The Royal Navy made history again over the weekend as an F-35B Lightning II VSTOL fighter conducted the first ever Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) aboard the supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Under the control of BAE test pilot Peter "Wizzer" Wilson, the aircraft executed the highly skilled maneuver designed to allow the F-35B to land on the deck of a carrier while carrying a heavy load of fuel and weapons, without the need for arrestor cables.

Under normal circumstances, when the F-35B returns from a mission, it lands by activating its lift fan and vectoring its tail thruster downward. It then hovers alongside the carrier deck before sliding sideways and then dropping to the flight deck.

It's a maneuver that works, but the fighter can only manage vertical flight when it is carrying a minimal payload of fuel and munitions. This means that if the aircraft has to return to base early and with a full weapons load, it requires the pilot to make a very expensive jettisoning before he can land.

To avoid this, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have developed SRVL, where the F-35B lands by approaching the carrier like a conventional aircraft but, as it comes in, uses its thruster and fan to blow air over the wings to create additional lift. This enables it to touch down gently and stop in a very short distance, even with a full load.

According to the Navy, Britain is the only country that uses SRVL and it has already been tested thousands of times in a simulator.

"I'm excited and thrilled to have achieved this," says Wilson. "I've worked on this for the past 17 years and it's fantastic to know that it's matched the modeling and simulation we have done over the years. I've flown more than 2,000 SRVLs in the simulator, and am honored to have been able to do the first one on board HMS Queen Elizabeth."

The landing was carried out under the supervision of Lieutenant Christopher Mould, the Queen Elizabeth's Landing Safety Officer, and was observed by test pilot Major Michael Lippert of the US Marine Corps. Just as The Navy and the RAF have sent pilots to America to hone their carrier skills and learn how to fly the F-35, the US military has personnel like Major Lippert aboard Queen Elizabeth to learn about British innovations.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently off the Atlantic coast of the United States, where it is carrying out flight training as well as sea trials with other warships. Last month, it conducted the first F-35B landing on the giant carrier and the first night landings shortly thereafter.

The video below shows the historic F-35B SRVL landing.

View gallery - 5 images