The United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, reached a major milestone this week as an F-35B Lightning fighter jet conducted the first ever landing on its flight deck.
The historic event took place off the coast of the UK on September 14th. Royal Navy test pilot Lt Cdr Ian Tidball completed the first touch-and-go maneuvers in an F-35B belonging to the renowned 617 Squadron. This inaugural landing marks a critical step towards the HMS Prince of Wales achieving full operational capability with the stealthy 5th generation fighters.
“This is a hugely significant moment for the UK’s Carrier Strike capability,” said Captain Richard Hewitt, commanding officer of the Prince of Wales. “Landing these magnificent jets is the culmination of years of hard work by our sailors and close cooperation with industry partners.”
The HMS Prince of Wales is one of two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy. At 65,000 tonnes, it is the largest and most powerful surface vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy. The ship features the latest radar and navigation systems, as well as an innovative high-speed ski-ramp to launch aircraft.
Once fully operational, the carrier will be capable of embarking up to 40 F-35B Lightning IIs along with helicopters and other support aircraft. This will provide the UK with a formidable power projection capability across the globe.
According to Navy officials, flight trials will continue over the next year as the crew conducts demanding training and certification regimens. The first operational deployment of HMS Prince of Wales with a full air wing is expected in 2023. The arrival of the F-35B represents a game changer for the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group spearheading British military might into the future.