Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth got underway from her Portsmouth homeport on Friday to start the final round of flight trials with the fifth-generation F-35B stealth fighter jets.
As was the case with the previous two rounds of tests with the Lockheed Martin-built short-take and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, the first of two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers will sail for the US East Coast for the trials.
The major difference with the third developmental test for first of class flight trials will be the fact that the aircraft carrier is set to launch UK-owned F-35B jets this time.
The UK intends to buy a total 138 F-35B jets for its air force and navy.
The aircraft carrier was followed by the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Tideforce as it departed Portsmouth. The carrier will also be joined by frigate HMS Northumberland during her time off the US coast.
Very proud 🇬🇧
Thanks for waving @Royal_Mariner !
— Proud of Portsmouth (@PortsmouthProud) August 30, 2019
During her time across the pond, the carrier will also sail to the Washington area for a port visit where it is scheduled to host the Atlantic Future Forum (AFF).
The first F-35B took off from HMS Queen Elizabeth on September 28, 2018. After completing the second phase of tests, the carrier returned home in November 2018, for her first docking period in Rosyth.
After all developmental and operational tests are completed, the aircraft carrier will achieve initial operational capability. This is expected to take place in 2020 while a first operational deployment is scheduled for 2021.