AIRCRAFT carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has reached British waters after her three-month stint in America testing the UK’s new stealth jets.
The mighty 65,000-tonne warship trumpeted her arrival ‘home’ on Twitter ahead of her homecoming in Portsmouth this week.
The Royal Navy has not given an exact date or time for the supercarrier’s much-anticipated return.
However, the £3.1bn ship’s official Twitter account has hinted her arrival is imminent, with sources telling The News she could enter Portsmouth as early as tomorrow.
In a photo tweeted by HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is believed to be of the Cornish coast, the ship said: ‘This might look like a dull shot to you, but it’s the most beautiful one to us – because it’s home.’
When one eager follower asked today when the ship was due into Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth replied: ‘Not today, but very soon.’
The ship’s arrival would mark an historic moment for Portsmouth as it will be the first time both the carrier and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will be in the city at the same time.
Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth in August for her deployment to the eastern coast of the USA, where she tackled the second bout of tests for the F-35B jets.
The future flagship embarked three UK-owned jets from RAF Marham and three UK jets from 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Airforce Base, in California.
Intensive tests saw the jets integrated with the British task force in the States to carry out a series of demanding war games over five weeks.
The action culminated in four UK F-35s being launched from the deck within seconds of each other to fight their mission.
At the same time a number of United States Marine Corps F-35s flew to and from the ship, ahead of a detachment deploying alongside UK jets on the carrier’s maiden operational deployment in 2021.
Captain Steve Moorhouse, commanding officer of Queen Elizabeth, said: ‘This has been an extremely successful deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth.
‘It’s all been about increasing the complexity and tempo of our activity, building the capability of the strike group and testing ourselves in a demanding training environment with our close partners from the US Navy and Marine Corps.
‘Embarking UK F-35B Lightning for the first time and integrating them within the carrier strike group is a significant milestone and we are well set for an equally demanding 2020 and our first operational deployment in 2021.’
Captain James Blackmore, commander of the air group, said the tests were ‘significant and historic’.
‘As the last pilot to fly Harrier from the deck of HMS Ark Royal in 2010, it filled me with tremendous pride to see UK fixed wing aircraft operate once more from a British carrier,’ he added.
As her final mission, Queen Elizabeth joined a battle group made up of Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and the Norwegian Navy’s newest frigate, HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl to carry out a series of anti-submarine warfare drills in the Atlantic.