Italian F-35B jets have landed on the flight deck of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time during maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea.
On the same occasion, US Marine Corps F-35B fighters landed on the deck of Italian Navy aircraft carrier ITS Cavour. This was not a first time event, however, as the Italian flagship recently returned from US waters where it gained its certification to operate the fifth-generation fighter jet.
The Royal Navy flagship is currently in the Mediterranean following months in the Indo-Pacific region as part of her global deployment.
As she heads west back to the UK, the ship has continued her program of working with allied nations and partners.
The latest series of exercises saw HMS Queen Elizabeth work with Italian F-35 Lightning stealth jets.
They are the same B variant as the joint RAF/Royal Navy and US Marine Corps stealth fighter currently embarked in the Portsmouth-based UK flagship. Italy are the only other NATO partner aside from the US and UK to operate that variant.
The landings and takings off by the Italians means HMS Queen Elizabeth has now hosted jets from three different countries since leaving home in May, with the Italians the first European NATO partner to land on the UK flagship’s flight deck.
The Italian defense ministry has also shared video footage of a US Marine Corps F-35B embarked aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth landing on ITS Cavour during the exercise.
“The fact that US, Italian and UK F-35Bs are able to fly to and from one another’s decks offers tactical agility and strategic advantage to NATO”, said Royal Navy Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group.
Earlier during their deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her jets trained with the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and her air wing in the Pacific Ocean, which includes the traditional carrier variant, F-35C – launched by catapult.
The UK carrier also conducted multi-carrier exercises with the French Carrier FS Charles de Gaulle, the USS Essex, USS Ronald Reagan, the Japanese Carrier JS Ise and the Japanese A variant of the F-35 stealth fighter.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her task group, including Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and Diamond, Type 23 frigates HMS Kent and Richmond, Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and Tidespring.