State-of-the-art night vision technology has been used to enable pilots to land in darkness for the first time on the flight deck of Britain’s biggest ever warship, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) has announced.
Until the trials, night-time landings had only been practised in flight simulators.
Now the F-35 lightning fighter jets have conducted their first night flying trials off Britain’s newly launched aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the ministry announced on Wednesday night.
The technology successfully allowed the pilots and aircraft handlers to guide the supersonic fighter jets onto the flight deck. Some trials were also carried out without night vision technology to ensure the jets’ capability in any eventuality, said the MOD.
Andrew Maack, the chief test engineer for the Integrated Test Force, the organisation responsible for analyzing the flight trials, said: “In daytime there are cues that tell the pilot’s brain what the relative motion is between the airplane and the ship. At night, especially very dark night, all those cues go away and you become dependent on exactly what the lights are and what the sight of those lights looks like.”
Pilots initially flew in using only ambient light and the lights on the carrier’s deck before later conducting landings using the night-vision capability in their helmets.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has been fitted with specially-designed LED lightning on her flight deck to aid night time landings.
The carrier, one of two built for the British military, left her home port of Portsmouth in August, crossing the Atlantic to conduct the flying trials, as well as training with the U.S. Navy.