HMS Queen Elizabeth: F-35 jets drop first bombs during Royal Navy carrier’s historic flight tests in US

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The first bombs have been dropped from F-35 jets taking part in historic flight tests on the HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

The Royal Navy’s £3.1bn warship has been on deployment to America after leaving Portsmouth in August. 

F-35 jets have dropped the first test bombs from HMS Queen Elizabeth. Picture: Royal Navy

F-35 jets have dropped the first test bombs from HMS Queen Elizabeth. Picture: Royal Navy

She is set to sail into New York today (October 19) and will anchor in the River Hudson. 

The Royal Navy said that the first test bombs – inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided precision bombs - were dropped off the east coast of the USA. 

READ MORE: HMS Queen Elizabeth: Excitement as £3.1bn warship set to arrive in New York today

Which marks another significant milestone in the carrier’s trials – following the first fighter jet to land on the warship. 

Adding the 500lb bombs to the jets for take-off has enabled the trials teams to see how the jets behave when carrying various weights, gathering crucial test data.

Commander Neil Mathieson, the head of the air engineering department on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: ‘This marks a significant milestone for us.

‘It makes me excited about operational trials next year with the UK’s F-35 Lightning squadrons when we will see live Paveways being dropped.

‘These trials are an important pathway to that point.’

READ MORE: HMS Queen Elizabeth: Five British F-35 needed replacement fuel tubes following USAF jet crash as Royal Navy aircraft carrier’s flight tests continue

The testing of the bombs – which are made up of a head, containing the bomb’s computer, the tail and a concrete warhead – also marked the first time American-made bombs have been loaded onto a UK ship. 

They are being built onboard by Royal Navy air engineers, supervised by specialist US Navy ordnance ratings from the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, further demonstrating the close co-operation between the two key allied nations.

Aviation Ordnanceman Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Little, of the US Navy, was part of the team overseeing the Royal Navy air engineers on board.

He added: “The team has run really well with the work we have done with them, they have come up to speed pretty fast.”

US aircraft carriers have hundreds of sailors involved in arming their aircraft, whereas the highly mechanised weapons handling system on board HMS Queen Elizabeth takes just 40 people to make an F-35 Lightning jet ready for combat operations, thanks to specially-designed automated technology built for the British warship.

The F-35 bomb tests come after five of the British fleet of fighter jets required a replacement fuel tube following a global inspection carried out in the wake of an American plane crash last month. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth is on track to deploy on global operations from 2021.