A British F-35B aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares for takeoff last weekend. Photo courtesy of British Ministry of Defense
Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The first landings and takeoffs of Britain's Royal Navy aboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth were a success, the British Defense Ministry reported on Monday.
The exercises, held over the weekend near the U.S. East Coast, involved the Royal Navy's F-35B Lightning fighter planes and were staged to demonstrate the next-generation fighter planes' "end to end" compatibility with the new carrier, commissioned in December 2017.
The British military has 17 F-35 variants, the first of which arrived in 2017.
The landings, takeoffs and hovering of the short-takeoff-and-landing planes were part of the "Westslant 19" carrier strike group deployment trials, the ministry said in a statement.
The F-35B of pilot Wing Cmdr. Adam Curd of the Royal Air Force was the first to arrive.
"This is the first time I have landed onboard an aircraft carrier," Curd said in a statement. "For it to be HMS Queen Elizabeth, and in an aircraft as amazing as a UK Lightning, is quite something. This is a proud moment not only for me, but the wider team that has brought us to this milestone for maritime aviation and U.K. defense."
Royal Navy pilot Cmdr. Nathan Gray was the first to take off from the carrier.
The carrier group escorting the HMS Queen Elizabeth, once the vessel is declared fully operational, will include the destroyer HMS Dragon, submarine hunter HMS Northumberland, tanker RFA Tideforce and Merlin and Wildcat aircraft.