UK Prepares To Operate F-35B Jets From Its Sole Aircraft Carrier

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UK Prepares To Operate F-35B Jets From Its Sole Aircraft Carrier

On September 27th, two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters landed on the only British aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth. For the first time fast jets have landed on the deck of the Royal Navy’s new carrier.

The landings are part of tests of the F-35Bs and will take 11 weeks, during which more than 500 landings and takeoffs are to take place.

The jets taking part in the trials are not part of the permanent complement of aircraft that will be stationed on the carrier. These have now started to arrive in the UK, to their land base at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

The two jets were landed by Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Andy Edgell. They flew from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. to the 70,000-ton carrier.

Gray, who had trained with the US-based F-35 Integrated Test Force said that the landing was just like any other test flight.

“Coming into land for the first time on Tuesday, the aircraft handled as expected; the interaction between the aircraft and the ship is exactly as expected, as we’ve simulated thousands and thousands of times before and landed onboard,” he said. “There were no surprises.”

For the Royal Navy the first landing of an F-35 on the HMS Queen Elizabeth was a significant event. “We are enjoying getting back into the big time, and this is one of those big steps forward on that ladder,” Rear Adm. Keith Blount, the Royal Navy’s Assistant Chief of Naval Staff for Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carrier told a group of American defense trade reporters embarked on the carrier on Thursday.

“When you see that jet out there today, having landed on the ship, taking off from the ship, we’re taking big steps back into that game again. And it’s hugely exciting, and it should be reassuring to those folks back home and indeed on this side of the Atlantic.”

The commanding officer of Queen Elizabeth, Capt Jerry Kidd, was by coincidence also in command of the last carrier on which Sea Harriers were in operation. “I am quite emotional to be here in HMS Queen Elizabeth seeing the return of fixed-wing aviation,” he said. “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.”

The landing of the two F-35s is the first time the Royal Navy has operated fixed-wing aviation off a carrier deck since the U.K. flew the last sortie of AV-8B Harriers off the now-decommissioned HMS Ark Royal (R07) in 2011. The HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned in 2012.

“I think the awakening in the political class that this sends a political message when she sails is important, and that’s new to us,” ship commander Capt. Jerry Kyd said.

The aim of this test is to establish the baseline for F-35 ahead of more complex operational testing off the East Coast in 2019.

The tests aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth pairs the two F-35s with four test pilots – the two British pilots in addition to a US Marine and a civilian test pilot. USNI observed the two fighters with the ITF assigned to the “Salty Dogs” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 both landing and taking off of Elizabeth’s ski-jump bow.

UK and US pilots have been training at Pax River on a mockup of the hull’s ski-jump ramp, which breaks with the straight line of US amphibious assault ships that also operate the F-35B.

“Queen Elizabeth obviously has a ski-jump, which provides some performance benefits, and obviously the U.K. has long been a fan of that, as is another nation that’s a partner in the F-35 program, Italy,” Marine Maj. Michael Lippert was cited by USNI News.

This also shows the cooperation between UK and US Marines during the test period. A Marine F-35B squadron will join the Royal Navy strike group on its first operational deployment in 2021 as part of the air group.

“The U.K. and the U.S. Marine Corps have a long history. We’ve done joint operations with Harriers, we’ve had exchange programs for a very long time, and for the past several years the U.K. has had the foresight to have exchange programs with several of their officers and some of their enlisted folks on exchange with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, and that has paid huge dividends,” Lippert said. “It’s wildly apparent that they’re wholly prepared for this.”

The testing of the F-35 jets on the HMS Queen Elizabeth in addition also helps the Royal Navy get accustomed to operating carrier strike groups at sea once again.

In 2011, the UK decided to take Harriers off British ships, but the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force maintained exchanged programs with the US to keep some UK sailors familiar with the process, according to Commanding officer Kyd, cited by USNI News.

“We’ve been really lucky that we’ve cycled a lot of the crew through U.S. carriers in the last five years. Several hundred of my ship’s company have been deployed on operations bombing ISIS, and the last four or five years the pilots, the deckhands, chefs and specialists, my officers of the watch, my navigator,” Kyd said. “To keep that pilot light alive has been well managed, so it’s not like we’re starting at ground zero at any stretch of the imagination.”

Kyd was the commander of the HMS Ark Royal, he is now on the HMS Elizabeth, together with other sailors who were present at the last deployment. “In terms of operating the ship, it’s quite similar to the pocket aircraft carriers we had, it’s just the deck is four times the size,” he said. “For me, the similarities are sufficient that it, in fact, feels quite normal out here.”

The introduction of the F-35s had a setback. On September 29th, US Marine Corps released a statement saying that a F-35B jet crashed in South Carolina, the pilot safely ejected and there were no injuries. It is yet unclear why the jet, which is estimated to have cost around $100 million, crashed, and there is an investigation underway.

