F-35 Lightnings join carrier for trials
- Credit: PA
Three of the RAF's new stealth fighters are now aboard their new floating home.
The F-35 Lightnings from RAF Marham are being taken by the HMS Queen Elizabeth to conduct advanced trials with the US military in an exercise dubbed Westlant19.
The jets, the world's most advanced, will undergo rigorous mission planning and flying exercises off the east coast of north America, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
The MoD released images of the multi-role advanced aircraft hovering above and landing on the 65,000 tonne carrier for the first time.
It follows successful trials last year with US military Lightning jets.
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The F-35B Lightning jet is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and short take-off and vertical landing capability.
The fighter planes will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and can operate from both land and sea.
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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "This is another step towards the UK's carrier strike capability becoming fully operational.
"The bringing together of the UK Lightnings on the first in class HMS Queen Elizabeth paves the way for the world's most up to date, fully integrated carrier force."
Commodore Mike Utley, from the Royal Navy, said: "Getting to this point of embarking UK Lightning jets into our British-built carrier has been a significant joint undertaking by industry and military - both ours, and those from the United States.
"We will take the jets from the successful developmental phase we achieved last year through to a more operational footing, so we are confident that the jets, the carrier and our destroyers and frigates will function seamlessly together."