The first F-35Bs landed and took off on the United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, last week.

On Sept. 25 Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and Royal Air Force (RAF) Squadron Leader Any Edgell were the first pilots to land and take off with an F-35 on the Queen Elizabeth. This was also the first time a short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft has flown off a British carrier in eight years.

The first take off of an F-35B form the UK's HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier off the east coast of the U.S. (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence)
The first take off of an F-35B form the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier off the east coast of the U.S. (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence)

After the first landings, Gray was the first pilot to take off from the carrier using the ship’s ski ramp. This was the start of more than 500 take-offs and landings planned to occur on the ship over the following 11 weeks. The pilots used two specially equipped F-35Bs from the Integrated Test Force, based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

The Queen Elizabeth left its homeport of Portsmouth, U.K. in August, sailed across the Atlantic for the first time for these flying trials and training with the U.S. Navy off the East Coast of the U.S. Move than 1,400 sailors, Marines, and flight crew are working on the ship during this deployment, called WESTLANT 18 (Defense Daily, Aug. 20).

The carrier is also training in the deployment with the U.K.’s Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth and U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Lassen.

After the trials are finished, the Royal Navy plans for the ship to visit New York.

The Royal Navy said F-35s tested on the Queen Elizabeth will be “put through their paces” in a range of weather and sea conditions.

“No words can explain how it felt to turn the corner at 500mph and see HMS Queen Elizabeth awaiting the arrival of her first F-35 jets. I feel incredibly privileged,” Gray said in a statement.

The Queen Elizabeth was built to hold up to 24 F-35Bs, has a range of 10,000 nautical miles, a top speed of 25 knots, 65,000 tons displacement, and will have a crew of 700 and a total 1,600 personnel once the full complement of F-35s and Crowsnest helicopters are aboard.

“The regeneration of big deck carriers able to operate globally, as we are proving here on this deployment, is a major step forward for the United Kingdom’s defence and our ability to match the increasing pace of our adversaries. The first touch-downs of these impressive stealth jets show how the United Kingdom will continue to be world leaders at sea for generations to come,” Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer Capt. Jerry Kyd added.

Kyd previously served as the captain of the carrier that launched the last Harrier aircraft at sea eight years ago.

Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship still under construction is the future HMS Prince of Wales at the Rosyth shipyard.

These carries are built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a team effort by BAE Systems, Thales, Babcock, and the U.K. Ministry of Defence. The U.K. plans for the Queen Elizabeth to be employed for international operations starting in 2021.