The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier program has reached a new milestone, having both ships conduct simultaneous F-35B fast jet operations for the first time.
Separated by 7,000 miles, HMS Prince of Wales in the North Sea and HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific have been launching and recovering the stealth strike fighter on round-the-clock sorties.
Until now, the ships have embarked the fifth-generation jets but never have the two 65,000-ton carriers launched the fighters from their flight decks at the same time.
That’s now changed with HMS Prince of Wales exercising with the RAF’s 207 Squadron in waters close to the UK, while, on the other side of the world, HMS Queen Elizabeth carries out flying operations over the Pacific with her jets from 617 Squadron and VMFA-211 of the US Marine Corps.
“This is an extraordinary achievement for the Royal Navy and represents the true global reach we have in this current era,” said First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.
“It demonstrates the enduring strength of our alliances and partnerships and is the result of decades of work and dedication to achieve this feat with the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.”
Three UK F-35Bs from 207 Squadron are currently on board HMS Prince of Wales as she goes through the final demanding stages of becoming fully operational this autumn.
Pilots are carrying out carrier qualifications day and night to ensure they are ready for missions ahead, while the ship is going through the world-renowned Fleet Operational Sea Training (FOST) programme. This tests ships and personnel to the limit in order to qualify them for operations.
Later this month, HMS Prince of Wales will also take part in the largest military exercise in the UK, Joint Warrior, off the Scottish coast to test her ability to work alongside other naval, air force and army assets and as part of broader task group operations.
HMS Queen Elizabeth meanwhile is fresh from exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a port visit to Yokosuka, which was a key moment in the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) deployment.
The CSG deployment has taken the aircraft carrier and her supporting warships across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Oceans and into the Pacific, working with allies and partners along the way flying the flag for Global Britain.