As a reminder, in august the Project On Government Oversight reported that to go past the development phase, the F-35 project team downgraded 19 deficiencies in the jet, which threaten the life of the pilot and those who are working on the jet. The deficiencies were downgraded without any solutions being provided.

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  • Nexusfast123

    One hypersonic missile would severely spoil the party.

    • Why you need so called “stealth” aircraft (which is not stealth at all by the way) on a deck of carrier ?
      Carrier group can be spotted 400km away on Battle of Britain radar from 1942 !
      In the age of satellites it can be traced 24h per day , 365 days per year !!!
      It is just one stupid idea from the beginning.

      • acc_

        There is only 1 mission that f35 had successfully done until now. That is to send money to lockheed martin

        • Selbstdenker

          No, it was to send money to Carlyle Group as the one company benefiting from all US wars. Interesting to see who is all invested in this company.

      • Barba_Papa

        It’s not so much the stealth aircraft which the RN needed, although that was a selling point. It’s the fact that its carriers are solely designed for STOVL aircraft. The F-35B is the only aircraft out there that could operate from the RN carriers. The stealth was just the icing on the cake as it were. Had the RN carriers be built with catapults, as was an option for a while, then the RN could have bought the Super Hornet, the Rafale, or even the MiG-35 for shits and giggles as alternatives. Even the USN F-35C version would have been a cheaper alternative. But building the QE2 with catapults was a little more expensive, so the ski jump it was. And now the F-35B is really the only available option. And will probably cost the UK way more in the long run. In for a penny, in for a pound as it were.

      • FlorianGeyer

        Ah, but here’s the clever part of UK military thinking.

        The UK will have two of these carriers and if they only have F35’s for one and both carriers are at sea the ‘enemies of Britain’ will not be certain where the F35’s are :)

        • PZIVJ

          What the hell Florian !
          You made me spill my coffee. :D

          • FlorianGeyer

            I do hope it wasn’t too hot and was tested with a thermometer before you took control of the hazardous liquid PZ1VJ.

      • Sinbad2

        “Carrier group can be spotted 400km away on Battle of Britain radar from 1942 !”

        Yes but nobody apart from Russia China and Australia operates the old WWII HF/VHF radar.
        You see the earth is round, and radio waves go in straight lines.
        The reason warships have such tall masts, is to maximize radar range.
        At sea today, a ship that can detect an enemy ship, before the enemy ship detects it,

        wins.

    • Nigel Maund

      Kinzhal – yep! I think you’re right, although to knock out the QE2 would take a modest volley of missiles to ensure at least one got through the defences. If one did then the QE2 is an US$ 5 billion, 70,000 ton heap of scrap metal.

      • Sinbad2

        As Britain found out in the Falklands, you don’t have to do much damage to a ship to put it out of action. Most modern warships use an aluminium superstructure, and aluminium burns quite well when hot enough.
        Even a small missile would burn a warship, the QE2 is probably built from steel, and wouldn’t burn.

        • Nigel Maund

          Agreed!… Although UK destroyers and frigates comprised hullls of aluminium to lower their magnetic signature. This made them not only weak but prone to burning as aluminium is one of the few metals that burns. The QE2 is all steel. Also, it has a pretty good defence system built in the knowledge that the Russians and Chinese have developed hyersonic missiles. Although I am a qualified scientist, I am not qualified to know whether the QE2 could defend itself adequately against such missiles. My educated guess is not, so, therefore, the UK and US must be concerned over these developments, as the loss of the QE2 would massive blow to the RN and signifcantly reduce its ability to project power.

    • putinbeater

      the velocity is not everything

      • Nigel Maund

        No, but then these missiles are also very accurate. In a volley they would be impossible to avoid or defend against and that the Russians and Chinese realise. So too do the USN, as they have reluctantly said as much. Hence the huge new allocation of funding in this technology in the new US defense budget. .

  • I’m the greatest skeptic in the world about F35 and especially F35B variant.
    This program is some 17 years in development, 10 years behind schedule,
    battle ready just because workarounds and frauds and incomplete testing.
    And they want to put that overpriced GARBAGE on carrier ?
    FUKUS is really mad.
    It is not a warplane.
    It is hoax.
    F35B availability ratio is under 50% in the USA, where all parts are available
    and logistic distances are not so long as in Britain.
    In PEACETIME.

    Now imagine this junk on a carrier in a WARTIME.
    You need 2 days to perform all the pre-flight checks.
    Without all done and properly uploaded to central unit it is not flyable.

    AKA:
    Pilot F35B to his plane:
    “Please start up, Chinese are already bombing us !”
    F35B answers to his pilot:
    “Starting procedure declined.
    Maintenance record incomplete.
    File @#$%123456#$%^.lockeed_shit_1 is corrupted.
    Please call servicedesk.
    Have a nice day !”

