Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

UK F-35B Performs World’s First Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing During HMS Queen Elizabeth Trials

The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) achieved a new milestone performing a Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

On Oct. 13, an F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performed the first  Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, as part of the ongoing First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing), or FOCFT (FW). BAE Systems test pilot Pete “wizzer” Wilson, achieved the F-35B’s first real SRVL touching down at about 40 knots and decelerating to a standstill in about 175 feet.

Britain’s newest aircraft carrier (able to accommodate up to 24 F-35Bs out of the planned 138 F-35 Lightning jets) and the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are conducting a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope for QEC carriers.

Among the most important parts of the trials are the rolling vertical landings: as the acronym suggests, STOVL aircraft use the vertical landing to return to the ship. Using this kind of procedure, the approaching aircraft slowly reaches a hovering position to the port side of the ship before moving sideways over the deck and descending slowly. This technique has pretty strict weight requirements because of the thrust required to keep the aircraft airborne the time needed to put the wheels down. The rolling technique is intended to allow pilots to recover to the ship with more stores: the combination of thrust from its rotating nozzle, lift-fan and lift generated by the wing as an effect of the (slow) forward movement of the aircraft can save up to 7000lbs greater all up weight (UAW). Without the SRVL technique, the F-35B would be forced to jettison some or all of its external store when returning to the ship.

According to some sources the Soviet Yak-38 “Forger” jets could perform rolling landings on carrier decks but required the use of a safety barrier net; however, it’s not clear whether actual tests were conducted at sea.



In order to prepare to the first SRVL pilots and engineers tested the new technique using BAE Systems’ F-35/QEC Integration Simulator—a full motion, dome simulator—based in Warton, England. Some 3,000 takeoffs and landings were important to discover “where the edges of the test envelope are,” said Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, FOCFT (FW) lead test pilot at the Pax River ITF.

“SRVL tests are truly experimental,” Edgell said. “It involves landing a fast jet onto an aircraft carrier with forward relative speed but without the braking assistance typically provided by an arresting gear and hook. It’s going to be a really rewarding moment for British aviation to watch that procedure actually take place.”

Back in 2007, Qinetiq’s VAAC Harrier testbed was used by the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre using a “dummy deck” at Qinetiq’s Boscombe Down site in Wiltshire, to assess the possibility to perform SRVL approaches as a way to use thrust-vectoring to a slow speed while still gaining the benefit of wing-borne lift.

The UK is the only nation currently planning to use the SRVL technique. However, the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy (which should operate the F-35B to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II from Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier in the future) might take advantage of the rolling landing in the future, leveraging the testing conducted by the F-35 ITF aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Following the crash occurred on Sept. 28 and involving a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, the U.S. Services and international partners temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while conducting a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft. British F-35Bs involved in the flight trials from HMS Queen Elizabeth and Italian F-35 were not grounded though, as inspections did not find the faulty part.

Is This “Maverick’s” New F/A-18F Super Hornet for Filming “Top Gun” Sequel?

Hollywood Gossip Site Leaks Photo of F/A-18F With Special Markings.

Even though all of us feel the need for speed to get the new Top Gun sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick” released it sounds like Paramount Pictures has requested another flyby even as photos of a newly painted U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet that may be linked to the film’s production have been leaked.

While Top Gun fans can’t bring back that lovin’ feelin’ fast enough for their taste, Paramount Pictures announced in late August that the release of the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” will be delayed until (gasp…) June 26, 2020.

Even though this news is worse than having a MiG-28 stuck on your six it may also suggest that the Navy is working on something truly special in cooperation with Paramount Pictures for the new film. Video has surfaced on social media of U.S. Navy F-35s practicing “buzzing the tower” off U.S. aircraft carriers with references to the Top Gun script in the posts.

The U.S. Navy’s official VFA-125, the “Rough Raiders” Facebook page, “Home of the F-35”, posted video clips two weeks ago showing aircraft forming vapor cones and performing almost exactly the same low altitude, high speed pass made famous in the F-14 Tomcat in the first Top Gun film. The video may (and also may not) hint that the F-35s appearance in the film could be significant. There was no confirmation if coffee was spilled during any of the fly-bys, but plenty of flight deck crew were out taking video with smartphones.

In a USA Today story written by Bryan Alexander published on August 29, 2018, Alexander reported that, “The studio dropped the bomb [heh…] Wednesday that the release date for Tom Cruise’s anticipated sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” would be delayed one year to June 26, 2020.”

While the announcement of the delay is disappointing, Alexander did go on to provide a tantalizing teaser for readers who know naval aviation, “The extra time will give filmmakers the opportunity to work out the logistics of presenting flight sequences with new technology and planes, according to a Paramount statement.”

Translated into fan speak, that may very well mean we’re getting the Navy’s big, wide-winged F-35C in more than a cameo appearance in “Top Gun: Maverick”.

