The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) is preparing to embark two F-35Bs on board the United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for first of class flight trials (fixed wing) this fall.
Nearly 200 ITF personnel—active duty US and UK military, US Department of Defense (DOD) civilians as well as contractors from DOD and industry—will join the ship’s 1,500-person crew in making history when the two jets land on the British carrier.
The event will be the first time an F-35 has ever landed on a foreign vessel and it helps bring an end to the eight-year hiatus since a British aircraft carrier last operated a fast jet from its deck.
“It’ll be the return of fixed-wing maritime aviation to the UK,” Royal Navy Cmdr. Stephen Crockatt, UK team lead at the ITF, said.
“From there on, the UK F-35B Lightnings can partake in supporting the defense of our realm from both land and sea, wherever the UK government decides,” he added.
During two FOCFT (FW) phases, held back-to-back this fall, the team plans to perform a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope on Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) carriers. They will evaluate jet performance on over 200 test points during different weather and sea conditions as well as the aircraft’s integration with the ship.
A third FOCFT (FW) phase followed by operational testing is scheduled for 2019. Together, the tests will help the UK Ministry of Defence reach F-35B initial operating capability (maritime) in 2020.
Earlier this month, the 65,000-ton HMS Queen Elizabeth reached the United States for the planned three-month flight trials.