F-35 Lightning fighter jets have dropped first test bombs during flight trials on board the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided precision bombs were dropped off the east coast of the USA, marking another significant milestone in the carrier’s trials.
Adding the 500lb bombs to the jets for take-off has enabled the trials teams to see how the jets behave when carrying various weights, gathering crucial test data.
It is the first time the American-made bombs have ever been embarked in a UK ship. They are made up of a head, containing the bomb’s computer, the tail and a concrete warhead. As they are test bombs, they carry no explosives.
They are being built onboard by Royal Navy air engineers, supervised by specialist US Navy ordnance ratings from the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, further demonstrating the close co-operation between the two key allied nations.
Commander Neil Mathieson, the head of the air engineering department on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: “This marks a significant milestone for us. It makes me excited about operational trials next year with the UK’s F-35 Lightning squadrons when we will see live Paveways being dropped. These trials are an important pathway to that point.”
Aviation Ordnanceman Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Little, of the US Navy, was part of the team overseeing the Royal Navy air engineers on board. He added: “The team has run really well with the work we have done with them, they have come up to speed pretty fast.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth continues her flying trials – on a deployment called Westlant 18 – along with her escort ships HMS Monmouth and US destroyer USS Lassen.
The carrier is scheduled to visit New York on Friday, becoming the first carrier in over a decade to do so. UK defense secretary Gavin Williamson is scheduled to visit the vessel on Saturday for a Trafalgar Day dinner onboard.