Ships are designed to be at sea, it is better to not be tied up close to things that can cause damage

Lieutenant Commander Sam Stephens

Aside from the weather, another challenge has been operating in increasingly congested water space, with scores of US naval units having been dispersed from their bases to sea; including the US aircraft carriers USS Kearsarge and USS George H.W. Bush and their associated Task Group units.

The 'WESTLANT 18' Task Group units will be in Norfolk to onload the equipment and personnel required to conduct first of class flying trials with test F-35B Lightning fighter jets from the Integrated Test Force (ITF), based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

Around 200 supporting staff, including pilots, engineers, maintainers and data analysts will be joined by two 'orange wired' test aircraft, belonging to the ITF, which are expected to conduct 500 take offs and landings during the trials.

The aim of these initial 'developmental trials' are to ascertain, through the specially equipped aircraft and sensors around the ship, the operating parameters of the aircraft and ship, in a range of conditions.