F-35B first night landing
News

F-35B Jets Make First Night Landings On HMS Queen Elizabeth

The tests were carried out with and without the aid of night-vision technology.

F-35B first night landing

Night-time flying had only previously been tested in simulators (Picture: Royal Navy).

F-35B aircraft have conducted night flying trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.

The tests were carried out with and without the aid of night-vision technology, with the pilots and aircraft handlers successfully guiding the Lightning II fighter jets onto the flight deck.

Pilots initially flew in using only ambient light and the lights on the carrier’s deck before later conducting landings using the night-vision capability in their helmets.

F-35B aircraft landed on the deck of the UK's new aircraft carrier for the first time last week - American F-35B Lightning II aircraft flown by British pilots.

British jets will land on deck when HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to the UK.

Commander James Blackmore is the Commander Air in HMS Queen Elizabeth, who is referred to as simply ‘Wings’ by the ship’s company. He said:

"The concept of night flying isn’t difficult for us.

"What we are looking at is what the new lights on board HMS Queen Elizabeth look like at night from the perspective of the F-35s.

“We’ve already done that with the rotary wing aircraft earlier this year, but now it’s crucial that we understand how suitable they are for the F-35s to operate at night from the carrier."

F-35B first night landing
The carrier left the UK in August for the flight trials in the US (Picture: Royal Navy).

The stealth F-35 jets flew from HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last week. Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to land the aircraft on the flight deck of the carrier.

Now the flying trials have moved on to the next phase, including the night-time flying which up until now has only been tested in simulators or on the ground.

HMS Queen Elizabeth has been installed with specially-designed LED lightning on her flight deck to ensure light does not become too bright in night vision.

Pilots will now test their ability to land with and without night-vision assistance.

Andrew Maack, the Chief Test Engineer for the Integrated Test Force – the organisation responsible for analysing the flight trials – added: “In daytime there are cues that tell the pilot’s brain what the relative motion is between the airplane and the ship.

F-35 first landing
British jets will land on the carrier when HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to the UK (Picture: Royal Navy).

“At night, especially very dark night, all those cues go away and you become dependent on exactly what the lights are and what the sight of those lights looks like.

"It’s something you can’t translate in your mind ahead of time – you don’t know it until you see it."

The F-35B fighter jets are the most advanced in the British military with a top speed of 1,200 mph and a price tag of £190 million each.

The aircraft arrived at their Marham home for the first time earlier this year, with a further five arriving in August.

Britain now has 16 of a planned 138 F-35B jets.

Rather than the traditional catapult launch, the F-35B will take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth via a ski jump ramp due to the jet's short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) capability.

The carrier will also be joined by Commando Merlin Mark 4 helicopters during the trials.

The return of ‘Carrier Strike’ to the UK comes eight years after a fighter jet last landed on a British carrier.