F-35 Lightning

5th Generation fighter

Before the end of this decade, the F-35 Lightning will provide the ultimate punch of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The F-35 is an Anglo-American joint effort, designed by the best and brightest in the two nations’ aircraft industries.

Already two decades in development, prototypes of the fighter-bomber have been flying for ten years. Fleet Air Arm aviators will pilot the jump jet version, the F-35B.

The first British trials aircraft made its maiden flight in April 2012 and is due to begin its first trials flying on to and off the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018.

A small team of Royal Navy engineers is working on the development and testing of the prototype F-35 at Pax River in the USA, learning how to carry out routine maintenance and fix problems.

The jet is the world’s first ‘fifth generation’ fighter (the WW2-era Meteor and Messerschmitt Me262 are first generation; the Harrier is third generation).

F-35 Lightning

Since the dawn of powered flight, aircraft have been an integral part of the Royal Navy. Fixed-wing aircraft helped deliver some of the Navy's greatest 20th Century triumphs, from knocking out the Italian Fleet at Taranto and crippling the Bismarck, to playing an instrumental role in the re-taking of the Falklands in 1982. Until the advent of the F-35 Lightning towards the end of this decade, only one fixed-wing air craft is in service with the Fleet Air Arm.

Explore Aircraft Weapons 

operations Westlant 18

Britain's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is deployed to the east coast of the United States for her maiden F-35 Lightning flying trials. Joined by her task group, including HMS Monmouth, it marks the first time F-35 stealth jets have flown from the carrier's flight deck. As well as the vital deck trials, the deployment also involves exercises to prove the ship's ability to operate with other nations’ ships and aircraft.

Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers Future

An island nation needs a powerful navy. A simple fact, often forgotten. Go behind the scenes of the new aircraft carrier and discover its true scale and ambition.

Read about the new carrier

RN fast-jet pilots train with new gravity equipment


F-35 Lightning Latest News

Lightnings strike Eagles and Hawks as F-35s train to defend UK skies


F-35 Jets conduct first night-time landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth

See all news for F-35 Lightning

Air Engineering Technician

Join us


Join us

Air Engineer Officer

Join us