The decks of HMS Queen Elizabeth are roaring with the sound of F-35 Lightning jets as the famous Dambusters squadron landed on the aircraft carrier for the first time this week.
Pilots, engineers, cyberspace and mission support staff from 617 Squadron, the UK’s operational strike squadron, embarked the carrier over the weekend during a quick stop in Portsmouth for supplies before the aircraft themselves landed on board.
It marks the first time 617 Squadron – famously known as the Dambusters – has fully joined HMS Queen Elizabeth as the UK prepares to deploy the next generation squadron of fighter aircraft to operate from the sea.
The F-35 jets that landed on board this week will be the same aircraft that will sail next year with the ship for her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment. The 2021 deployment will see the Royal navy Carrier Strike Group sail in the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf and end up in the Pacific. The ship will also carry 24 F-35B jets, including US Marine Corps aircraft, in addition to a number of helicopters.
The F35s began initial pilot qualification period right away. The jets will then exercise defending carrier group by maintaining combat air patrols (CAP), launching and flying strike missions on simulated land targets and being held on deck to launch at very short notice.
“We are excited to be on board the carrier and we have been training hard to be here. This is the first time the ship’s operational squadron has embarked and worked together. The F-35 brings next generation capability to UK Defence through its ability to find, destroy or avoid enemy air defences and enemy aircraft whilst gathering intelligence data.”Commander Mark Sparrow, the Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron