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Marham F-35 Lightnings join aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in North Sea

PUBLISHED: 13:39 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:10 28 January 2020

 F-35 Lightnings have flown from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters today as a new training exercise gets under way.  Picture: MOD/LPhot Belinda Alker

F-35 Lightnings have flown from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters today as a new training exercise gets under way. Picture: MOD/LPhot Belinda Alker

©UK Ministry of Defence CROWN COPYRIGHT, 2019

F-35 Lightning jets from RAF Marham have landed on Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to begin training flights in UK waters.

 F-35 Lightnings have flown from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters today as a new training exercise gets under way.  Picture: MOD/LPhot Belinda Alker F-35 Lightnings have flown from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters today as a new training exercise gets under way. Picture: MOD/LPhot Belinda Alker

The sorties are believed to be the first time fighter jets have operated from a British carrier in home waters in a decade.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is in the North Sea, conducting carrier qualification for navy and air force pilots from the UK Lightning Force, based in Norfolk.

The jets are flying daily to and from the ship's deck, giving the pilots experience in operating from a floating airfield in both daylight and at night, some for the very first time. It also provides further training for the ship's crew, who have previously conducted trials with UK and US Marine Corps Lightnings in the USA.

Watching the first jet land on board this morning, the first to do so since he took command only a couple of weeks ago, commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Captain Angus Essenhigh, said: "Operating UK Lightning jets, from this UK-built aircraft carrier, in home waters for the first time represents a significant milestone in our journey towards our first operational deployment together in 2021. It's a moment that the UK should be immensely proud of.

 F-35 Lightnings have flown from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters today as a new training exercise gets under way.  Picture: MOD/LPhot Belinda Alker F-35 Lightnings have flown from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in UK waters today as a new training exercise gets under way. Picture: MOD/LPhot Belinda Alker

"We have proven the range at which we can operate HMS Queen Elizabeth together with her jets, having spent the past two autumns in the USA. There is now tremendous training value to be gained for both my ship's company, and the Lightning force team at RAF Marham as we work together to operate our jets to and from the ship from their land base".

The jets are being flown by the Lightning Force's training squadron, 207 Squadron. Officer Its commanding officer Wing Cdr Scott Williams said: "The value of operating in home waters is obvious and will unlock further planned training periods. Over the coming weeks on Exercise Lightning Fury, 207 Squadron qualified flying instructors will be achieving essential carrier flying and landing signals officer qualifications. This is a really fantastic opportunity for all of us, and we are very much looking forward to getting experience that will underpin our carrier strike capability in the decades to come".

HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Lightning Force will continue training through the year, ahead of their first operational deployment together, along with a squadron of F-35 Lightnings from the US Marine Corps, to the Far East in 2021.


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