KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The United Kingdom Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08; and Italian carrier ITS Cavour (CVH550) on Monday performed a cross-decking and integration exercise of their embarked F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters south east of Sicily in the Mediterranean, making Italy the second nation after the United States to operate the aircraft off the U.K. warship.
The exercise had three phases. The first phase saw two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs from the “Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 from Queen Elizabeth landing on the Cavour. This was followed by an Italian Navy F-35B and an Italian Air Force F-35B from Cavour landing on Queen Elizabeth. The third phase saw F-35Bs taking off from the two carriers and flying interoperability flights, along with a joint flight formation of four F-35Bs, one each from the U.S. Marines, the U.K. Royal Navy, Italian Navy and Italian Air Force. The U.K Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” embarked on Queen Elizabeth is a composite squadron of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel, though organizationally it is an RAF squadron.
“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,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21), said in a Royal Air Force news release. “Today’s activity is a telling demonstration of the ability of the U.K.’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 U.K’s Carrier Strike Group has exercised with on Carrier Strike Group 2021.”
Watching the exercise from Cavour were Italian Chief of Defense Staff Adm. Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, along with Italian Navy Chief Adm. Enrico Credendino and Italian Air Force Chief Gen. Luca Goretti. Cavour earlier this year was in the U.S., arriving at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Feb. 13 and working with a test team from the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) as part of its effort to become certified to operate the F-35B. The ship arrived back home in Italy on April 30.
On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth hosted a delegation of 30 NATO Ambassadors to see F-35 operations from the ship. The delegation arrived on V-22 Ospreys and were were joined by the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) Gen. Tim Radford and representatives from Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K and the U.S., with U.K. Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin welcoming the NATO delegation.
CSG 21 is now on the final leg of its seven-month deployment, which has seen the group travel over 40,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back. Ships and aircraft from the group have operated and exercised with over 40 countries during the deployment. The group is currently dispersed and the original composition has changed. American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68; detached from the group in late October and arrived home today at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. U.K. replenishment ship RFA Tidespring (A136) was replaced by RFA Tidesurge (A138; on Saturday.
Queen Elizabeth is currently with destroyer HMS Diamond (D34), Tidesurge, replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and, as was when CSG 21 operated in the Mediterranean in June, Italian destroyer ITS Andrea Doria (D553).
Frigate HMS Richmond (F239), which had previously been with Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean, has detached and arrived in Malta today for a port visit, while Dutch frigate HMNLS Evertsen (F805) has just completed a three-day port visit in Catania, Sicily, and is on its way to rejoin the group. Also heading to rejoin the group is destroyer HMS Defender (D36), which transited the Suez Canal today, having previously conducted exercises and a port visit with Jordan. Frigate HMS Kent (F78; is also likely heading out of the Middle East to join the group after supporting Combined Maritime Forces Bahrain operations.
VFMA 211 also completed its embarkation on Queen Elizabeth, with the squadron departing today for Naval Station Rota, Spain, for the first leg of the voyage home.
The U.K. Royal Air Force also announced today that the first F-35B from 617 landed at RAF Marham in the U.K.
“Engineers will now determine the maintenance requirement ahead of the rest of the Squadron returning next month,” the RAF wrote in a social media post.
EMALS and AAG, designed and built by General Atomics, are intended for the French Navy's "PANG" next generation aircraft carrier program.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency:
The Government of France has requested to buy one (1) Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), 2 launcher configuration; and one (1) Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), 3 engine configuration. Also included are land-based testing and test spares; shipboard install; testing and certification support; shipboard spares; peculiar support equipment; government furnished equipment; multi-purpose reconfigurable training system; operator and maintainer training; integrated electronic technical manuals; drawings and interface control documents; technical assistance; contractor engineering technical services; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated total cost is $1.321 billion.
The proposed sale will result in continuation of interoperability between the United States and France. EMALS and AAG will be incorporated in France’s next-generation aircraft carrier program. France will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
The prime contractors will be General Atomics-Electromagnetic Systems Group, San Diego, CA; and Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News, VA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in conjunction with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately (40) U.S. Government and contractor representatives to France for 10 weeks per year in calendar years 2033-2038, to support shipboard system installation, commissioning, certification, aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification and sea trials.
The EMALS and AAG are currently fitted on the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 7. Earlier this year, the systems achieved the U.S. Navy’s target of 8,000 successful aircraft launches and recoveries during the ship’s 18-month Post Delivery Test & Trial (PDT&T) period. General Atomics is currently delivering the systems for follow on ships USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79) and USS Enterprise (CVN 80).
Price tagAbout the $1.321 billion “estimated” price tag:
DSCA notifications usually quote the “maximum prce” and final contracts are often signed with substantially lower amounts.
