Why US F-35s will deploy aboard foreign carrier for first time
A US Marine Corps F-35 squadron plans to deploy aboard the British Royal Navy's new flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
"It's going to be a wonderful new way — and I will offer, potentially a new norm — of doing coalition combined allied operations with a maritime partner," Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of Marine Corps aviation, said at this week's Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, DC, according to Military.com.
A yet-to-be-identified Marine Corps squadron is expected to deploy aboard the foreign carrier in 2021.
This approach will be a "tremendous milestone in the progression of maritime interoperability with the UK," Capt. Christopher Hutchinson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Military.com. He told Business Insider that this will be the first time in modern history, if not ever, US aircraft have deployed aboard a foreign aircraft carrier.
HMS Queen Elizabeth visiting New York City.
The deployment has been a long time in the making, as senior US and British defense officials reportedly first began discussing this type of cooperation as a real possibility when the HMS Queen Elizabeth was commissioned in 2017.
An F-35B jet, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter developed for the Marine Corps, landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last September. "The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet," then British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.
An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 25, 2018.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
Last fall, US Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, spent several weeks conducting test flights from the deck of the British carrier. The movement of a whole squadron to the carrier is simply the next step in the cooperative process.
Both sides are currently preparing for the eventual deployment. "They're working together ... on all of the things that go into making sure supportability is right," Rudder said, according to Military.com. "It has been a pleasure working with our UK partners on this. I think it's going to be a very interesting data point and operational success."
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