The British Royal Navy has been gearing its flagship aircraft carrier – HMS Queen Elizabeth Class for the deployment of US’ F-35 stealth fighter jets, ahead of carrying out joint military drills with the US Marine Corps.
The warship which is still undergoing training ahead of next year’s maiden voyage, finally set off for a short cruise from Portsmouth, following which it will undertake drills with the US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.
The Queen Elizabeth warship was built by Britain’s Ministry of Defence, with the central plan of making it tailor-made for the deployment of US’ F-35B variant of the stealth fighter jets which are designed for short-take off and vertical landing.
The Queen Elizabeth-class carrier makes use of ski jump at the bow, unlike catapult assists installed on the US warships for assisted takeoffs, due to increasing costs in setting it up.
At the start of the month, the “Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 flew to the United Kingdom to the UK to train with the Royal Air Force (Royal Air Force), becoming the second fleet squadron in the Marine Corps to operate the F-35B Lightning II as their primary aircraft.
The squadron had travelled from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona to Royal Air Force Station Marham in the UK, while making one stop in the middle. First Lt. Zachary Bodner, a spokesman for VMFA-211, issued a statement to USNI News, which said,
“Flying that far required an immense amount of skill from the maintainers who prepared the aircraft and the pilots who conducted mission planning, aerial refueling and vertical landings after a nine-hour flight,” Realistic training is essential to maintaining our combat readiness.”
Under the training between the Marines and the RAF, one might see the compatibility between the warship and the advanced fighters. The F-35B Lightning II is possessed with a vertical lift fan and pivoting engine nozzle to deliver vertical landing and short takeoff capability, which is what the HMS Queen Elizabeth is made for.
“The training is designed to validate F-35 digital interoperability with 617 Squadron in preparation of our deployment next year as part of Carrier Strike Group 21.” The development and refinement of our shared war-fighting capabilities further strengthens our special partnership with the United Kingdom and solidifies stability within the geographical combatant command.” added Bodner.
HMS Queen Elizabeth-class, along with HMS Prince of Wales, is one of the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy. With a 65,000 ton displacement, the large aircraft carrier falls between the US 100,000t Nimitz Class and France’s 43,000t Charles de Gaulle Class aircraft carriers and is three times larger than the 20,000t UK Invincible Class carriers.
The carrier can travel up to speeds up to 25 knots and has a range of 10,000nm while travelling at a speed of 15 knots. The ship can carry a minimum crew of 700, which can be extended to 1,600 with aircraft onboard.
The warship, which can carry food and fuel for a run of seven days between replenishments, enables the UK to respond to conflicts or humanitarian disasters across the globe on short notices, though their Carrier Enables Power Projection Plan, which enables it to swiftly and independently maneuver through the international waters free from restriction.
Despite the warship being designed for interoperability with the US Navy, the Queen Elizabeth Class are not nuclear powered and rely on gas turbines and diesel generators for power. Moreover, the warships utilize conventional propulsion and can only operate with STOVL aircraft like the F-35B, helicopters, or tilt-rotor aircraft like the V-22 Osprey.