Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy
Two F-35Bs landing on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture: MOD).
QE-class aircraft carriers

Simultaneous F-35B Fighter Jets Launch A First For QE-Class Carriers

The carriers have embarked F-35B jets, but never launched the fighters from their flight decks at the same time – until now.

Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy
Two F-35Bs landing on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture: MOD).

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales have simultaneously launched F-35B Lightning fighter jets for the first time.

Separated by 7,000 miles, the Royal Navy's two aircraft carriers have been launching and recovering the jets on round-the-clock sorties.

Until now, the QE-class carriers have embarked F-35B jets, but never have the two launched the fighters from their flight decks at the same time.  

The jets were launched from HMS Prince of Wales during exercises with 207 Squadron in waters close to the UK.

Meanwhile, HMS Queen Elizabeth, currently leading the Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) deployment, carried out flying operations over the Pacific with 617 Dambusters Squadron and VMFA-211 of the US Marine Corps.

Captain Steve Higham, HMS Prince of Wales' Commanding Officer, said it was "brilliant" to see F-35s operating from the carrier's flight deck.

"UK Carrier Strike is, at its heart, an inherently joint venture and one that is going fantastically well," he said.

"We already see 207 Squadron as part of the HMS Prince of Wales team and they have brought alive our latest training package by simultaneously conducting F-35 pilot qualifications."

Watch: CSG21 – North Korea monitored by Carrier Strike Group.

207 Squadron, based at RAF Marham, is the Operational Conversion Unit and has undertaken carrier qualifications training for pilots as the ship goes through its own training programme.

Wing Commander Scott Williams, Officer Commanding 207 Squadron, said the embarkation marks the start of the squadron's affiliation with the "carriers for decades to come".

"Developing our relationship with the ship's company, who have been very welcoming, has enabled us to re-qualify our pilots in operations at sea ensuring that they can continue to train the next generation and grow the UK's maritime strike capability," he said.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, meanwhile, is fresh from exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a port visit to Yokosuka  – a key moment in the CSG21.

The deployment has taken the aircraft carrier and her supporting warships across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian oceans and into the Pacific, working with allies and partners along the way.

Commander Mark Sparrow, Officer Commanding 617 Squadron, said the level of flying on the deployment has built "experience and understanding with the F-35B and maritime operations".

"It has been fantastic to be able to work with other nations and other aircraft, including squadrons of F-35Bs from the US and F-35As from Japan," he said.

"We have taken massive leaps forward in learning how to maximise this fifth-generation capability in Carrier Strike and it is great to see 207 Squadron and HMS Prince Of Wales continuing to build this."