Fighter jets begin night flights on HMS Queen Elizabeth

Image: UK Crown Copyright 2018

F-35 Lightning fighter jets have conducted their first night flying trials off HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The aircraft carrier, which first landed F-35 Lightning jets on board last week, is currently conducting flight testing off the east coast of the United States.

Pictures show how the night time trials, which up until now have only been tested in simulators or on the ground, were carried out using state-of-the-art night-vision technology, with the pilots and aircraft handlers successfully guiding the supersonic fighter jets onto the flight deck. Some trials were also carried out without night vision technology to ensure the jets’ capability in any eventuality.

Commander James Blackmore, also known as Wings, the Commander Air on HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: “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.

Andrew Maack, the chief test engineer for the Integrated Test Force, the organisation responsible for analysing the flight trials, said: “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 has been kitted out with specially-designed LED lightning on her flight deck to aid night time landings.