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F-35 debuts on new British carrier

Photo: Royal Navy CDR Nathan Gray lands his F-35B onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time. Crown Copyright/PO Arron Hoare


The Royal Navy has marked the first landing by an F-35B Lightning II on the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08). Two F-35Bs from the Integrated Test Team at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, were led by Cdr Nathan Gray, as the team made the first touchdown and ski-jump launches off the east coast of the US on September 25.

It came as the first phase of the F-35B First of Class Flight Trials (FOCFTs) aboard the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. Testing is being conducted by the F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) and involves two F-35Bs from VX-23 ‘Salty Dogs’ at NAS Patuxent River. Data collected during the FOCT will support planned operational testing in the UK next year.

The FOCFTs will also mark the first time the Pax River ITF has conducted F-35 flight trials aboard a partner nation’s aircraft carrier. Pilots and maintenance personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will be among the ITF personnel supporting the FOCTs.

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, in advance of testing on September 5.

CDR Nathan Gray aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Crown Copyright/LPhot Kyle Heller

CDR Nathan Gray gives the thumbs up after making the first ever F-35B Lightning II jet vertical landing onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Crown Copyright/Lt Cdr Lindsey Waudby

Sqn Ldr Andy Edgell, RAF, flew the second F-35B onto the new carrier.


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