HMS Queen Elizabeth hosts Italian F-35s during cross deck exercise

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) welcomed Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters from both the Marina Militare/ Italian Navy and the Aeronautica Militare/ Italian Air Force during a cross deck exercise with Italian Carrier, ITS Cavour, on November 21.

During the cross deck exercise, multiple USMC VMFA-211 F-35Bs departed HMS Queen Elizabeth for the ITS Cavour, and in exchange, Italy sent two of its F-35Bs over to the UK carrier. Sailors aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth refuelled and relaunched the Italian jets as well as, USMC F-35s and a UK 617 Squadron F-35B. The jets from the three nations then flew interoperability training flights in the area of the two carriers.

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Italian Air Force F-35B launches from HMS Queen Elizabeth during cross deck exercise in the Mediterranean. Crown copyright 

Italy is the third allied nation to operate from HMS Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck as it currently sails home through the Mediterranean after a global deployment. The Italian jets are the first European NATO partner to be hosted by the UK’s flagship. Italy are also the only other NATO partnered nation to operate the B variant of the F-35, which is the same variant as the UK and USMC jets currently aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Commander of UK CSG21, Cdre Steve Moorhouse, said: “The fact that US, Italian and UK F-35Bs are able to fly to and from one another’s decks offers tactical agility and strategic advantage to NATO.”

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Sailors of HMS Queen Elizabeth tie down an Italian Navy F-35B during the cross deck exercise with ITS Cavour. Crown Copyright

“Today’s activity is a telling demonstration of the ability of the UK’s flagship to work seamlessly with other nations; Italy is the third nation to land an F-35B on to the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the seventh military operating F-35 aircraft that the UK’s Carrier Strike Group has exercised with on CSG21.”

Throughout the CSG21 deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth and the jets embarked on the ship have carried out multiple training operations with a variety of allied nations. Allies included the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group of the US Navy, which involved F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the traditional carrier variant of the F-35 which is launched by catapult, the F-35C. 

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Italian Navy F-35B launches from the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth during a cross deck exercise with the ITS Cavour. Crown Copyright

CSG21 also carried out exercises with the French Carrier FS Charles de Gaulle and its Dassault Rafales, the USS Essex, USS Ronald Reagan, Japans Carrier JS ISE and the Japanese A variant of the F-35 Lightning II.