After being officially named on July 4th 2014 her hull finally touched water on July 17th 2014. Since then work has progressed on completing the 60,000 ton carrier that the Royal Navy has staked its future on. Fitting out will take until at least the end of 2015 after which the crew will move aboard in May 2016. Once stationary training has been completed the ship will begin a series of sea trials in August 2016 in order to achieve its current delivery date of May 2017. Flight trials with helicopters should then begin in 2017 but the F-35B trials wont begin until the end of 2018.
Never in the field of military flying has one plane been dogged by so many setbacks. For the UK this month was supposed to be a landmark in military flying with first the official naming of the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and then the Royal International Air Tattoo debut of the plane that’s supposed to be flying off it – the F-35B Lightning II.
Alas, unless a miracle can be pulled off the F-35B (which was supposed to have performed a fly-by over the naming ceremony of the carrier) will not be flying. The entire fleet of nearly 100 F-35s of all marks have been grounded following an engine fire on a USAF F-35A. The US Defense Department will not free the aircraft to fly again until a thorough inspection of the F-35’s F135 engine which caught fire during a test in June.