An F-35 Lightning fighter has landed aboard the Royal Navy carrier HMS Prince of Wales for the first time, marking another step in the service’s return to full-fledged carrier operations. The first-in-class HMS Queen Elizabeth is under way on her maiden deployment, and Prince of Wales – the second in a series of two ski-jump carriers in British service – is gearing up for operational capability.
“It was a real honor to be the first pilot to land the F-35B on HMS Prince of Wales,” said RAF Squadron Leader Will of 207 Squadron (his last name was not disclosed). “With all the training that we have previously undertaken with HMS Queen Elizabeth we are now looking forward to using that experience and knowledge as we work with HMS Prince of Wales.”
???? Watch as a @RoyalAirForce F-35B Lightning jet lands on @HMSPWLS for the first time, showcasing its vertical landing capability.— Ministry of Defence ???????? (@DefenceHQ) June 9, 2021
This milestone marks a significant step towards the 65,000 tonne @RoyalNavy vessel reaching full operational capability.
Shortly after the first landing, Lt. Commander Ben, also from 207 Squadron – the joint RAF-Royal Navy unit that trains F-35 pilots – took off using the ski ramp, marking the Prince of Wales’ first F-35 takeoff.
Image courtesy Royal Navy
The jet and ship are carrying out acceptance trials, which test the ship’s ability to launch, recover and maintain near-continuous air operations. Captain Darren Houston, the Prince of Wales’ commanding officer, hailed “a significant milestone in the Royal Navy’s re-birth of carrier strike group operations.”
On board the Queen Elizabeth, currently under way in the Mediterranean, carrier strike group commander Commodore Steve Moorhouse said that the strategic significance of the first F-35 operating from Prince of Wales is considerable. “Building one aircraft carrier is a sign of national ambition. But building two – and operating them simultaneously – is a sign of serious national intent,” said Moorhouse. “It means Britain has a continuous carrier strike capability, with one vessel always ready to respond to global events at short notice. Few other navies can do that. Britain is back in the front rank of maritime powers.”
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