first F-35 jets. I feel incredibly privileged.

"For a naval aviator it is always a special moment when you spot the carrier in the distance, hidden within a grey expanse of ocean. HMS Queen Elizabeth is a floating city, home to hundreds of fellow sailors and Royal Marines, and it's been a particularly poignant day."

Able to embark up to 24 of the supersonic jets, HMS Queen Elizabeth provides the Royal Navy with a capability possessed by few others.

Squadron Leader Edgell added: "It has taken an indescribable level of dogged determination and perseverance to achieve this incredible moment. We have written a little piece of history today, but look beyond this and are focusing now on what will be an extensive period of F-35 testing at sea."

The jets will be put through their paces over the coming weeks in a range of sea and weather conditions. Having then completed the trials, which are taking place off the east coast of the United States, the giant aircraft carrier is expected to visit New York.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Captain Jerry Kyd, said: "I am quite emotional to be here in HMS Queen Elizabeth seeing the return of fixed-wing aviation, having been the captain of the aircraft carrier which launched the last Harrier at sea nearly eight years ago.

"The regeneration of big deck carriers able to operate globally, as we are proving here on this deployment, is a major step forward for the United Kingdom’s defence and our ability to match the increasing pace of our adversaries. The first touch-downs of these impressive stealth jets shows how the United Kingdom will continue to be world leaders at sea for generations to come."

HMS Queen Elizabeth left her home port of Portsmouth in August, crossing the Atlantic to conduct the flying trials as well as training with the US Navy.

The deployment has also provided an opportunity for the UK’s Carrier Strike Group headquarters team to sharpen their skills in a task group, having been joined on the deployment by Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth, and a US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer the USS Lassen.

More than 1,400 sailors, flight crew and Royal Marines have been working on board the carrier during her deployment.

Commodore Andrew Betton, the commander of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, said: “The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have been specifically designed and built to operate the F-35, offering an immensely flexible and potent combination to deliver military effect around the world.

"Conducting these trials is a critical and exciting step on this journey and I applaud the many thousands of civilian and military personnel who have played a part in bringing the strategic ambition to reality."

The Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will project British military power across the globe for the next half a century. Construction work continues at a pace on board HMS Prince of Wales, the second aircraft carrier in the class, which nears completion at the Rosyth shipbuilding yard.

They will be used to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, strengthen defence relationships with our nation’s allies, and support British armed forces deployed around the world.

In recent operations, US aircraft carriers including the USS George HW Bush and USS Harry S Truman have played a central role in the Gulf and Mediterranean, conducting strikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is on track to deploy on global operations from 2021. Meanwhile, the UK has now taken delivery of 16 out of a planned 138 F-35 jets as part of its world-leading fleet of military aircraft for use by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

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