An engineering simulator created by BAE Systems is ready to be 'flown' by F-35 Lightning II pilots for the first time as they prepare for flight trials on the UK's new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier next year.

The refurbished simulator will test pilots' skills to the limits as they practise landing on the deck of the new aircraft carrier in a range of difficult sea and weather conditions provided by the simulator.

The bespoke £2 million simulator facility offers a 360-degree immersive experience for pilots to fly the jet to and from the UK carrier. It comprises a cockpit moved by an electronic motion platform and a full representation of the ship's flying control tower (FLYCO), where a Landing Signal Officer on board the carrier will control aviation operations.

Over the coming months the simulator will be used by UK and  US military test pilots who have experience of flying F-35s on US carriers.

Peter 'Wizzer' Wilson, BAE Systems' test pilot for the short take-offs and vertical landings variant on the F-35 programme, said the simulator trials will provide engineers with the data to begin flight trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the First of Class aircraft carrier in 2018.

He said: "The immersive experience is as near to the real thing as possible. The data will show us exactly what will happen when F-35 pilots fly to and from the Queen Elizabeth carriers. The trials we can run through the simulator are far more extensive than what we will do in the actual flight trials because we can run and re-run each trial until we have all the data we need. The simulator provides greater cost efficiency for the overall programme and is extremely important to the success of the first flight trials."

The new simulator replaces a previous version which was first built in the 1980s to develop technology for the Harrier jump-jet and the Hawk advanced jet trainer before being converted for F-35.