Royal Navy engineers put F-35B through its paces

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm

Royal Navy and RAF personnel are putting the new fifth-generation strike fighter through its paces in the Pacific.

Personnel from the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron left their base at Pax River in Maryland to embark in the amphibious assault ship USS America for the third phase of developmental testing of the F-35B.

The diverse Integrated Test Force team includes technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots from the squadron known as VX23.

The engineers are led by Lt Cdr Dale Collins, the UK’s F-35B air engineer and ship integration project officer, while the pilots are RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell and former Fleet Air Arm pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, now working for BAE Systems.

Also aboard USS America with the Salty Dogs of VX-23 are Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 from Edwards Air Force Base, California and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 from MCAS Yuma in Arizona.

The three-week long final phase of testing will evaluate the full range of the aircraft’s suitability and effectiveness on a sea-going carrier. The trial follows previous ones aboard the USS Wasp.

The nation’s new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to embark her first F-35Bs in 2018.

Pictures: Darin Russell and Andy Wolfe, Lockheed Martin