HMS Queen Elizabeth: F-35B Lightning Jet lands at Newcastle Airport - diverting from aircraft carrier

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F-35 jets are currently on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of the Royal Navy’s autumn deployment - but one unusually diverted to an airport in the UK

A Royal Navy F-35B Lightning Jet has unusually been spotted landing at a UK airport, diverting from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Joel Bland posted a photo of the rare sighting on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, of the supersonic jet at Newcastle Airport.

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Navy Lookout, an independent Royal Navy news and analysis, posted on X that the F-35B jet was “operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth” and diverted to Newcastle Airport “due to a technical fault”.

F-35B Lightnings have embarked on the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth as the aircraft carrier conducts its autumn deployment with up to 900 sailors on board.

Eight jets from 617 Squadron will be conducting Carrier Qualifications on board the Royal Navy’s flagship before continuing Carrier Strike Group operations - but with one spotted at Newcastle Airport this brings the jets down to seven.

The aircraft carrier set sail from Portsmouth last week to lead a Carrier Strike Group in the Norwegian and North Seas, working with Nato and Joint Expeditionary Force nations.

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Mystery as F-35 jet spotted at UK airport - diverting from carrier. (Photo: Joel Bland - @JoelBlandSport on X) Mystery as F-35 jet spotted at UK airport - diverting from carrier. (Photo: Joel Bland - @JoelBlandSport on X)
Mystery as F-35 jet spotted at UK airport - diverting from carrier. (Photo: Joel Bland - @JoelBlandSport on X) | Joel Bland - @JoelBlandSport on X

Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron and Wildcats from 847 Naval Air Squadron have also joined the aircraft carrier.

A RAF spokesman confirmed to NationalWorld that the Lightning jet spotted at Newcastle Airport had a “technial issue” which lead to a “precautionary diversion”.

The spokesman said: “An RAF F-35 Lightning operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth had a technical issue leading to a precautionary diversion to Newcastle. The aircraft completed an uneventful recovery and landed safely.”

The F-35B is a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet with short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities, meaning it can take off from land and at sea from the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers without the use of a catapult.

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Unlike earlier generation fighter jets, the F-35B Lightning is designed to carry its weaponry internally, decreasing both drag and its radar signature.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key, said it is “great” to see HMS Queen Elizabeth deployed “once again to exercise and operate with our allies and partners, demonstrating our commitment to maintaining free and open use of the oceans for all.”

Commodore James Blackmore, Commander of the Carrier Strike Group, added that this autumn’s deployment “showcases the UK’s capability to operate at range from the UK and demonstrates our continued commitment to North Atlantic security.”

The Royal Navy said on its website that the 617 Squadron, the joint RAF-RN Lightning stealth fighter formation from RAF Marham  embarked on the aircraft carrier, will carry out a “series of sorties” as well as “various port visits and defence engagement events.”

The deployment will mark the second time the 65,000-tonne carrier has led an international carrier strike group, following the deployment to the Indo-Pacific in 2021.

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