Not the Royal Navy/Royal Air Force’s 14 planned F-35Bs will sail with the new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, but similar stealthy fighters of the United States Marine Corps. At least in the first years of the sea operations of the new naval asset if London will have its way, according to fresh reports from BBC Newsnight.
As insiders and sources to the BBC have confirmed the Royal Navy is likely not be able to field its essential air coverage on board the Queen Elizabeth until 2021 or later, while the carrier is planned to report for duty in 2018. Having such a strategic asset without anything proper to fly from it than helicopters, will put further delay on training of the vessel’s crew. Thus a fully ready British carrier combat group might not be able to sail earlier than 2023 to 2025.
Inviting the US Marine Corps, which plans to have their F-35Bs vertical take-off and landing jets operational by 2016, seems to be a logic request. It won’t even be such a problem in military operational terms, since the United Kingdom and the United States often go to war together. If the American say “yes” the two countries are even more able than before to train on interoperability of their armed forces, while the UK can deploy its carrier with air defence assets in place.
But as one of our fans with insight in aviation points out to us via our twitter.com/airheadsfly: “Inviting is one thing. To implement another Marines’ unit will keep their ships empty to fill the British one.” Absolutely right, in case Washington says yes we believe that no more than a skeleton USMC F-35B force of 4 to 6 aircraft will land and operate from the Queen Elizabeth at a time.
Even when the British own Lightning II stealthy jet force is at full strength in 2021 it will take some years for the fighter jocks and ground crews to work up to full combat operational status. The US Marines and US Navy are much further in their planning, with Navy’s F-35C recently conducting successful sea trials.
A proud British product, the British Aerospace Harrier and Sea Harrier were once THE air asset of the British naval fighting force, providing critical combat power during the 1982 Falklands War / Guerra de las Malvinas against Argentina. Shipborne “jumpjets” saw combat again during the operations Deny Flight, Deliberate Force and Allied Force in the 1990s over the former Yugoslavian republics.
Until the introduction into service of the Lockheed F-35B Lightning II the last take-off from a British aircraft carrier by a UK fighter jet was done on 24 November 2010, when a Harrier took of from HMS Ark Royal shortly before this aircraft carrier itself was decommissioned.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger