An F-35B Lightning aircraft has landed onboard the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales for the first time.
Taking place off the south coast of England, the milestone marks a significant step towards the 65,000-tonne vessel reaching full operational capability.
Operating together as part of sea acceptance trials, it is the first time a fixed wing aircraft has landed onboard HMS Prince of Wales. The trials test the ship’s capability to receive and launch aircraft whilst maintaining continuous air operations.
“The vital partnership between HMS Prince of Wales and our F-35B aircraft signifies a momentous milestone in the capability of the fifth-generation carrier, marking another step towards it becoming fully operational,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace commented.
As announced by the Prime Minister last November, the UK’s Defence has received an increase in funding of over £24 billion across the next four years, enabling the country’s Armed Forces to adapt to meet future threats. Further enhanced by the commitments outlined in the Defence Command Paper, the F-35B is an integral air capability and HMS Prince of Wales marks a step change in the Royal Navy fleet as the second of the UK’s fifth-generation aircraft carriers.
The F-35B Lightning is designed to operate alongside RAF Typhoon aircraft and is jointly operated by the Royal Navy and RAF. It forms a central role within the UK’s Carrier Strike capability, already operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth and will be operating for the first time overseas as part of the Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment.
“This prodigious achievement on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales is a significant milestone in the Royal Navy’s re-birth of Carrier Strike Group operations. It is a tangible reflection of the enormous collective effort from the aircraft carrier enterprise to deliver the Royal Navy’s second aircraft carrier,” Commanding Officer of HMS Prince of Wales, Captain Darren Houston said.
With a flight deck large enough to accommodate three football pitches, HMS Prince of Wales can receive up to 36 F-35B aircraft and carries a crew of around 1,600 personnel when aircraft are onboard.
HMS Prince of Wales left her home port of Portsmouth at the end of April to conduct operational training which has seen the ship operating alongside the F-35B aircraft, as well as helicopters from the Royal Navy, British Army and RAF.
The F-35B aircraft are primarily based at RAF Marham and are the newest addition to the RAF’s fleet, able to travel up to 1,200mph.