US F35 fighters to deploy from Royal Navy aircraft carrier

RAF F35 Lightning alongside US F35B flying over North Sea in July 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption British and US F35s were photographed together on a training mission in July

US and UK F35 fighters are to deploy alongside each other when the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier begins her first operational tour in 2021.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has signed an agreement with his US counterpart to allow Marine Corps F35Bs to fly from HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The first Royal Navy and RAF F35s, the Lightning II, will be deployed in 2018.

The announcement came on the margins of a London meeting about action against the so-called Islamic State group.

The F35 fighter is built by Lockheed Martin in the US.

The aircraft will later also be available for deployment on HMS Prince of Wales, the second of the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, currently being constructed in Rosyth.

Sir Michael said: "As Britain's pre-eminent operational partner, including in our current fight against Daesh [Islamic State group], the inter-operability of British and American forces is crucial...

"Britain and America's longstanding defence and intelligence sharing epitomises the special relationship that helps keeps both our nations safer and more secure."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The announcement was made on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting in London

The Ministry of Defence said the agreement will mean UK and US personnel will be able to work closer together on operations, exercises and training.

A spokesman added that British pilots, engineers and deck handlers are currently operating from US Navy carriers on skills "which will be important when it comes to deploy the new British carriers".

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