British F-35s travel to US to support Westlant 19

Harry Lye 9 October 2019 (Last Updated October 9th, 2019 14:41)

Three Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35s have left RAF Marham, setting out for the US to support Westlant 19.

British F-35s travel to US to support Westlant 19
RAF F-35B Lightning (II) from 617 Squadron based at RAF Marham. Credits: MOD Crown Copyright.

Three Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35s have left RAF Marham, setting out for the US to support Westlant 19.

As part of the exercise the British fighter jets will take off and land on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.

In total six F-35B aircraft have been sent to the US for Westlant 19 which, according to the Royal Navy, will “push both the F-35 and HMS Queen Elizabeth to their limits”.

In a video released on twitter by BAE Systems, RAF Wing Commander Butcher said the fighter jets would land at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort before moving on to deploy on the HMS Queen Elizabeth. The aircraft are expected to embark next week.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth has only seen US-owned F-35s take off from its flight deck so far.

Since August, HMS Queen Elizabeth has embarked a number of aircraft including the V-22 Osprey and Merlin helicopters. The aircraft from the RAF’s 617 squadron will operate on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the ship’s operational test phase.

The UKs has ordered a total of 138 short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variants of the F-35, which will be split between land and carrier deployments. In a maximum capacity situation the Queen Elizabeth carrier could house around 70 aircraft. So far the UK has 17 operational F-35s.

Once fully operational the UK’s F-35s and new aircraft carriers will see a return to carrier strike capabilities for the Royal Navy, allowing the UK to operate aircraft far from land bases and in contested areas.