SAFETY fears over a costly new stealth jet – which will one day fly from Britain’s aircraft carriers – have been swept aside by an American admiral.
Rear Admiral Gene Black said he was confident in the new state-of-the-art F-35B jet after the first reported crash of one of the planes in the US last week.
The F-35B variant of the fighter jet will one day provide the aerial muscle to HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales.
Two of the jets are currently being trialled on the Portsmouth-based Queen Elizabeth off the east coast of the US as the £1bn warship ramps up efforts to get ready for her first operational deployment in 2021.
However, speaking to journalists on the flight deck of USS Harry S Truman – which is anchored off Stokes Bay near Gosport – Rear Adm Black threw his support behind the new jets.
Asked if there should be any concerns with the F-35B following the first crash of the warplane, the American officer said: ‘Absolutely not.’
It came as he downplayed comments by Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd, who said the Russia’s recent military action at sea had been ‘eye-watering’ and ‘frightening’.
Quizzed on the comments, Rear Adm Black said: ‘I’m not sure I would go as far as “eye-watering”. I don't lose sleep over them.’
He added: ‘We bring in a lot of combat power. When you match that up with Queen Elizabeth in the near future and our other Nato partners, I'm very, very comfortable in our ability to operate where we wish, when we wish.’
The mighty US warship sailed into the Solent on Saturday morning for a five-day stop.
She is currently on deployment supporting Nato allies, European and African partner nations and US national security interests in Europe and Africa.
Thousands of sailors from the ship’s 5,400-strong contingent are expected to visit Portsmouth, London and Southampton over the weekend, with many ‘excited' to sample British culture – and beer.
Captain Nicholas Dienna, commanding officer of USS Harry S Truman, said the welcome his crew had already received from Portsmouth had been overwhelming.
He said: ‘From the bottom of the hearts of over 5,000 men and women, embarked and or assigned to USS Harry S Truman, we want to say thank you to the UK and the people of Portsmouth to allow us to spend some well-deserved time to rest here in this wonderful, wonderful, city.’
The 1,096ft-long warship is the 8th Nimitz-class aircraft carrier of the US Navy and was named after America's 33rd president.
Last year her sister ship the USS George HW Bush visited the area.
Capt Dienna said Portsmouth could expect to see a more regular drum beat of US aircraft carriers in the future.
He added: ‘Portsmouth is the perfect place for a carrier to visit while we are on deployment and I guarantee the other captains will share that view.
‘I would assume in the future you will see additional carrier’s here.’
USS Harry S Truman is due to set sail from Stokes Bay on Wednesday.