Meanwhile, Hollywood reporter Michael Briers over at the fan site “WeGotThisCovered.com” leaked photos of what may be Tom Cruise’s new ride as “Maverick” in the Top Gun sequel. Based on the watermark, the photos appear to come from an article on website “RevengeOfTheFans.com”. We got the permission from Mario-Francisco Robles at “Revenge Of The Fans” to publish the photo here at The Aviationist.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet was photographed with special markings including Capt. Pete Mitchell “Maverick” stenciled on the right cockpit rails. The aircraft may have been at Naval Air Station Fallon, as suggested by aviation and defense journalist Tyler Rogoway of “The War Zone” this morning when he posted that, “The jet has Topgun’s iconic seal on its tail, which means it would belong Naval Air Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) at NAS Fallon. So it looks like Maverick is an instructor at the school, which is not surprising.”

Capt. Pete Mitchell “Maverick” stenciled on the special colored Super Hornet. Credit: Revengeofthefans.com

While speculation about the specifics of the film and its plot continue and news of the delay is disappointing, the promise of getting a look at some of the Navy’s newest aircraft along with a special livery F/A-18F Super Hornet is very exciting. Now all we need to do is get the Navy to fly Maverick’s new Super Hornet through Star Wars Canyon for a photo-op, preferably, while inverted.

Top image: Several websites leaked photos of a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet with special markings that could be for Tom Cruise’s character “Maverick” in the upcoming Top Gun sequel (Photo: Via RevengeOfTheFans.com)

We Visit the Kearsarge ARG to see the 22nd MEU Aviation Combat Element in action

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Aviation Combat Element (ACE) VMM-264 (Reinforced) takes us on board the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) during deployment work-ups.

Authoritative voices bark from the loudspeakers on the deck of the U.S.S. Kearsarge, a U.S. Navy Wasp-Class Amphibious Assault ship. Simulated threats are identified, and timely safety reminders regarding deck activity are made. Today, the deck is lightly loaded with only a handful of active and parked ACE assets from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)-264 (Reinforced). During deployment the parking area of the deck will be packed with the aircraft fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle.

This is the stage of pre-deployment workups when the 22nd MEU joins at sea with the Kearsarge ARG (USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43)) and learns to function as one. The ARG/MEU must effectively execute everything from humanitarian relief to an amphibious landing on hostile shores (or with the MV-22B deep inland far from the sea).

Procedures ensure the highest degree of safety possible. Given the nature of the activity – danger is never far away. I observe activity on a hot, but otherwise perfect day. Add inclement weather, pitching decks and night operations – and one may grasp what risks these young men and women of the Marines and Navy face. The sea is inhospitable and the activity does not tolerate mistakes without consequence.

Aircraft launch and recovery, fuel and ordnance handling, hot arrivals and departures and much more are worked until they become second nature. Man and machine are put through grueling paces to serve as first responders to any number of global crises. No one is overlooked, maintenance and support professionals from VMM-264 work tirelessly on the relative austerity of the ship to ensure all platforms are ready to go.

The operational pace is high. Today, the exercise takes the form of a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) of an “over the horizon” vessel. VBSS is simply one of the many mission sets the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU will work prior to deployment.

The Black Knights of VMM-264 have their machines at the ready along with US Navy MH-60S Knighthawks from the HSC-26 Chargers of Norfolk, VA. AH-1W Super Cobra gunships launch (I suspect Harriers would be up in the air already if this took place near hostile shore). The message is unmistakable, firepower is up in the air long before the Marines of BLT 1/2 arrive on the scene.

AH-1W and CH-53E waiting on the deck of the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3)

The MH-60 Knighthawks launch next – with observers and Marines. The CH-53E launches with what must be a full complement of combat ready Marines. Additional assets may have launched from other members of the Kearsarge ARG (USS Arlington and USS Fort McHenry).

USN MH-60 (HSC-26) launching from the deck of the USS Kearsarge (Kearsarge ARG) during ARGMEUEX with the 22D MEU. The 22D MEU BLT 1/2 is departing for a Visit Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) of an “over the horizon” vessel. The 22D MEU includes the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 (Reinforced) (VMM-264 Black Knights).

The U.S. Navy component, the ARGs has a primary objective – “deliver the warfighter to theater.” It is an impressive combined force. Nor can one overlook that the Navy has the option to add additional resources to the ARG and form an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) or add a Carrier Battle Group (CVBG).
Given the ARG delivers the Marines to theater, the Marines take the next natural step, putting their “warfighters on the ground, wherever that ground may be.” VMM-264 does their part. Seasoned pilots operating complex platforms capably night and day in good and poor weather in both friendly and hostile space. It is their responsibility to carry those warfighters safely to and from the ARG.

ARG-MEU Overview Graphic

For many, the Marines are defined by the tenacious and bloody battles of the South Pacific in WWII. Rightly so. The great price paid by Marines in the past must be a large portion of the Marine Corps drive to excel at the mission today. Marines are doing exactly that, striving to build an indomitable force that will excel at the mission. The addition of the MV-22B has provided speed and range, enabling a massive mobility upgrade – landings deep inland. The AH-1Ws are well on their way to replacement by the more capable AH-1Zs, the AV-8B by the F-35B, some F/A-18s by the F-35C.

