Over the course of little more than one week, the UK’s carrier-based aviation ambitions have at last become almost tangible.

The phrase “capability holiday” has previously been used to describe the situation where the Royal Navy has been unable to deploy embarked fixed-wing strike assets since the BAE Systems Harrier GR9’s retirement in December 2010. This measure remains one of the most savagely-criticised decisions of the last Strategic Defence and Security Review, with some even having called for a revival of production of the venerable “jump-jet”, in preference to the Joint Strike Fighter.

While the so-called “senior service” is still some years away from seeing a Lockheed Martin F-35B soar from the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth – even in training, let alone anger – advocates of “carrier strike” should be heartened by the sight of the short take-off and vertical landing type using a “ski-jump” ramp for the first time. Seeing this key feature of the new model, as tested at the US Navy’s Patuxent River facility in Maryland, will revive fond memories in the UK.

Achieved just days before lead vessel the Queen Elizabeth had one of her diesel engines started for the first time, the flight provided a welcome glimpse of what will become a formidable combination.

How formidable? That will depend on the outcome of the UK’s next defence review, due in October.

Source: Flight International