The UK’s Royal Navy is starting a four-month period of flight tests for the F-35B off the Eastern Seaboard of the USA to develop its operating envelope.
The flight tests will see the first deck landing of the F-35B performed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
The flight trials, which will determine the parameters for the safe operation of the carrier-variant of the F-35, are being supported by the 820 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), who recently embarked the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The squadron, which flies Merlin Mk2 helicopters, will provide force protection and search and rescue capabilities during the four months of testing.
820 NAS has been working with HMS Queen Elizabeth since the first day she sailed, conducting the first deck landing last year. In February they embarked to support the helicopter trials. Merlin Force Commander, Mike Currie said, “The Squadron’s focus since the completion of the first deck landing last year has been very much centred around the first of class flying trials with F-35B.
“The Eastern Seaboard deployment represents an exciting opportunity for the Squadron’s aircrew and maintainers.”
The F-35B that will land on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time will belong to the international F-35 Joint Operational Test Team.
According to this report most of the F-35Bs that will be used during the sea-trials will be American-owned but flown by British pilots.