Specially-modified F-35B Lightning stealth fighters have joined Britain’s biggest warship to begin pushing the boundaries of carrier aviation.

By the time aviation experts, pilots and scientists have analyzed all the data gathered during the four weeks of extensive trials, the UK’s two aircraft carriers should be able to launch more sorties by more-heavily-armed stealth fighters faster in more extreme weather conditions – increasingly the striking power of the nation’s most powerful warships.

HMS Prince of Wales will chase bad weather and heavy seas while the jets themselves will take-off and land with various weapons and fuel loads, experiment returning from ‘missions’ still carrying missiles/bombs – rather than ditching them in the ocean – and practice landing by rolling to a stop on the flight deck rather than touching down vertically.

Test pilots from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three, from  Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, joined the carrier off the Eastern Seaboard of the US for the trials, known as Developmental Test phase 3 (DT-3).

The Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier sailed from Norfolk Naval Station, the world’s largest naval base, having embarked the equipment and personnel – a 200-strong test team from the Pax River F-35 Integrated Test Force specifically for the trials.