HMS Queen Elizabeth documentary: Pilot recalls ejecting from F-35 jet before crash

The pilot tried to trigger the emergency power switch and brake before activating his parachute, seconds before the jet crashed into the sea in November

A Royal Navy F-35B Lightning multirole combat aircraft parked aboard the deck of the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. AFP
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A British pilot has spoken about the moment he was forced to eject from a £100 million fighter jet after it lost acceleration while taking-off from a warship.

The pilot, known only as Hux, tried to trigger the emergency power switch and brake before activating his parachute, seconds before the jet crashed into the Mediterranean Sea in November.

The incident is featured in a new BBC series The Warship: Tour of Duty about aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful ever built for the Royal Navy.

According to the Royal Navy website, the warship is capable of carrying up to 40 warplanes, with a deck designed to launch F35 jets.

The pilot spoke to the BBC shortly after the crash, when he was still suffering from cuts and bruises.

“I tried for emergency power — that didn't work, then I tried to slap on the brakes — that didn't work either … so I kind of knew it was going to roll off the ship,” he said.

After activating the parachute, he saw the sea beneath him.

“And then a second later I could see the flight deck of the ship starting to appear beneath me”.

He managed to land on the deck, avoiding potentially being dragged under the 65,000 tonne vessel.

An investigation found the loss of acceleration was caused by a blockage from a cover which was mistakenly left on a jet intake.

The jet sank to the bottom of the sea, where it was recovered to ensure it did not fall into the wrong hands.

The F-35, the world’s most advanced fighter jet, is also the “most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft in the world”.

The jet gives pilots an advantage against any adversary and enabling them to execute their mission and come home safe,” according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Earlier this week it emerged that HMS Queen Elizabeth has set sail on a month-long training cruise from Scotland without a full stock of ammunition and fighter jets due to “severe supply shortages”.

Admiral Lord West, a former first sea lord and chief of the naval staff, said the only reason the ship left the rearming point without stocking up fully was due to a “shortage of the weapons it needs”.

HMS Queen Elizabeth on Exercise Faraday Field in the Irish sea near Anglesey, RAF Valley. Reuters

“I would be very surprised if we have got enough weapon stocks to fully arm Queen Elizabeth,” he told the I newspaper.

“These ships need to be fully stocked all the time but we have not got the weapons.

“That ships are sailing without their full outfit of missiles and ammunition is outrageous. Once a ship sails, you never know what’s going happen. It needs to be ready at all times.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth, which entered service in 2020, headed a flotilla of British warships the following year to visit 40 countries.

The aircraft carrier, which sailed with eight jets on board, was accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, 14 helicopters and a company of Royal Marines on the 28-week mission.

Air and maritime forces from the UAE worked alongside the group for part of the trip.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 12:29 PM