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New British aircraft carrier readies for F-35

Photo: F-35B BF-01 arrives aboard the USS Wasp for DT-II trials with Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson at the controls. Lockheed Martin/Andy Wolfe


The UK’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has arrived in Mayport, Florida, after her first Atlantic crossing in preparing for the First Of Class Flight Trials (FOCFT) with the F-35B Lightning II under ‘WESTLANT 18’.

The 65,000 tonne ship departed the UK in August ready to commence sea trials alongside the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer, Capt Jerry Kyd said: ‘This deployment to the United States is another first for my ship. Crossing a major ocean with 1,500 sailors, aircrew and Marines embarked and the anticipation of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very ex

citing for us all. It has been an incredible journey since we left build in Scotland just over a year ago and we are all looking forward to this next, seminal chapter in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s life.’


The first F-35 is expected to land on the ship in the third week of September. BAE Systems leads the ITF’s operations and planning for Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) flight-test on the F-35B. Martin Peters is the company’s F-35 flight test manager and STOVL test lead. He told Key Publishing’s F-35 magazine: ‘We will fully embark onto the ship with around 200 personnel from Pax. We will take two test F-35Bs from here aboard the Queen Elizabeth this year for two periods of approximately four-week trials, which will be conducted back-to-back with short break in the middle. Another six-week period will follow next year in the autumn timeframe.’

BAE Systems F-35 test pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson is set to play a crucial role in the QEC trials. ‘I’ve been to three prior F-35B ship trials as a flying test pilot. I’m not the project pilot for QEC – that is Sqn Ldr Andy Edgell – but I’ll be one of the four pilots.’ Clearly, Wilson’s prior experience will be very important as the ITF takes the first F-35Bs out to the huge new Royal Navy aircraft carrier. ‘We plan to fly every pilot every day for six days a week and there will be some specific events that I’ll have keen interest in; for example, the Shipboard Rolling Vertical Landing [SRVL] is where the engineering is both complex and fascinating.’

Asked about the first time an F-35B will land on HMS Queen Elizabeth, Wilson says that it will be a vertical landing (VL) onto the deck. ‘The first landing will be a side step to VL and we don’t expect any surprises. We’ve done a lot of this type of work before – there’s enough read-across between the US Marine Corps carriers and the Queen Elizabeth – so we know how the jet operates around the ship and we are comfortable with the modelling and that events will go as the simulator shows us.’


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