The carrier has left for its initial fixed wing flight trials in the US where it will take on its first F-35 Lightning fighters. The first planes to actually land on will be test prototypes, to be followed by a small batch of production aircraft. The pilots will be mostly British but a US pilot will join them as part of the general plan to maximise interoperability between the US and British forces as they jointly start to deploy the new carrier-based STOVL version of the F-35.
(Note: The STOVL acronym is not an error! It stands for Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing, which is different to the old Harriers which were described as VSTOL but in fact almost always carried out STOVL manoeuvres. Ed.)
Images: Crown copyright MOD Navy