Developmental test phase 3 (DT-3) flight trials of an F-35B Lightning II short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variant fighter jet aboard the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales (R09) aircraft carrier are being conducted as part of the ship's deployment to the US Eastern Seaboard for WESTLANT 2023.
Photos released by the US Navy showed an F-35B Lightning II short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) variant fighter jet for a STO launch from a ski jump aboard the fifth-generation strike aircraft. During the ship's deployment to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard for WESTLANT 2023, a Pax River F-35 Integrated Test Force (Pax ITF) team is working closely with the ship's company to conduct the sea trials that are designed to push the boundaries of carrier aviation.
“Our team has trained extensively to prepare for this day, and I was honoured to bring the capabilities of the F-35B back out to the Prince of Wales,” said F-35B test pilot Major Paul Gucwa USMC, the ITF test team project officer. Guwca is one of three experienced Lightning pilots flying special test variants of the F-35B – packed with sensors and instrumentation – on and off the deck of Britain’s biggest warship.
Captain Richard Hewitt, HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer, said during this phase of the vessel’s deployment, the jet would develop advanced landing and take-off techniques, allowing it to recover heavier, turn around faster, and launch with more weapons. During its journey to US waters from its base in Portsmouth early in the Autumn, the aircraft carrier made history by demonstrating the delivery of vital stores and supplies using drones instead of helicopters.
A pilotless aircraft manufactured by W Autonomous Systems landed for the very first time on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales as it sailed off the Cornish coast.
The exercise marks a change of pace for the newest aircraft carrier which some have described as the Royal Navy’s “problem child,” following earlier leaks and faults with the vessel.
Last year before flight trials with F-35B Lightning jets off the US coast, the carrier broke down shortly after setting off from its base in Portsmouth.