Westlant 18

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the most advanced aircraft carrier ever constructed for the Royal Navy. Operation Westlant 18 saw this formidable warship deployed to the east coast of the United States for her maiden F-35 Lightning flight trials.

At a glance


Hours of flight

65,000 tonnes

Total displacement of HMS Queen Elizabeth


Take-offs and landings


Supporting staff

Why did we do it?

The aim of Westlant 18 was simple: to push both the F-35 and HMS Queen Elizabeth to their limits. 

Throughout these initial trials, the Royal Navy used special sensors to determine the operating parameters of both aircraft and ship, in a range of conditions. Similar successful trials were conducted by HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea earlier in 2018 for rotary wing aircraft.

As well as testing the capability of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the F-35, Westlant 18 was also an excellent opportunity to strengthen ties with one of our most important allies: the United States. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson hailed HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in New York as a triumph of Anglo-American relations.

No words can explain how it felt to turn the corner at 500mph and see HMS Queen Elizabeth awaiting the arrival of her first F-35 jets. I feel incredibly privileged.

Commander Nathan Gray
Experimental Test Pilot, Joint Strike Fighter Program