F-35 Lightning

5th Generation Fighter

Before the end of this decade, the F-35 Lightning will provide the ultimate punch of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The F-35 is an Anglo-American joint effort, designed by the best and brightest in the two nations’ aircraft industries.

At a glance

15.6 metres

Total length

3.8 tonnes

Lifting capacity

450 nautical miles

Combat radius

1.6 mach

Top speed

A world first

Already two decades in development, prototypes of the fighter-bomber have been flying for ten years. Fleet Air Arm aviators will pilot the jump jet version, the F-35B.

The first British trials aircraft made its maiden flight in April 2012 and was due to begin its first trials flying on to and off the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018.

A small team of Royal Navy engineers is working on the development and testing of the prototype F-35 at Pax River in the USA, learning how to carry out routine maintenance and fix problems.

The jet is the world’s first ‘fifth generation’ fighter (the WW2-era Meteor and Messerschmitt Me262 are first generation; the Harrier is third generation).

Being a part of the Fleet Air Arm

PO Johnson, 25


What I like best is the variety. On any given mission I could be monitoring threats, searching for targets, or even using weapons. I also get to be involved in planning and executing major operations – nothing beats the feeling of seeing it all come together successfully.

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United Kingdom


Performing to the very highest standards. Putting our ships and our people through their paces. Always striving for better. Training is what makes the Royal Navy the best in the world.



Atlantic Patrol Tasking North

The APT(N) task centres on reassurance to UK overseas dependent territories, providing humanitarian and disaster relief during the main hurricane season (June to November) and conducting counter narcotic patrols as part of the wider international effort.