The UK Royal Navy’s (RN’s) new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to bring the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II on board for trials for the first time towards the end of next year.
Fixed-wing First Of Class Flight Trials (FOCFT) are planned to begin off the US eastern seaboard in October 2018. It is expected that two fully instrumented F-35B development aircraft will embark on the ship for two embarked periods each lasting approximately four weeks.
FOCFT test points are intended to define the safe envelope for the operation of the F-35B from Queen Elizabeth and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales. Test planning for FOCFT is already well underway using BAE System’s F-35B/QEC integration facility at Warton.
As well as ski-jump launches and vertical landings, it is expected that next year’s trials will include the first executions of a new manoeuvre known as a shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL).
An SRVL exploits the ability of the short takeoff vertical landing F-35B to use vectored thrust to slow the speed of the aircraft approach to about 35kt of closure relative to the carrier while still gaining the benefit of wingborne lift. The primary benefit of an SRVL is a significant increase in payload ‘bring back’ compared with a ‘standard’ vertical landing.
Queen Elizabeth is currently alongside in Portsmouth following arrival at her base port on 16 August. The ship is expected to resume trials in October, with handover to the RN before the end of the year.