During the Second World War, land-based Japanese aircraft infamously sank the Royal Navy’s battleship HMS Prince of Wales off the coast of Malaysia in December 1941. That moment truly highlighted that the days of the big gun battleship were coming to an end.
Nearly 82 years later, a delegation from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) embarked on the current HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, for a fortnight of stealth fighter trials off the USA – helping to pave the way for their own trials in the same waters a year from now.
The JMSDF is currently modifying its Izumo-class helicopter carriers to be able to operate as aircraft carriers with the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, which is already in service with the UK’s two carriers.
Captain Sato Tsuyoshi, Izumo-class special modification program lead, and five of his colleagues were shown every aspect of life aboard HMS Prince of Wales off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The two navies have been forging an ever-closer working relationship over the past decade, with increasing visits to Japan by Royal Navy vessels, including the flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth (sister ship of Prince of Wales) on her 2021 maiden deployment.
“It’s been an exciting study on board, seeing fixed wing operations as well as the traditions of the Royal Navy,” said Sato. “The team have been so welcoming and without your support our study into operating F35-B for the Japanese Self-Defence Forces would not have been as successful.”
Development Test 3 is Underway on the Carrier
HMS Prince of Wales has been conducting the third phase of complex trials with the fifth-generation stealth fighters – known as Development Test 3 (DT-3) – which are aimed at extending the operating limits, increasing the sortie rate, and testing payloads. Phases one and two were previously carried out aboard her sister aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
DT-3 planning went through many stages and was carried out by a number of teams and personnel, the Patuxent River F-35 Integrated Test Force (PAX ITF) announced last week.
“Working relationships are professional, cordial, and cooperative,” said Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. Kevin Roffey, senior air engineer, HMS Prince of Wales Air Engineering Department (AED). “AED and ITF are working together to achieve DT-3 goals.”
DT-3 has included a number of “firsts” for the Royal Navy’s carrier and the F-35, including the first night shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL), which is being considered as an alternate way to land the STOVL (short takeoff/vertical landing) jet. If assessed as a viable technique, pilots could return to a ship and land with additional weight, for example, more fuel or weapons, than permissible for a vertical landing (VL).
Recently an F-35B landed facing the stern, not the bow of the flight deck – and this “back-to-front” maneuver is intended to provide pilots and flight deck teams more options to safely land the jet in an emergency. Video of the landing was shared on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.