Royal Navy Returns to Carrier Strike Capability
At the end of September, the first F-35B LIGHTNING II combat aircraft landed on HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, marking the United Kingdom’s return to a carrier strike capability.
Royal Navy (RN) Cdr. Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force (RAF) Sqn.-Ldr. Andy Edgell were the first pilots to land their LIGHTNINGs on board the carrier, marking 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 aircraft, the carrier provides the RN with a capability possessed by few others.
The landings mark the start of more than 500 take-offs and touch-downs set to take place from the carrier during an 11-week extended trial period, with the jets being put through their paces in a range of weather conditions.
“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,” observed Capt. Jerry Kyd, the carrier’s commanding officer, who also was in command of HMS ARK ROYAL when the last HARRIER took off from a British carrier, nearly eight years ago.
“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,” added Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Cdre. Andrew Betton.