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F-35B Lightning jets land on aircraft carrier heading to major Nato exercise

F-35B Lightning jets have landed on the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it heads to join the largest Nato exercise since the Cold War.

The stealth fighter jets from the joint RAF and Royal Navy 617 “Dambusters” Squadron, based at RAF Marham, in Norfolk, landed on the 65,000-tonne warship while sailing in the North Sea.

The carrier previously carried out exercises with F-35B jets during a visit to the eastern US last autumn.

Pilots of F-35B Lightning jets on the flight deck of HMS Prince of Wales
Pilots of F-35B Lightning jets on the flight deck of HMS Prince of Wales (AS1 Amber Mayall RAF/PA)

The warship sailed from Portsmouth last week at short notice after its sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth had to cancel its departure after last-minute checks found an issue with its starboard propeller coupling.

HMS Prince of Wales will head a UK Carrier Strike Group for the exercise which, along with the jets, will include 11 helicopters as well as Royal Navy escort ships and support vessels from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary including frigate HMS Portland and tanker RFA Tidesurge.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: “It will lead an international taskforce taking part in Steadfast Defender – an exercise across multiple regions and domains from land and sea to air and space.

Jets on deck of HMS Prince of Wales
The warship sailed from Portsmouth last week at short notice (AS1 Amber Mayall RAF)

“Spanning several months and thousands of kilometres, it will see tens of thousands of personnel work together to showcase Nato’s ability to deter enemies and defend allied territory.”

Captain Colin McGannity, Carrier Air Wing and Strike Warfare Commander, said: “It is always an exciting moment when F-35B Lightning join the Carrier Strike Group at sea.

“It’s winter in the north Atlantic and we will face harsh weather and freezing conditions, but we are well prepared and looking forward to demonstrating our readiness to fight, whenever and wherever we get the call.”