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.’