U.S. Marine Pilot Tests F-35B Lightning II On Deck of Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Megan Friedl, Defense Media Activity // October 8, 2018
UK’s newest and largest aircraft carrier
For the first time in eight years, fighter jets flew from the decks of a British aircraft carrier.
For 11 weeks, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, and three British pilots tested the performance of the F-35B Lightning II on the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the United Kingdom’s newest and largest aircraft carrier.
Lippert was selected to be a part of this mission because of his position as the Marine Corps’ F-35B ship suitability project officer and his previous shipboard operational experience as a Harrier pilot.
Collectively, the pilots were expected to conduct 500 takeoffs and landings onto the ship’s 280-meter deck.
Why the Trials?
The trials evaluated the aircraft’s performance on the flight deck, and provided flight clearances for operational F-35 squadrons in preparation for future test and evaluation efforts. Eventually, the ship will deploy with a carrier air wing aboard.
The trials also evaluated more than 200 aspects of the jet’s performance during various weather and sea conditions.
“The nature of this relationship means there is plenty of room for the exchange of lessons learned and operational practices,” Lippert said. “In short, we learn from each other, and that makes us all better. Lessons and experiences from this test effort will help to ensure interoperability between the services and will be of mutual benefit to the U.K. and U.S. Marine Corps.”
How the F-35B Is Different
The F-35B has the ability to land vertically like a helicopter and take off in a much shorter space, which increases its stealth. It is flown by the U.S. Marine Corps and Britain’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
“The improvements in short takeoff/vertical landing handling qualities in the F-35B flight control system bring a substantially decreased workload to the pilot compared to legacy STOVL platforms like the Harrier,” Lippert said.
Along with these monumental flights, British and U.S. Marines conducted exercises together to prove the ability to operate with other nations’ maritime and aviation assets.
Before testing began, Lippert said he was “looking forward to the opportunity and experience of flying the aircraft from a brand new ship.” He said he expected “many firsts … and it’s a wonderful privilege to be a part of it all.”
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