An F-35B Lightning II fighter jet landed aboard U.K. aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R 09) October 11th, kicking off developmental test phase 3 (DT-3) sea trials aboard Britain’s largest Warship.

A test pilot from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23), Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland, flew the specially instrumented F-35B to the U.K.’s newest aircraft carrier, which got underway Tuesday from Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia.

The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. The ship, with its state-of-the-art systems, was designed around the F-35B.
The pilot and aircraft join a test team of approximately 200 personnel from the Pax River F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) embarked for up to four weeks of sea trials off the coast of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
“Our team has trained extensively to prepare for this day, and I was honored to bring the capabilities of the F-35B back out to the Prince of Wales,” said F-35B test pilot U.S. Marine Maj. Paul Gucwa, the ITF test team project officer.

Maj. Gucwa and two other pilots assigned to the Pax ITF will fly the ITF jets during the flight test. “Our planning, training, and preparations were focused on conducting a successful sea trial and ultimately contributing to the carrier continually developing to keep it at the cutting edge,” Gucwa said.

Watching from the bridge, Captain Richard Hewitt, HMS Prince of Wales Commanding Officer, witnessed the approach and vertical landing of the stealth jet. “This is why we are here,” he said. “Over the next few weeks we will work together with the F-35 programme to increase the capability of the world’s most advanced 5th generation stealth fighter alongside the U.K.’s 5th generation aircraft carrier. During this phase of our deployment we will see the jet develop advanced landing and takeoff techniques, allowing it to recover heavier, turn around faster, and launch with more weapons.”

With the pilots and jets on board “the carrier of today and tomorrow,” the embarked ITF team will now execute a comprehensive test plan and collect data that will ultimately lead to expanding the operating limits of the F-35B Lightning for the Royal Navy.

“We are excited to be underway with the crew of Prince of Wales and honored to contribute to the aircraft carrier’s trials of pushing the boundaries of 21st century carrier operations,’” said Andrew Maack, Pax River F-35 ITF chief test engineer and site director.

The embarked team comprises members who have the engineering and test pilot expertise and experience to conduct F-35B envelope expansion flight test. “We look forward to a brilliantly successful shipboard detachment,” he said.