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British fighter jets land aboard HMS Elizabeth in ‘monumental moment’

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Two F35 fighter jets have landed on-board the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier for the first time.

The landings happened earlier this week off the east coast of the United States away from public eyes.

Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were given the privilege of becoming the first pilots to land their aircraft on the ship.

It is a major event for the UK’s armed forces and marks a milestone in the aircraft carrier programme.

Royal Navy Commander, Nathan Gray, 41, made history by being the first to land his stealth jet on the deck
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Royal Navy Commander, Nathan Gray, 41, made history by being the first to land his stealth jet on the deck

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described it as a “monumental moment”.

“The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet.

“This marks a rebirth of our power to strike decisively from the seas anywhere in the world. It is also a statement of Britain’s determination to promote peace and prevent war.”

It is eight years since an aircraft last landed on a British aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal.

Jerry Kyd was captain of Ark Royal on that day and he is now the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Captain Kyd said it was the culmination of a “national endeavour”.

“Let’s not forget there are very, very few nations who do this properly and we’re going to be back into that league.

“It is tremendously good for the security of our own country and our own people but we’re also playing our full part on the world stage in maintaining world order.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of two new aircraft carriers – they are the largest Royal Naval ships in history and jointly cost £6.5bn.

The UK opted for the B-version of the F35, which can take off from short runways and land vertically.

Officially each F35B costs £100mn but independent analysis predicts their total cost will be more like £150mn per plane.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of two new aircraft carriers - they are the largest Royal Naval ships in history and jointly cost £6.5 billion.
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HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of two new aircraft carriers – jointly worth about £6.5 billion.

This week saw another milestone when an American F35 became the first to launch an airstrike when it dropped ordnance against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The UK’s F35 jets will now complete a further 500 take-offs and landings in all-weather conditions during an 11-week trials programme.

Next month HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to call in to New York to receive dignitaries on-board.

This week’s historic flight trials come more than 100 years after the UK’s HMS Argus became the world’s first carrier capable of safely launching and recovering naval aircraft.

More from Gavin Williamson

“You’ve got to view it through the defence lens as it were because the combination of the ship and their aircraft, the potency of this is something that is way beyond individual services,” said Air Marshal Stuart Atha, the Deputy Commander of Operations.

“This is something that the country can be proud of and everyone in the armed forces can be proud of.”

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