U.K Defence Minister: F-35 Jet Cleared for Carrier Takeoff
LONDON — The United Kingdom’s cutting-edge F-35 fighter jet is now cleared for takeoff from HMS Queen Elizabeth following successful trials using the ski-ramp design featured on the U.K. flagship, U.K. Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin told the Defence Committee of the House of Commons Oct. 17, according to a Defence Ministry release.
“Successful ski-ramp trials mean the F-35 is cleared to fly from the carrier as the momentum continues for this game-changing jet,” Baldwin said. “This milestone comes as our pilots and planes prepare to return from the states, ready for next year’s unforgettable flight trials from the deck of the nation’s new flagship.”
The United Kingdom currently has 12 F-35 jets in the United States where they are being tested ahead of flight trials from the Royal Navy’s 65,000-ton carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, next year. Two more aircraft are set to be delivered by the end of the year.
The U.K. F-35s have been successfully tested on the ski ramp design at Paxtuxent River, Md.
During the Select Committee session, the Defence Minister announced that the F-35 Integrated Test Force, which includes five British pilots, has now successfully completed ski-ramp trials. That milestone clears the aircraft for takeoff from the deck of the carrier.
“She’s marvelous,” said Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, part of that Integrated Test Force, speaking about the jet. “She has an incredible amount of thrust but it’s more than just brawn that makes her so fantastic to fly — it’s the brains behind her as well. She’s a masterful piece of engineering and it makes her so effortless to fly. It’s impossible not to be exhilarated every time. She’s a beast when you want her to be and tame when you need her to be. She’s beautiful.
“The launch of the F-35s from the HMS Queen Elizabeth is a once in a generation historical event,” he said. “To be the first to fly off the carrier, to have a front row seat, would be an absolute privilege. It wouldn’t just be about the pilot — there are hundreds of people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen and the honor will be theirs too.”
There are already 150 U.K. personnel in the United States working with the state-of-the-art jets, and it has also been revealed that the latest course of U.K. pilots have just finished their ground school training and are now ready to fly the F-35B at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.
Among those to have graduated from that course are four pilots who started F-35 training straight from their advanced pilot training at RAF Valley, and Wing Commander John Butcher, who will be the commanding officer of the RAF’s new 617 squadron.
The new home of 617 squadron, RAF Marham, continues to build towards the arrival of the jets next year, moving a step closer earlier this month when the runway intersection resurfacing was completed. 617 Squadron will be the first operational British F-35 unit.
The first F-35 flight with the latest software recently was conducted on one of the U.K.’s F-35Bs at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This software upgrade, technically known as Block 3F, represents the full warfighting capability the U.K. F-35s will have at Initial Operating Capability in December 2018.
U.K. industry will provide approximately 15 percent of the value of each F-35 to be built, more than 3,000, worth $1.32 billion and generating around 25,000 British jobs. The program remains on time, within costs and offers the best capability for the U.K. Armed Forces.