F-35B Lightning jets from the British Royal Air Force and US Marine Corps (USMC) have left RAF Marham to join the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior off the west coast of Scotland.
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The jets from 617 Squadron and USMC’s VMFA 211 Squadron have previously been carrying out training from RAF Marham – this exercise will see the jets embark onboard the aircraft carrier for the next stage of the Carrier Strike Group’s training program prior to the carrier’s first operational deployment next year.
The exercise follows on from the recent Exercise Point Blank, which the jets took part in and marks a step up in complexity as the pilots and ground crew exercise from HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Commander Mark Sparrow, Royal Navy, Officer Commanding 617 Squadron, said, "We are looking forward to joining HMS Queen Elizabeth for the next stage of our training and work up ready for our deployment next year.
"This exercise will see the personnel from the two squadrons integrate with the ship’s company and is the next important step to creating a fully integrated Carrier Strike Group ready to deploy next year operationally for the first time onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth."
Exercise Joint Warrior is a biannual exercise that is run off the west coast of Scotland and is used by NATO, partner nations and all three services as an opportunity to conduct large scale inter-operability training – this will be the first such exercise for HMS Queen Elizabeth.
CDR Sparrow explained, "This follows the excellent work that both 617 and our colleagues from VMFA-211 Squadron have been doing over the last few weeks along with the invaluable support from 207 Squadron and wider station at RAF Marham to prepare us for this deployment."
The US Marine Corps Squadron will be working alongside 617 Squadron ahead of a Group Exercise in September where they will embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior.
VMFA-211 Squadron will conduct synthetic training in the purpose-built simulators at RAF Marham to familiarise themselves with the local airspace and procedures before they take to the Norfolk skies to fly training sorties alongside 617 Squadron in preparation for their embarkation with the carrier.
Once onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, both squadrons will conduct carrier qualification training to ensure all pilots are proficient to operate from the carrier during both day and night.
Training will also include live and inert weapons training ahead of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) next year, which will see the carrier deploy operationally for the first time.
With the training complete, the aircraft will then conduct Exercise Joint Warrior from HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will bring together multiple units to train collaboratively in preparation for CSG21.
On completion of Exercise Joint Warrior, both 211 and 617 Squadrons will return to RAF Marham where they will then prepare to take part in a further exercise, Crimson Warrior, which will allow the F-35s to conduct high-end training, alongside other platforms, in a contested and degraded environment, with this year's focus being on multi domain operations.