UK’s F-35B fighter jets are now cleared for take-off from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after they passed land-based ski-ramp trials.
This was announced by UK defense minister Harriett Baldwin who spoke on Tuesday before the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.
“Successful ski-ramp trials mean the F-35 is cleared to fly from the carrier as the momentum continues for this game-changing jet,” Baldwin said. “This milestone comes as our pilots and planes prepare to return from the States, ready for next year’s unforgettable flight trials from the deck of the nation’s new flagship.”
One of the other questions addressed at the Defence Select Committee were concerns raised in a Times report which said the UK F-35Bs would be too heavy to land vertically on HMS Queen Elizabeth under full load. During the hearing, LockheedMartin UK CEO, Peter Ruddock assured MPs that the F-35B was capable of landing vertically with a full internal weapon and fuel load.
The UK currently has 12 F-35 jets out in the United States where they are being tested ahead of flight trials from the Royal Navy’s 65,000 tonne carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, next year. Two more aircraft are set to be delivered by the end of the year.
During today’s Select Committee session, the Defence Minister announced that the Integrated Test Force,, has now successfully completed ski ramp trials. That milestone clears the aircraft for take-off from the deck of the Carrier.
Speaking about the jet, Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, part of the F-35 Integrated Test Force which includes five British pilots, said: “The launch of the F35s from the HMS Queen Elizabeth is a once in a generation historical event. To be the first to fly off the carrier, to have a front row seat, would be an absolute privilege. It wouldn’t just be about the pilot – there are hundreds of people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen and the honor will be theirs too.”
There are already 150 UK personnel out in the US working with the jets.
The new home of 617 squadron, RAF Marham, continues to build towards the arrival of the jets next year, moving a step closer earlier this month when the runway intersection resurfacing was completed. 617 Squadron will be the first operational British F-35 unit.