The F-35Bs launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth and escorted a Russian Il-38 flying close to the UK Carrier Strike Group.
A Russian Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft came within proximity of the UK Carrier Strike Group operating off the coast of northern Norway. F-35B Lightning jets were scrambled from the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth to join RoNAF (Royal Norwegian Air Force) F-35As and shadow the Russian Naval Aviation aircraft.
The UK CSG’s official X account shared a photo of an F-35B belonging to the 617 Sqn from RAF Marham escorting the Il-38 four-engined turboprop. Considering that the image was probably taken from the aircraft carrier, it’s safe to believe the Russian MPA flew quite close to the Royal Navy’s flagship.
UK F-35Bs launched from the deck of @HMSQNLZ and flew alongside @Forsvaret_No Norwegian F-35As to escort a Russian Maritime Patrol Aircraft as it flew in proximity to UK Carrier Strike Group.#UKCSG23 #JEFtogether pic.twitter.com/HeJlQS6ahU
— UK Carrier Strike Group (@COMUKCSG) October 6, 2023
HMSQE left Portsmouth on Sept. 8 and is currently operating in the Arctic region.
— UK Carrier Strike Group (@COMUKCSG) October 4, 2023
The UK aircraft carrier’s Air Group took part in Ex. Cobra Warrior 23-2, RAF’s largest exercise, that involved more than 50 aircraft from Canada, U.S., Italy, Norway, Australia and the UK working together to support a fictional country in conflict to regain sovereign territory. In particular, the F-35s were tasked with SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) missions.
The F-35s of several air forces carry out QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) tasks both at home and abroad, under NATO command, to support the alliance’s air policing missions. For instance, the Italian F-35As are currently deployed to Poland, to support BAP (Baltic Air Policing): the Italian Lightings have recently intercepted two Russian Naval Aviation Su-30s off Kaliningrad. However, to our knowledge, this is one of the first (if not the very first) time an F-35B is scrambled from the flight deck of a carrier to carry out an intercept.