HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth to carry out new flight trials of F-35 in British waters
AIRCRAFT carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail from Portsmouth today to carry out tests with the F-35 stealth jet in British waters for the latest time.
The mighty 65,000-tonne warship steamed out of the city this afternoon following a brief stop at Portsmouth Naval Base to prepare for the historic bout of trials..
The £3.1bn leviathan, the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, will now spend a period at sea putting the deadly F-35b, Britain’s most advanced warplane, through their paces.
It’s the second time jets will have flown sorties from Queen Elizabeth’s enormous four-acre flight deck in UK waters.
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The deployment comes amid the coronavirus crisis, which saw two of the ship’s company being quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19.
Embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth will be aviators and engineers from 617 Squadron, the UK’s premier aerial team who are tasked with flying the F-35B Lightning force.
Fighter pilots are understood to have been quarantined to keep the £3.1bn aircraft carrier on course for her first mission next year.
Captain Angus Essenhigh — the warship’s skipper — said only pilots who tested negative for the virus would be allowed to land their jets on board.
Four F35s are due to touch down on Monday and Capt Essenhigh said the airmen from RAF Marham, Norfolk, have been in strict isolation.
He added: ‘I feel absolutely assured they are in as clean a condition as we are.’
The F35s will practise scrambling from Queen Elizabeth’s decks against ‘enemy’ fighters this week.
Supporting them will be 250 engineers, who joined the ship in Portsmouth over the weekend.
The trials are seen as a huge milestone in the ship’s historic journey towards her first operational mission next year.
Speaking to The News last year in Florida, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, Captain Steve Moorhouse said: ‘This is the last planned period that we will come out to the States to do this.
‘From next year we will look to do this more often around the UK. Things will start again early in 2020 for Queen Elizabeth with the jets. The drumbeat of jet embarkations will increase throughout 2020.’
The training is one of the final tests before the ship’s first operational deployment next year, which will see her and her 800-strong crew sail to the Mediterranean, Gulf and Far East.