U.S. Marine F-35Bs land on deck of carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth

Sept. 23 (UPI) — Ten U.S. Marines F-35B fighter planes arrived on the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to begin exercises in the North Sea, the Marines announced.

The short-takeoff-and-landing planes of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, based in Arizona, arrived aboard the ship on Tuesday.

The aircraft arrive ahead of GroupEx, an exercise which will involve a British Carrier Strike Group, as well as Dutch and U.S. Navy warships. The drills will focus on the interoperability of the F-35Bs and the aircraft carrier, which will house British F-35Bs in 2021.

The squadron flew to Britain earlier in September.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth will be operating with the largest air group of 5th generation fighters assembled anywhere in the world, ” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, of Britain’s Royal Air Force, said in a statement.

“Led by the Royal Navy, and backed by our closest allies, this new Carrier Strike Group puts real muscle back into NATO, and sends a clear signal that the United Kingdom takes its global role seriously,” said Moorhouse, commander of Britain’s carrier strike group.

The exercise will include the largest air group to operate from a Royal Navy carrier since the Falkland Islands war in 1983. It is also the first time a squadron of 5th-generation aircraft will be deployed aboard a foreign vessel.

The union of U.S. fighter planes and British warships is an element of Joint Warrior, NATO’s largest annual exercise, off the Scottish coast.

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