Carrier Strike exercise sees F-35s from four nations train together

June 15, 2021 – Stealth fighter jets embarked with the UK Carrier Strike Group have exercised with other F-35 aircraft from three other nations.

The jets aboard UK flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth have participated in Exercise Falcon Strike 21, a multi-national training exercise led by the Italian Air Force. It saw F-35 Lightning stealth fighters from four nations train together for the first time.

Centered on Amendola Air Base, in Italy, the exercise provided a unique opportunity for partners and allies to work together operating the advanced stealth aircraft.

The cutting-edge capabilities of the jets demanded detailed and thorough planning to generate the complex air operations of Falcon Strike. But the jets, their pilots and handlers were successfully put through their paces and proved their abilities. They were able to show they could defend against a range of current and future threats.

Captain James Blackmore, commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Air Group, said: “Falcon Strike represents the coming together of fourth and fifth generation combat aircraft from some of the world’s most advanced militaries, including British and American F-35B strike fighters flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“Notably this exercise demonstrates the multi-national, multi-service character of the Joint Strike Fighter program, with ‘A’ and ‘B’ variants drawn from four nations, operated by air force, navy and marine corps, and, in the case of HMS Queen Elizabeth, a mix of all three. It is a truly integrated, truly joint endeavor.

“Together, our aim is to learn from one another how best to harness the full potential of these enormously powerful aircraft and apply their advanced capabilities to an increasingly complex and contested battle space.”

Each day of the exercise saw different tests for the four nations including protection/attack, air support with strategic and tactical multi surface-to-air missile threats, digital close-air support, dynamic targeting and escorted convoy attack.

A pilot from joint RAF/Royal Navy 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, said: “Since leaving Portsmouth the level of training the squadron has received, both in terms of quality and tempo, is quite remarkable.

“The intense work up training we received in the lead up to CSG21 is paying dividends, enabling us to now hone our tactics, techniques and procedures to enhance the already phenomenal capabilities of this jet and of UK carrier strike.”

Exercise Falcon Strike was one of several exercises and training scenarios conducted by the Carrier Strike Group while in the Mediterranean. Their time off the Italian mainland saw HMS Queen Elizabeth and her task group work with NATO allies before continuing their journey east.

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