USMC MV-22B of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 (Reinforced) [VMM-264 Black Knights] approaches the deck of the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) of the Kearsarge ARG during ARGMEUEX with the 22D MEU. The Aviation Combat Element of the 22D MEU is supporting the Ground Combat Element (GCE) BLT 1/2 who are “over the horizon” on a Visit Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) of an vessel.

The F-35s adds stealth, impressive situational awareness, increased pilot safety during lanch and recovery, EW, data link to AEGIS and coalition forces – and more. The CH-53E will be supplanted by the CH-53K with a tremendous increase in lifting power, and mobile unmanned aircraft systems have been deployed. This is what it looks like to “Level Up!” By 2030 the USMC will have a massive leap in aviation capability – that’s saying something given the capability they have today.

It all means that Marines will come ashore “at the place and time of their choosing” – even if that place and time is 100’s of miles inland. When they arrive, they will do so with unparalleled capability.

Silence falls, and activity turns to the basics. Moving aircraft and equipment about the deck to accomplish support work at hand. A handful of Marines (BLT 1/2) wait on board the Kearsarge, extra’s at the ready if required. They are geared up and wait patiently. As the afternoon passes they become aware that their presence is not required for the VBSS. The disappointment is accepted, but palpable. The blend of young and seasoned Marines joined the service for the very reason; to be “first in.” They are polite, disciplined, focused and to a Marine desire to be at the epi-center of the action. It is a privilege to encounter them as friend, and to know they are forward deployed around the globe to respond to any number of crises.

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to the II MEF USMC Communcations, Strategy and Operations team, Capt. Joshua L Smith (22D MEU), SSgt. Melissa L. Karnath and Maj. Jordan R. Cochran (II MEF), the entire US Navy Public Affairs team on the USS Kearsage.

Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier Jet Deploys Aboard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima

An Italian Navy “Jump Jet” landed aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in the Med Sea.

On Jul. 18, 2018, an AV-8B+ Harrier II belonging to the I GRUPAER (Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati) of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), from Grottaglie, landed aboard USS Iwo Jima as the amphibious assault ship and its embarked 26th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) transited through the Mediterranean Sea on their way back home from their deployment “in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet.”

The Italian Navy Harrier will remain with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group until it arrives in the U.S., then, the “Jump Jet” will head to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point, NC, for a scheduled PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspection) that will take up to six months.

“Italy and America have an agreement where we will bring over our planes for maintenance,” said Italian pilot, Lt. Domenico Iovino, in a public statement released by the U.S. DoD. “After the maintenance is performed, we will come back to the U.S. and take the plane back to Italy.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) An Italian AV-8B Harrier lands aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

This is not the first time the Italian Harriers operate from a U.S. unit: since many deployments pass through the Med Sea, the Italian Navy pilots have the opportunity to operate from the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ships every now and then.

“We have done this several times in the last few years,” said Italian Lt. Cosimo Manica, also a Harrier pilot. “We have taken approximately 10 planes from Italy to the United States for PMI, which can only be done in America.” Indeed, the deployment of Italian AV-8Bs has already happened with USS Bataan in 2017 and 2014 and USS Kearsarge in 2015.

Operating from a U.S. ship is not too different from operating aboard an Italian aircraft carrier, such as the ITS Cavour or Garibaldi. Whilst landing procedures are almost identical, what is probably different is the amount of traffic the units manage both in the air and on the apron, making the opportunity to operate on a U.S. amphibious assault ship relatively “low-stress” but also formative.

“The program that we go through to become a Harrier pilot is taught the exact same way as it is to Americans, and the planes are the same, so there is not much difference when landing on the American ships,” Manica said in the public release. “Our landing procedures are almost exactly the same as well, so there are no problems when we come in to land on U.S. Navy ships.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 completes post flight maintenance on an Italian AV-8B Harrier aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

The Italian Navy operates little more than a dozen Harriers that are planned to be replaced by the F-35B (probably 15, according to most sources). Italy’s first-built F-35B, aircraft BL-1, was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility, on Jan. 25, 2018. It completed its transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland on Jan. 31. At Pax River, the aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01 will obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

Check Out This Amazing F-14 Tomcat Carrier Landing Tutorial Video

This is pure Tomcat porn!

Using the very same words of the user who uploaded it to Youtube the one below is a “nostalgic video tutorial outlining US Naval Case 1 (VFR) Aircraft Carrier pattern and landing of the now retired F-14 Tomcat.” What makes it really cool is not only the fact that it features the mighty F-14 Tomcat, but also that the narration is word for word from official US Navy F-14 NATOPS flight manual.

The video (uploaded in 2012, 6 years after the type was retired from U.S. Navy service) includes a compilation of Pilot Landing Aid Television System (PLAT) video used by Landing Signal Officers (LSO) to monitor approaching aircraft position on the glideslope and centreline.

At min. 2:12 you can see an F-14 recoverying to the flight deck with the basket and part of the cable still plugged to the aircraft’s IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe in 2002, whereas at min. 2:35 a Tomcat catches the wire while still in the air with a subsequent touchdown on the nose wheel (dated 1999). These are just two examples of some interesting (or scary) approaches/landings you can see in the video!

Enjoy.