The UK military will deploy the F-35B stealth fighter jets onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the fight against Islamic State in the Middle East, according to a UK government statement.
The carrier, the Fleet Flagship of the Royal Navy, will join an anti-terror mission, ‘Operation Shader’, against the Islamic State, also known as Daesh.
According to a press release by the Defense Ministry of Britain, “This will be the first time UK fighter aircraft are embarked on an operational aircraft carrier deployment since 2010, and will be the largest number of F-35Bs ever to sail the seas.”
This is a joint Royal Air Force and Royal Navy deployment, “which is committed to confronting persistent threats around the world and make a meaningful contribution to global security”, the statement said.
The jets will be operated by the renowned 617 Squadron RAF (‘The Dambusters’) who will ensure tangible and impactful support to carry out counter-terrorism operations against the Islamic State.
The multirole combat aircraft will be the cutting edge of the Carrier Strike Group’s (CSG21) formidable power in the air, the statement said.
CSG21 which is led by HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation and will set sail next month on its first operational deployment.
UK Defense Minister James Heappey cited the deployment of the F-35B fighter jets as the “prime example” of the UK armed forces in stepping forward to join the allies to confront persistent threats around the world.
He called the move as the “Global Britain in Action” which will prevent the Islamic State from “regaining a foothold in Iraq.” Operation Shader is the UK’s contribution to the global coalition against the Islamic State.
According to the Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, “This deployment represents the embodiment of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Capability and utilizing the F-35Bs in the fight against Daesh will further demonstrate our commitment to securing their global defeat.”
The F-35B Lightning
The F-35B is a multi-role combat aircraft, which combines advanced sensors and mission systems with low observable technology or “stealth” giving it the ability to operate undetected in hostile airspace.
These fighter jets are used to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks. Its integrated sensors, sensor fusion and data linking provide the pilot the ability to share information gathered by the jet with other platforms using secure data links.
This information can be used to employ weapons or electronic means when and if required. With a maximum take-off load of around 60,000lb and a maximum speed of Mach 1.6, the fighter jet increases the operational capabilities of a quick-response mission.
The short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) capability of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning allows it to operate from the ‘Queen Elizabeth’- class aircraft carriers and the vessels of allied nations and also short airstrips.