Training is taking place at BAE Systems using simulators to rehearse the process of getting the F-35 aircraft safely on and off Britain’s new aircraft carriers.
The two new mammoth warships, equipped with a fleet of F-35s, will form the backbone of the UK’s defence in the upcoming years. HMS Queen Elizabeth has recently undergone trials with both Merlin and Chinook helicopters. But this autumn the UK’s first F-35 stealth fighters will land on her decks.
With just six months until that happens for real, the Flyco team, which is responsible for controlling air operations, is making sure it understands the full process with simulation trials.
Commander Nathan Gray said: “The aircraft carrier is purpose-built for the F-35 and I don’t know any other carrier in the world that’s been specifically built for a specific aircraft type. It makes the whole environment safer but it also makes it more efficient and when we combine the two together it makes a truly potent fighting force.”
The cost of both the carriers and the F-35s is around £14 billion – making it essential that the two work together, which includes rehearsing a manoeuvre that only the UK will perform.
Commander James Blackmore explains who they plan to land the aircraft: “Traditionally people remember how the Harrier used to land on the aircraft carrier, from a hover and a vertical landing – that will still be done with the F-35. The aircraft will fly towards the stern of the ship, with forward speed on and then land from a rolling vertical landing and roll down the deck to a stop. It allows us to bring back more weapons and fuel which makes us more efficient in the way we deliver the aviation.”
The training in Lancashire has now completed and in June, HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail to the eastern seaboard, where she will begin the landing tests for real.