In this case the notification is not limited to the supply of catapults and other associated equipment, but covers the whole spectrum of the program: the equipment, but also their integration, the tests (including land based test of French Navy aircraft at Lakehurst), the certification, spare parts, technical assistance… In other words, a “full service turnkey solution”.
According to information obtained by Naval News, a French Navy Rafale M is set to conduct land-based testing and integration with the EMALS and AAG at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, New Jersey, at the end of 2020.
NAWCAD Lakehurst provides the unique facilities and subject matter expertise required to support testing of the next generation arresting gear. Lakehurst is home to the Jet Car Track Site (JCTS) and the Runway Arrested Landing Site (RALS), both of which enable in-depth system testing to ensure AAG meets fleet requirements. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home to two single-wire, ship-representative AAG systems. One of these systems is located at the Lakehurst JCTS test facility and is utilized for arrestment testing with dead-loads that simulate fleet aircraft; while the other AAG single-wire system is located at the Lakehurst RALS test facility, where integration testing with manned aircraft is conducted. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is also home to a land-based, ship-representative EMALS test site. This site allows for continued system testing and personnel training.
For the record, the Rafale M prototype (known as M01) was tested by Dassault Aviation, DGA and the French Navy with the U.S. made C-13 catapults during several campaigns at Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst and Patuxent River, Maryland. The four campaigns took place between the Summer of 1992 and the Fall of 1995.
In addition, one of our sources explained that the French Navy could request the U.S. Navy the possibility to use an EMALS-equipped aircraft carrier to train and qualify French pilots during the next refueling and overhaul period of Charles de Gaulle, set for 2028. The U.S. Navy should have three operational Ford-class carriers by then.
French President Emmanuel Macron officially green lighted the construction of a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as part of the PANG program one year ago (8 December 2020). The future flagship of the Marine Nationale is intended to replace the existing “Charles de Gaulle” around 2038.
The PANG (Porte Avion Nouvelle Generation or new generation aircraft carrier) will be much larger compared to the in-service Charles de Gaulle:
It will have a length of 300 meters, a width of 80 meters with a displacement of 75,000 tons.
First steel cut is set for 2025, while sea trials are set to begin in 2036 and commissioning with the French Navy in 2038, which matches with the expected decommissioning of the Charles de Gaulle.
The initial artist impressions released by Naval Group confirm some of the technical details which we have been reporting since July:
- Nuclear powered (CVN) with two K22 reactors (2 x 220 MW thermal)
- Length between 285 and 295 meters
- Full load displacement around 70,000 – 75,000 tonnes
- Maximum speed: 26 to 27 knots (similar to Charles de Gaulle)
- Propulsive power would be around 80 MW delivered to three or four shaft lines
- Total power around 110 MW, including the electrical plant
- Future air wing: 32 Next Generation Fighters with 2 to 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and a yet to be determined number of remote carriers/UCAVs
- Two side elevators with 40 tonnes lifting capacity
- Three 90-meter electromagnetic catapults (EMALS) by General Atomics*
- Flight deck: 16,000 m²
- Aircraft hangar: 5,000 m²
- Crew: 900 and 1080 sailors (not including the air element of 550 to 620 sailors) with higher comfort compared to Charles de Gaulle.
- Thales SeaFire radar
- PAAMS with MBDA ASTER surface to air missiles for self defense
*While some of the previously released PANG artist impressions showed a three EMALS configuration, it seems like the final configuration of the French aircraft carrier will feature only two catapults (as mentioned in the DSCA notice issued today: ” one (1) Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), 2 launcher configuration “)
Peter Ong 26 Dec 2021Naval News reached out to the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office in December 2021 for an update on the F-35 and how the U.S. Defense Department views the latest developments in peer nations copying this single-engine, single pilot stealth fighter that has entered operational service with the U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. allies around the world. The F-35, arguably, has pushed the envelope in 5th Generation fighter technology with technology advancements in stealth design, sensor fusion, adaptability, computer processing power, commonality, situational awareness, and digital architecture and avionics. While the F-35 still has some “teething problems” to resolve, the design has matured enough to be able to take off from U.S. and NATO nuclear-powered and conventional aircraft carriers.
To close the 2021 year on news about the F-35 Joint Stealth Fighter updates, Naval News reached out to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office with questions in December 2021 and received a reply from Laura M. Seal, Public Affairs Lead, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office. Naval News asked the Joint Program Office about future weapons that the F-35 might carry, such as the Raytheon “Stormbreaker,” AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM), LRASM or any new gun pods, and the F-35 Joint Program Office referred Naval News to the branch services and International Partners of the F-35 for answers; therefore, look for F-35 armament update stories from Naval News in the future.