    Good luck FUKUS with your overpriced junk.

    • Nigel Maund

      Agree with you Zo Fu, let’s see if the Israeli Air Force (IAF) have the guts to test a couple of F35’s against the newly installed S300 misslie system in Western Syria. As far as I am concerned, this will be “an acid test” for this aircraft? Your thoughts? ……..of course, if one or both F35’s are shot down on their missile launch runs then sales of the S300 and S400 systems will soar and those of the F35 plummet, including existing contracts.Hmmmm!

      • Barba_Papa

        There’s also the chance that the F-35 may come out on top and the S-300 turns out to be a hunk of junk instead. Neither system is truly tested in this regard, and the Israeli variant of the F-35 is probably the best (or least worst) version. Having top notch Israeli avionics. They’re certainly not the export monkey models that the UK and other NATO allies will be getting.

        Time will tell. I’m rooting for the S-300, but time will tell.

        • Nigel Maund

          Agree Barba with your comments, re the Israeli version of the F35. It will be an interesting face off. However, bear in mind that the Russians are backing up the Syrian S300 batteries with upgraded S400 radar systems and batteries (although the latter would not be used unless absolutely necessary) that are installed at their air and naval base to protect their own assets. So, the overall integrated system will be a handfull for any airforce, either US or IAF. The Russians are very (quietly) confident which should worry them both.

          • Selbstdenker

            you forget, that Russia will provide an integrated, centralised command system for air defense. In case any russian Destroyer is at sea in the vicinity, it will become part of this integrated air defense system. And the Murmansk-BN system deployed in Crimea could also play a role in it, as it has a radius of up to 5000 Km to acquire electronic signals and map them.

        • Jesus

          With a 6G turn rate, F35 is clumsy and unable to maneuver away from incoming assortment of agile S300 missiles, it flies to slow to escape hypersonic S300 missiles, and its EW suite is inferior to what the Russians can direct against it.

          Synonymous to the F22 encounters who were supposed to be untrackable and have full situational awareness, only for SUK 35 to sneak on them and take them from behind for an easy kill.

          • putinbeater

            taletalker

          • James

            then please elaborate…..

        • Nigel Maund
    • Barba_Papa

      Be glad that the UK decided to cripple itself like this. Less chance of it to cause mayhem as the sidekick to Team America! World Police!

      • FlorianGeyer

        Thats a good point Barba :)

      • And one more example how stupid are Brits buying F35B. As you probably know, F35 turned to be very fat, heavy, underpowered with tiny wings, so it can’t turn, can’t climb and can’t run.
        But what you may be dont know is that F35B CAN’T LAND with fuel and bombs on board because his liftfan is too weak for its weight. So if that “multirole fighter” will not be able drop bombs on enemies, he must jetison fuel and drop bombs to the sea before landing.
        One “smart” bomb JDAM kit tends to costs at least USD 10.000, multiple it 4 times and you have price for one landing of F35 just on wasted bombs.
        But F35 can carry two antiship missiles instead of 4 JDAMs with the price 2millions each :)
        Can you imagine that F35 will return with them and will be forced to drop 4millions USD into the sea just to be able land on his own carrier ? :D
        And what about some minor battle damage or tiny engine problems ?
        F35B will not be able to land at all because it can’t land normally like F35C (F35B doesn’t have arrest hook). It can land only on full engine power!
        Stupid, stupid, stupid.

        • Sinbad2

          RAAF pilots were criticized by the USAF in Iraq, for returning to base with munitions.
          It seems the US always drops its bombs, even when they can’t find a target.

    • Rob

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h_w_0zUs9ac

      MiG-31: The Near-Space Plane. Russia’s super-fast interceptor.

      Mig-31 the father of all fighter jets which can shoot down military spy satellites, fighter jets, balestic missiles and cruise missiles.

  • Ilya Grushevskiy

    Talking about half-coffins landing on coffins is less consequential than talking about my favourite breakfast(s). In times of peace, does this matter? No. In times of war, does this matter?! No.

    • as

      It’s gas chambers coffin. Ironically the jews loved them.

  • Django

    The best thing about the F-35 and the F-22 is that, due to their unnecessary start-up, maintenance and update sessions, they have proclaimed their own no-fly zone for themselves. By the time they get into the air, their aircraft carriers have already been bombed to smithereens by different defence systems of their opponents.

    The only advantage they can have is to open the fights themselves and play the surprise via a ruse. But once the bomb party started, they are lost due to excessive procedures and maintenance sessions. Then they’ll be uncovered, literally and figuratively … Cannot wait to see that happen. LMAO !!!

  • Nigel Maund

    Does this render the QE2 obsolete already:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyuXXn9achs

  • Nigel Maund

    This is a good summary video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXc-wPFj8IE