“It’s the first time they’ve ever seen the jet or been up and close to it as it’s performing its flight manoeuvres, so they got to feel the environment of what it’s like

Commander James Blackmore, HMS Queen Elizabeth's Commander Air

So around 20 sailors watched F-35B test aircraft BF-02 and BF-04 taxi, perform two vertical landings apiece, and conduct a couple short take-offs at Pax River air base, 50 miles outside Washington DC.

The ground reverberated as each aircraft approached the tarmac for its vertical landings, hovering for several seconds before descending. Having watched the Pax experts handle the jets, the QE team took over, taxiing a working F-35B for the first time.

The carrier’s Wings – Commander Air Cdr James Blackmore – said the few days at Pax proved invaluable for many of his team.

“It’s the first time they’ve ever seen the jet or been up and close to it as it’s performing its flight manoeuvres, so they got to feel the environment of what it’s like, the sort of noise, the heat, the sound and the pressure of the aircraft, so that when it comes to deck for the first time, it’s not a surprise,” he added.

He flew the last Harrier to take off from HMS Ark Royal at the end of 2010 before both the jump jet and carrier passed into history.

“If you like, I almost closed down what we used to do,” Cdr Blackmore added. “The fact that eight years later, I’m now here opening that back up with the team is really good.”

The first four British F-35s are due to arrive at their new home, RAF Marham, next week – weather permitting on both sides of the Atlantic – to prepare for front-line operations with 617 Squadron, either from land or from the decks of the UK's two new carriers.

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