“The F-35 enterprise is bringing the world’s most advanced fighter capabilities to bear from the Middle East to the Arctic. To date, the F-35 enterprise has delivered more than 730 aircraft, 11 services worldwide have declared initial operational capability, and five countries have conducted operational F-35 missions.”
Laura M. Seal, Public Affairs Lead, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office
According to the Lockheed Martin’s “F-35 Fast Facts”, as of December 1, 2021, the F-35 stealth fighter’s Short-Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL, or F-35B), and folding-wing aircraft carrier variant (F-35C) have achieved 8 out of 16 carrier activations and are active in 21 out of 30 bases around the world. The F-35s have achieved 463,000+ flight hours (and that number includes the conventional takeoff F-35As used by the Air Forces) in 267,263 sorties with 14 services flying the single engine, single pilot stealth fighter with 11 services declaring Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in nine nations. F-35s have seen six operational missions and 254+ detachments and deployments completed.
Meanwhile, production unit costs have shrunk for all variants as has the cost per flight hour while reliability and “maintenance man hours per flight” have steadily improved.
Aircraft carriers that currently have and are planned to operate the F-35Bs and F-35Cs are:
- USS Wasp (LHD 1)
- USS Essex (LHD 2)
- USS America (LHA 6)
- HMS Queen Elizabeth (UK)
- USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)
- ITS Cavour (Italy)
- USS Makin Island (LHD 8
- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)
- USS Tripoli 2021 (LHA 7)
- USS George Washington 2022 (CVN 73)
- USS Boxer 2023 (LHD 4)
- USS Theodore Roosevelt 2023 (CVN 71)
- USS Iwo Jima 2024 (LHD 7)
- USS Bataan 2025 (LHD 5)
- USS Gerald Ford 2025 (CVN 78
“The deployment of U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs alongside British F-35Bs aboard UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth is just one of many demonstrations of the F-35’s unmatched interoperability and deployability.”
Laura M. Seal, Public Affairs Lead, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office
Through various legal and illegal means, peer nations have copied the U.S.’s F-35 stealth fighter with copycat designs of their own that closely resemble the Lockheed Martin design. Some improvements to the original Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter design were made by the peer nations, such as twin-engines and possibly twin ejection seats, whereas analysts have determined weaknesses and areas of interest in other features of these F-35 stealth fighter copycats. Naval News has asked the U.S. Joint Program Office for comments on these peer nation copies.
“We are aware of China’s technology development.
The F-35 is unquestionably dominant on today’s battlefield. The F-35 Joint Program Office’s mandate is to preserve and grow that hard-earned combat edge and deliver game changing capability through the life of the program that is at every step more advanced than the ever-evolving capabilities of our competitors. We are doing that today through the development and integration of what we call the Block 4 suite of capabilities into the F-35. Once fully implemented, Block 4 will bring approximately 70 advanced, hardware-enabled and software defined capabilities, including 14 new weapons, to our global fleet. The rapid development and delivery of capability sets will continue beyond Block 4 throughout the lifetime of the program.”
Laura M. Seal, Public Affairs Lead, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremiah / US NavyThe USS Abraham Lincoln deployed this week from San Diego under the command of Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, the first woman to lead a nuclear carrier in U.S. Navy history.
Bauernschmidt, who previously served as the Abraham Lincoln's executive officer from 2016 to 2019, took over command from Capt. Walt Slaughter during a ceremony last August.
The carrier deployed Monday from Naval Air Station North Island as part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group.
“There is no more humbling sense of responsibility than to know you are entrusted with the care of the people who have chosen to protect our nation,” Bauernschmidt said, according to a Navy news release. “Thank you, Capt. Slaughter, for turning over the finest ship in the fleet.”
Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, reads her orders during a change of command ceremony held on the flight deck with the previous commanding officer Capt. Walt "Sarge" Slaughter looking on.
Bauernschmidt previously served as the commanding officer of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 and the amphibious transport dock San Diego.
She has completed more than 3,000 flight hours during her career, the news station reported.
The Abraham Lincoln completed its maintenance period in April, following a 294-day, around-the-world deployment.
The Carrier Strike Group is led by the command staff of Carrier Strike Group 3 and consists of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Carrier Air Wing 9, the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the guided-missile destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 21 — USS Fitzgerald, USS Gridley, USS Sampson and USS Spruance.
The strike group is deploying with what the Navy is touting as its “most advanced air wing” and is heading to the Indo-Pacific region.
The first women to serve in the Navy were nurses in the early 20th century and the first large-scale enlistment of women came during World War II, according to an official military history website. The Navy designated the first woman as an aviator in 1974 and women were first assigned to a combat ship, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1994.