As the First of Class Flight Trials get underway to bring together the latest addition to the UK's air power, the F-35 Lightning II, and the first of its next generation aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth BAE Systems' people will be at the heart of this integration.
Two month-long trials will take place off the east coast of the United States, involving a unique and complex set of exercises that will test the aircraft's ability to operate safely and effectively from the aircraft carrier in a range of sea states and wind speeds at both day and night.
The BAE Systems' engineering team which has been at the heart of the F-35 programme since its earliest days, will be part of the wider team of more than 250 people that will carry out the trials. Our F-35 test pilot, Peter 'Wizzer' Wilson, will be the only industry pilot flying in the trials.

David Atkinson - F-35 / QEC Integration Team Lead

David Atkinson
David Atkinson


BAE Systems' unique £2m F-35 / Queen Elizabeth Class integration flight simulator has been at the heart of the Royal Navy's preparations for the First of Class Flight Trials.
The simulator facility, located at our site in Warton, Lancashire, replicates both the cockpit of an F-35 with and flying control tower (FLYCO) that is on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.
It's complete 360-degree immersive experience has been used by pilots to simulate thousands of take offs and landings to ensure that the real-life flight trials are as safe and effective as possible.
The simulator applies highly specialised computational engineering to model the air wake of the ship, which is the way air moves around and behind the carrier and flight deck, to replicate the motions that F-35 pilots will feel in real life.
Throughout the two years leading up to the start of trials, this facility has been at the heart of preparations of the team of pilots undertaking the trials, leading members of the ship's company and engineering teams, including from the F-35 prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, all taking part in preparations.
The facility is unique in providing the most realistic environment and conditions that I’ve ever experienced in a simulator. The flying qualities, aircraft handling, air wakes and way the ship rolls are as real as it gets. Commander Nath Gray, F-35 lead test pilot, Royal Navy.


When the QE Class carriers were designed, some of the technology required to enable fast jets to land and take off the ships had either not been conceived or was only just in development.
As a result, once HMS Queen Elizabeth was built by the BAE Systems-led Aircraft Carrier Alliance and was successfully delivered to her new home at Portsmouth Naval Base, our teams in Portsmouth could start work to upgrade her capabilities.
These included upgrades to her software, the installation of fixed-wing aircraft landing aids, a communications system that allows the ship to 'talk' to both RAF Marham and U.S Naval Air Station Norfolk from her jetty in Portsmouth and other myriad kit that ensures the carrier and the aircraft can work together.

Our pioneering engineering in short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), built on the ground-breaking Harrier designed and built by our company, was part of the unique offer we brought to the F-35 programme.
This has enabled us to bring their expertise to bear to create an aircraft which is built to operate from an aircraft carrier in the same way we have helped shape the design of the carrier to be ready for the F-35.
The results of these trials will not only help optimise the carrier for its fleet, but help shape the aircraft for operators across the globe.

F-35 Flight SIM - LSO Station


F-35 Pilots Flight Simulation


Ramping up

Our leading team of flight testing engineers have been at the centre of the team that has developed the F-35 that will be tested during the First of Class Flight Trials.
The Integrated Test Force based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River - brings together the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force with their US counterparts and an industry team including both BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin.
Since it was established almost a decade ago, the station, known as 'Pax River', has been at the heart of preparing for trials between the F-35 and the QE Class aircraft carrier with a land-based ski jump / take off used to replicate the ramp on board the carrier.
In 2015, our test pilot, Peter 'Wizzer' Wilson, the lead Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) became the first pilot to take-off from the ski jump.
And it was Graeme Tomlinson, working at the time as a BAE Systems test pilot, who made the first flight of the STOVL variant F-35 at Fort Worth in 2008, the year before following year the Integrated Test Force was set up at Pax River and began testing work.
Image of Dr Steve Hodge in the simulator facility

Blog - Preparing for F-35 sea trials

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