Royal Navy pilots in carrier test for new jets

Marines aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) preform engine tests on the F-35B Lightning II during F-35B operational testing, May 20, 2015. Data and lessons learned from OT-1 will be the groundwork for future F-35B operations and deployments aboard Navy amphibious ships. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Released)
Marines aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) preform engine tests on the F-35B Lightning II during F-35B operational testing, May 20, 2015. Data and lessons learned from OT-1 will be the groundwork for future F-35B operations and deployments aboard Navy amphibious ships. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Released)
HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing back into Portsmouth

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Naval airmen are among the first to put the Royal Navy’s new fast jets through their paces at sea.

A group of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel are at sea on board an US Navy aircraft carrier for trials of the F-35B Lighting II aircraft.

An F-35B Lightning II hovers over on the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) before landing during night operations, a part of Operational Testing 1, May 22. The F-35B is the future of Marine Corps aviation and will be replacing three legacy platforms; the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler. The F-35B is with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anne K. Henry/RELEASED)

An F-35B Lightning II hovers over on the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) before landing during night operations, a part of Operational Testing 1, May 22. The F-35B is the future of Marine Corps aviation and will be replacing three legacy platforms; the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler. The F-35B is with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anne K. Henry/RELEASED)

The jets are due to enter service on board the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, which will be based in Portsmouth.

But first they are being put to the test on board the USS Wasp, to assess the integration between the air and the ship including flight operations, communications and maintenance support.

Lieutenant Commander Neil Mathieson, the UK’s F-35 ship integration lead, said: ‘By 2020, UK combat airpower will consist of Typhoon and F-35B Lightning II, a highly potent and capable mix of fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft. With Typhoon already established as one of the premier multi-role fighters in the world, the F-35 brings a complementary next-generation level of survivability and lethality.

‘This will ultimately provide the UK with an unprecedented level of capability in a single platform.’

By 2020, UK combat airpower will consist of Typhoon and F-35B Lightning II, a highly potent and capable mix of fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft.

Lieutenant Commander Neil Mathieson

The F-35B is a STOVL aircraft - meaning Short Take Off and Vertical Landing.

The Royal Navy says it will place the UK at the forefront of fighter technology.

In February, the UK stood up its first F-35 squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The historic 17 (Reserve) Squadron is now responsible for the entire operational test and evaluation of the UK’s F-35s.

Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Neil Mathieson, the UK's F-35 Ship Integration Lead, works with U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Douglas W. McCarty, during an F-35B ejection seat test and inspection May 20, 2015. This is part of the first phase of F-35B operational testing, in which 16 UK service personnel are participating. The ship trial will assess the integration of the F-35B while operating across a wide array of flight and deck operations, maintenance operations and logistical supply chain support in an at-sea environment. Mathieson, a mechanical engineer by trade, is currently based in Bristol, England. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Paul Greenberg)

Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Neil Mathieson, the UK's F-35 Ship Integration Lead, works with U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Douglas W. McCarty, during an F-35B ejection seat test and inspection May 20, 2015. This is part of the first phase of F-35B operational testing, in which 16 UK service personnel are participating. The ship trial will assess the integration of the F-35B while operating across a wide array of flight and deck operations, maintenance operations and logistical supply chain support in an at-sea environment. Mathieson, a mechanical engineer by trade, is currently based in Bristol, England. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Paul Greenberg)

Personnel from 17 (R) Sqn, comprising engineers and pilots from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, fly and maintain the two UK F-35B jets independently from their US colleagues.

Pilots will begin operating the next generation stealth fighter from bases in England starting in 2018, and are on track to fly from Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers in 2020.