Two 500lb bombs have been dropped by American stealth fighters on an “indestructible” rocky outcrop off the coast Scotland as part of a live-fire training exercise.
The F-35 jets from Marine Fight Attack Squadron 211 carried out the operation from the deck of the UK’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Marines from 148 (Meiktila) Battery Royal Artillery were on hand to help the jets hit their targets by aiming a laser – known as “painting” – the target.
Callsigns drawing inspiration from Marvel’s Avenger series were used by those involved, with one of the F-35 pilots going by Avenger, with the observer going by Hulk.
Lieutenant Dom Savage, on board a Wildcat helicopter from 847 Squadron, directed the American F-35s, who were joined by jets from the RAF’s 617 Squadron based at Marham and onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
A transcript of the moment the decision was given to drop the bombs was released alongside images of the operation
Lt Savage: Avenger 1-1, cleared hot.
F-35 pilot: Avenger 1-1, cleared hot.
F-35 pilot: Avenger 1-1, one away. Time away: 30 seconds.
F-35 pilot: Ten seconds.
F-35 pilot: Hulk [call-sign for the 148 Battery Observer], laser on.
F-35 pilot: Avenger 1-1, splash.
Lt Savage: Observing good effects on target.
The Paveway bombs were dropped on the uninhabited Garvie Island, a granite outcrop off the north-west tip of Scotland.
The island was chosen by the Royal Navy due to its “indestructibility and its resemblance (ish) to a major warship – it’s roughly the same width and length as a capital ship”.
Speaking after the operation, Lt Savage said: “Working alongside our US Marine Corps brethren as well as the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers of 148 Battery has been extremely rewarding.
“The opportunity to drop live ordnance from F-35Bs hasn’t happened before, so to be a part of the first live control is a privilege.”
The rocky island has also been hammered by 77 105mm high-explosive rounds during another exercise, assisted by the Wildcat helicopters from 847 squadrons.
The live-fire exercise is the latest in a series of operations taking place in the North Sea involving the Royal Navy’s and NATO’s most advanced vessels, including HMS Diamond and Defender.
Over the past few days, residents in Aberdeen will have heard a large number of aircraft over the Granite City, with Royal Navy Hawks operating out of the city’s airport.