A U.S. Marine F-35B pilot will be landing on the deck of the Royal Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, when the ship arrives at Patuxent, Maryland, for scheduled flight trials.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth, which left its home port of Portsmouth, England, on Aug. 18, is expected to kick off nearly eight weeks of flight trials for the new F-35B sometime in September.
But U.S. Marine Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, will not be the first to touch down on Britain’s new carrier. That honor will go to Royal Navy Cdr. Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andrew Edgell, both are test pilots with the Pax River Integrated Test Force, according to Connie Hempel, a spokeswoman with Pax River ITF.
For two phases of the flight trials “the Pax River ITF team plans to perform a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope on Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) carriers,” Hempel said in an email to Marine Corps Times. “They will evaluate jet performance on over 200 test points during different weather and sea conditions as well as the aircraft’s integration with the ship.”
The crew at Pax River has been hard at work during the month of August preparing for the landing and flight trials aboard the Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen Elizabeth is currently ported in Mayport, Florida, following her maiden transatlantic voyage, but is expected to head back to sea soon.
At least six sailors aboard the carrier Queen Elizabeth were arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct following the Florida port visit and one was even tased by local police.
A third phase of flight trials is scheduled for 2019. “Together, the tests will help the U.K. Ministry of Defence reach F-35B initial operating capability (maritime) in 2020,” Hempel said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.