HMS Queen Elizabeth Returns To Britain From US

HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned home to the UK after a four-month deployment in the United States.

More than a thousand members of the ship’s company were welcomed back to Portsmouth by family and friends.

Merlins returned to the UK on Sunday following their work in the US.

Three Merlin Helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron have already returned, landing yesterday at RNAS Yeovilton. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth left Britain in August to begin flight trials in the United States, allowing two F-35B fighter jets to conduct 500 takeoffs and landings.

In total, the aircraft carrier cost £3bn to build and the Ministry of Defence spent £190 million on each F-35.

At full capacity, the ship will be able to carry 72 F-35s at once.

What has the carrier been doing until now?

When F-35Bs first landed on the ship in September, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, hailed the news:

"The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet," Mr Williamson said.  

"This marks a rebirth of our power to strike decisively from the seas anywhere in the world.”

Whilst at sea, F-35s performed a variety of manoeuvres designed to test the jets' ability to work with the aircraft carrier.

RAF test pilot Squadron Leader Andy Edgell landed backwards on the flight deck, describing it as “briefly bizarre to bear down on the ship and see the waves parting on the bow as you fly an approach aft facing."

F-35 Performs Historic Rolling Landing Onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth_0.jpg
An F-35 onboard Queen Elizabeth.

A Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) was also performed by BAE Systems test pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson.

Described as "an inherently risky manoeuvre", it allows the ship to approach the runaway at speed, after which the jet uses the thrust from the nozzle and lift from its wings to slow down and land.

It is more complex than a conventional landing, but it allows them to land with heavier fuel loads, meaning pilots no longer have to dump fuel and weapons.

The ship will also be missing two of her original passengers when she docks today; pigeon chicks, nicknamed F-35 and Lightning, were found as onboard as stowaways.

The orphaned pair were found after a crew member overheard them chirruping and they were helicoptered to RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset to be cared for by the RSPCA.