Milestones and a Christmas homecoming After a four-month deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth, star of the BBC documentary, ‘Britain’s Biggest Warship’ has returned home to Portsmouth from an eventful and historic four months in the Atlantic. Captain Jerry Kyd sailed her out of Portsmouth in August for the USA, as her first Captain, as well as Commanding the Ship’s company through the first set of sea trials with the F-35s. In New York, Captain Kyd handed over the bridge to Captain Nick Cooke-Priest, to achieve the second set of trials and bring “Big Liz” back home to Portsmouth. The arrival of the F-35s on the carrier, was a very special moment and the culmination of a huge amount of training and preparation. Cdr Nathan Gray and Sqn Ldr Andy Edgell brought the aircraft down to land at around 3.45pm on Tuesday 25th September 2018. “That was exactly the same as it has been in the simulator for the past three or four years – except for the emotions,” said Cdr Gray. After clambering down from his cockpit, a still euphoric Cdr Gray presented a white ensign to the carrier’s youngest sailor to mark the occasion. The flag was in the hands of warfare specialist Able Seaman Aaron Dunning, (a distant descendant of the first person to land an aircraft at sea, Edwin Dunning, back in 1917) for a week, before he donated it to shipmates for display on board. For the carrier’s first Commanding Officer, Captain Jerry Kyd, it was the crowning moment of his tenure – and among his last acts. He witnessed the end of the Royal Navy’s second jet age – the retirement of the Harrier, as Captain of Ark Royal in 2010 and has played a significant part in making ready for the dawn of the third age. “We must not forget that there are very few nations who can do this – we are back in that league, playing our part on the world stage, helping to maintain world order,” he explained. “This has been a national endeavour involving thousands of people. Nations around the world have looked to the UK with admiration at what we have achieved. We should be proud of ourselves as a country.” Soon to follow from this auspicious and historic moment was a take-off, up the ramp and then another landing. Take-Off. Land. Take-off and land ad-infinitum as the Integrated Test Force gathered all the relevant data to produce the F-35 / Queen Elizabeth operator’s manual. Then do it all again… at night. After nearly eight years without fast fighter jets, it’s an important milestone for the Royal Navy and for UK Defence. HMS Queen Elizabeth remains on track to deploy on global operations from 2021. Meanwhile, the UK has now taken delivery of 16 out of a planned 138 F-35 jets as part of its world-leading fleet of military aircraft for use by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.