HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing near UK with F-35Bs pictured on flight deck 190521 CREDIT MOD
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Fact Check: Does HMS Queen Elizabeth Have British Jets?

HMS Queen Elizabeth is getting ready to sail on her first operational deployment – but what jets will operate from her flight deck?

HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing near UK with F-35Bs pictured on flight deck 190521 CREDIT MOD

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the joint largest and most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy.

Earlier in the week, the aircraft carrier got ready to set sail on her first operational deployment, Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21).

On Saturday evening, the Royal Navy's flagship left Portsmouth.

Accompanying the £3.2bn ship over more than 26,000 nautical miles will be a number of vessels and, of course, aircraft that will operate from her flight deck.

But in the past, doubts have been cast over the number of British jets available to the carrier.

The answer is, yes, British jets are embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth. Here's all you need to know...

Are there British jets on HMS Queen Elizabeth?

Eight British F-35B Lightning fighter jets – Britain's most expensive and advanced warplane – are embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

It marks the first time UK fighter aircraft are on an operational aircraft carrier deployment since 2010. The F-35B fleet will also be the largest to ever sail the seas.

An RAF F-35B fighter jet next to another F-35B jet on HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture: MOD).

The jets are being flown by the UK's first F-35B Lightning Squadron, the RAF's 617 Squadron, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. The squadron is commonly known as the "Dambusters" for its role in destroying German dams during the Second World War.

The UK plans to eventually have 138 F-35Bs, with 48 of those by 2025.

Currently, the UK has 21.

The aircraft, which cost £190m each, will also be operated on HMS Queen Elizabeth's sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, which is working towards being declared operational. The carriers recently met at sea for the first time

During Carrier Strike Group 21, UK F-35Bs on board HMS Queen Elizabeth will join operations against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Although there are eight British jets deploying on CSG 21, American jets are involved too.

Ten F-35Bs from the US Marine Corps' VMFA-211 Squadron are also on the carrier, bringing the total number of jets on board to 18. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales at sea together pic 4 200521 CREDIT Crown Copyright
HMS Queen Elizabeth (left, pictured with F-35Bs on board), recently met her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales (right) at sea for the first time (Picture: Crown Copyright).

HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry up to 72 aircraft, with a maximum capacity of 36 F-35B fighter jets. 

It is more likely the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will have up to 24 Lightning jets on board for operations, however.

What other aircraft are deploying on CSG 21?

Wildcats, the latest generation of multi-role helicopters, will be flown by the Royal Navy's 815 Naval Air Squadron as part of the Carrier Strike Group formation.

820 Naval Air Squadron, a dedicated helicopter squadron for HMS Queen Elizabeth, brings its Merlin Mk2s to the deployment, with 845 Naval Air Squadron, part of the Commando Helicopter Force, also joining with its Merlin Mk4s.

845 Naval Air Squadron supports 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines with hoists, load-carrying and passenger capacity, and can land almost anywhere and work from ships.

Overall, the flight deck of the aircraft carrier will host both British and American F-35B Lightning jets, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine and airborne early-warning helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters.

Find out more about the Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment, including what ships are setting sail and where it is going.

Cover image: F-35Bs pictured on HMS Queen Elizabeth's flight deck (Picture: MOD).