BRITAIN’S mighty new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has broken a record while completing her second phase of helicopter tests in America.
The vast 65,000-tonne warship from Portsmouth has been based off the eastern coast of the United States as part of the ongoing Westlant 19 carrier strike group deployment.
As part of the first phase of the deployment, the £3.1bn ship’s eight-acre flight deck recorded a total of 550 deck landings by two Merlin helicopters, with 471 test points conducted.
And in a record-breaking first, the eight-day period of assessments saw the Merlin tested to the highest weight ever achieved in ship trial – 16,200kg.
The helicopters, from 820 Naval Air Squadron and 845 Naval Air Squadron, were also challenged to tackle a range of deck maneuvers – including landing backwards - and night operations.
At its most intensive, a total of 106 test points were flown in a single 10-hour sortie, with rolling crew changes.
With the tests completed, all eyes will now turn to the next phase of Queen Elizabeth’s American adventure – the second batch of trials of the F-35B, which are expected to begin shortly.
The trials – which will this time involve British F-35B, not test planes based in the US – will test crews on a range of operations and maneuvers.
Queen Elizabeth is currently alongside at Naval Station Mayport, the huge military base in Florida.
Arriving there on Friday, she is expected to remain at the east coast establishment for at least a week.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, is carrying out her maiden batch of sea trials in UK waters.
The 280m-long ship is currently being put through her paces off the Scottish coast and last week achieved her top speed of 25 knots for the first time.
She is expected to make her debut in Portsmouth later this year, with defence sources having previously told The News her sister ship, Queen Elizabeth, will return home sometime afterwards.
Queen Elizabeth is due to take on her first operational deployment in 2021.
Both the Queen Elizabeth-class warships are the biggest vessels ever built by the Royal Navy and have a lifespan of 50 years.