Italian aircraft carrier arrives in the US for acceptance of F-35s

WASHINGTON, (BM) – The Italian light aircraft carrier Cavour arrived at the US naval base of Norfolk to undergo preparations to adopt the F-35B abbreviated takeoff and vertical, landing learned citing Defence24. The tests are to last at least until March 2021.

Italian aircraft carrier arrives in the US for acceptance of F-35s
Photo credit: US Navy

According to the US Navy’s information, on February 13, 2021, the aircraft carrier Cavour [CVH 550], the Italian Navy flagship, arrived at Norfolk, Virginia’s naval base. The ship and the crew are now to undergo the full training and technical preparation process, enabling the combat use of STOVL [short takeoff and vertical landing] F-35B aircraft.

‘Ready for Operations’ certificate

Obtaining the “Ready for Operations” certificate will be equivalent to completing the process of adapting the ship to the conversion of AV-8B Harrier combat aircraft to V-generation machines. It will also be a test of carrying out the aircraft carrier’s modernization, which began in December 2018 in the Edgardo Ferrati dry dock at the Maritime Military Arsenal in Taranto and ended in May 2020. The works consisted, among others, of the reinforcement of the flight deck so that it can absorb the thermodynamic impact of the F-35B during landing. The hangar and parking spaces had reorganized. Ten F-35Bs and six more “parked” on board could accommodate inside the ship.

The F-35 JPO [Joint Program Office] test team will carry out the ship’s flight tests. The F-25 JPO will be onboard the Italian vessel and will operate there from February to March 2021. Preparations for this began in January 2021. Then, pilots from the VX-23 research squadron at the Patuxent River naval aviation base in Maryland started to train in operation with F-35B aircraft under the conditions they will encounter on an Italian aircraft carrier. The VX-23 squadron is part of the F-35 ITF [F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force] team that integrates and tests the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force, which operates Patuxent River base and has about 200 people [pilots and technical staff]. This team has at its disposal, among others, two F-35 aircraft specially adapted for flight tests.

But the tests on the aircraft carrier Cavour will also be carried out with aircraft and ships from the US 2nd Fleet. According to the Americans, “this is to improve interoperability and strengthen relations between the two NATO allies.” This collaboration had already begun during the ship’s passage through the Atlantic Ocean. It was then that the meeting with the American destroyer Arleigh Burke USS “Stout” [DDG 55] took place. Together with this ship operating as a security force, the Italian carrier took part in a three-day interoperability exercise with the support of the 7th Carrier Air Wing (CVW) and the 11th Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing [CPRW].

Italians plan to buy 90 F-35s

Thanks to such diverse aircraft, the ship was able to test its detection and guidance system against both small, fast combat aircraft [such as the F / A-18] and slower, large, sea patrol aircraft [such as the P-8 Poseidon]. The air combat center staff on “Cavour” also practiced aircraft, air traffic management, and ship teams’ operation.

Let us recall that the Italians plan to purchase a total of ninety F-35 aircraft in two versions: “A” and “B.” So far, Americans have delivered fifteen such aircraft to Italy. Twelve of them were in the F-35A version, and three in the STOVL F-35B version.


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