F-35 take-off in Portsmouth Harbour

The roar of the most advanced aircraft in Britain’s arsenal reverberated around Portsmouth Harbour as an F-35 launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The multi-million-pound jet threw up a wall of spray on a damp flight deck before climbing the ski ramp at the end and lifting above the harbour, bound for its home at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

The jet remained behind with the carrier after she returned from the USA earlier this month – the other Lightnings involved in trials off the Eastern Seaboard flew off before the 65,000-tonne warship arrived back in her home base.

It’s the first time the jet has been seen over the home of the UK’s new carrier force, despite being based in the UK since June last year; it has made appearances at air shows, including over Yeovilton.

It was the first launch of an F-35 from the Queen Elizabeth class in UK waters – and the first launch of a jet from alongside in Portsmouth in well over a decade.

Commander Edward Phillips, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commander Air

As a result, the rare sight drew crowds around the harbour shoreline – and nearly one million viewers watching the take-off live on social media.

They waited for Petty Officer Aircraft Handler Wayne Slack to marshal the F-35 into position before the high-pitched whine of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine turned to a roar and the jet thundered into the sky.

“Launching the jet today was really successful,” said Commander Edward Phillips, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commander Air – in charge of all flying aboard the carrier.

“It was the first launch of an F-35 from the Queen Elizabeth class in UK waters – and the first launch of a jet from alongside in Portsmouth in well over a decade.

"A great effort from the ship, the Naval Base and the Lightning Force. We look forward to welcoming our jets and helicopters back in the New Year.”