HMS Prince of Wales: F-35B lands on carrier for first time

The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier has been conducting sea and aviation trials on her journey to becoming fully operational.

An F-35 fighter has landed on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales for the first time.

Taking place off the south coast of England, the milestone marks a significant step towards the 65,000-tonne vessel reaching full operational capability.

Operating together as part of Sea Acceptance Trials, it is the first time a fixed-wing aircraft has landed on board HMS Prince of Wales.

The training tests the ship's capability to receive and launch aircraft whilst maintaining continuous air operations.  

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace praised the moment as an important "milestone", saying: "The vital partnership between HMS Prince of Wales and our F-35B aircraft signifies a momentous milestone in the capability of the fifth-generation carrier, marking another step towards it becoming fully operational.

"The first jet landing is a huge achievement for all involved and showcases the collaboration across the UK Armed Forces and our impressive Carrier Strike capabilities."

The F-35B Lightning is designed to operate alongside RAF Typhoon aircraft and is jointly operated by the Royal Navy and RAF.

It forms a central role within the UK's Carrier Strike capability, already operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth and will be operating overseas for the first time as part of the Carrier Strike Group.

This latest period of training involving Prince of Wales has also been the first time an Apache and an F-35 have operated from the same flight deck.

Captain Darren Houston, Commanding Officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said he was proud of his ship's contribution to the group's preparations.

"This prodigious achievement on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales is a significant milestone in the Royal Navy's re-birth of Carrier Strike Group operations," he said.

"It is a tangible reflection of the enormous collective effort from the aircraft carrier enterprise to deliver the Royal Navy's second aircraft carrier.

"I am particularly proud of the contribution made by my Ship's Company in developing this world-leading, sovereign capability and we look forward in earnest to rapidly growing our experience operating the F-35B through further trials and training later this year."

The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier is working towards becoming fully operational, having left Portsmouth at the weekend to continue her training at sea.

The vessel returned to the south coast last month after conducting sea and aviation trials with the RAF and Commando Helicopter Force.

Chinooks from 7 Squadron have been helping to train the carrier's air department alongside commando-carrying Merlins of 846 Naval Air Squadron from RNAS Yeovilton.

The training includes work with Apache helicopters from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps.

Last month, Prince of Wales met up with sister carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea for the first time.