Royal Navy: Portsmouth aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales undertakes extraordinary US stealth jet trials
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The exercises with F-35B Lightning stealth jet fighters were carried out in the USA. The huge Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier began her Autumn deployment in America after leaving Portsmouth last month.
Well-wishers gathered at The Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to wave the sailors goodbye, as they embarked on their first mission since the £3.2bn vessel was fixed earlier this year. She suffered a broken propeller shaft in August 2022, with repairs costing millions of pounds.
Pilots attached to the Fleet Air Arm have been carrying out aircraft exercises since HMS Prince of Wales’ trips to Florida and Virginia. Test pilots from the Naval Air Warfare Centre Aircraft Division (Nawcad) Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23), Naval Air Station Patuxent River (Nas Pax River), Maryland, joined the carrier for the flight trials.
These exercises took place from the Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia. A Royal Navy spokesman said: “HMS Prince of Wales will chase bad weather and heavy seas while the jets themselves will take-off and land with various weapons and fuel loads, experiment returning from ‘missions’ still carrying missiles/bombs – rather than ditching them in the ocean – and practice landing by rolling to a stop on the flight deck rather than touching down vertically.”
Commanding officer Captain Richard Hewitt said: “This is why we are here. Over the next few weeks we will work together with the F-35 programme to increase the capability of the world’s most advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter alongside the UK’s fifth-generation aircraft carrier.
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“During this phase of our deployment we will see the jet develop advanced landing and take-off techniques, allowing it to recover heavier, turn around faster and launch with more weapons.”
The aim of the exercises that HMS Prince of Wales’ crew are undertaking is to test their ability to carry out strike missions in different weather conditions and to work alongside allies to complete operations. These skills have been particularly honed on the 65,000 tonne vessel’s flight deck.
Other training missions carried out include replenishment at sea trials.