Aircraft Carriers

Cool photos show RN and RAF F-35 pilots conducting first night flying trials off HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth has been kitted out with specially-designed LED lighting on her flight deck to aid night time landings

Taken on Oct. 3, 2018 the amazing pictures in this post show Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Test Pilots conducting the first night flying trials off the United Kingdom’s largest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The trials included state-of-the-art night-vision technology, with the pilots and aircraft handlers successfully guiding the supersonic fighter jets onto the flight deck. HMS Queen Elizabeth has been kitted out with specially-designed LED lighting on her flight deck to aid night time landings.

Commander James Blackmore is the Commander Air in HMS Queen Elizabeth, who is referred to as simply ‘Wings’ by the ship’s company. “The concept of night flying isn’t difficult for us. What we are looking at is what the new lights on board HMS Queen Elizabeth look like at night from the perspective of the F-35s,” he said in the Royal Navy press release.

Blackmore continues: “We’ve already done that with the rotary wing aircraft earlier this year, but now it’s crucial that we understand how suitable they are for the F-35s to operate at night from the carrier. First indications are that they are in good order for both the aided and unaided perspectives.”

The stealth F-35 jets flew from HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last week. Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to make history by landing their aircraft on the flight deck of the giant carrier.

Now the flying trials have swiftly moved on to the next phase, including the night-time flying which up until now has only been tested in simulators or on the ground.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35B Lightning II VMFA-121 Green Knights, VK00, 169164 / 2015

Using the night-vision technology doesn’t always make landings easy as even the smallest light becomes ultra-bright when it is viewed through the specialist equipment.

The lights on a carrier’s deck can look fine to the naked eye but suddenly become very bright when night-vision is switched on. However, HMS Queen Elizabeth has been installed with specially-designed LED lightning on her flight deck, which solves the issue.

Even still, it is important for pilots to test their ability to land with and without night-vision assistance.

Andrew Maack, the Chief Test Engineer for the Integrated Test Force – the organisation responsible for analysing the flight trials – added: “In daytime there are cues that tell the pilot’s brain what the relative motion is between the airplane and the ship.

“At night, especially very dark night, all those cues go away and you become dependent on exactly what the lights are and what the sight of those lights looks like. It’s something you can’t translate in your mind ahead of time – you don’t know it until you see it.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth left her home port of Portsmouth in August, crossing the Atlantic to conduct the flying trials as well as training with the US Navy.

Photo credit: Crown Copyright, Royal Navy

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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