The Italian Navy is all set to begin qualification trials and training for F-35B Lightning II aircraft onboard its aircraft carrier Cavour, the Naval attache at the Italian Embassy informed during a virtual symposium.
Cavour, the flagship of the Italian Navy, would reach the Naval Station Norfolk next month to commence F-35B STOVL qualifications with the United States Marine Corps.
Currently, the vessel carries 10 AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and can support only fixed-wing V/STOL and helicopter air operations. It is the second aircraft carrier of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), complementing the Guiseppe Garibaldi.
To replace the AV-8B Harrier IIs, the Italian Government has ordered 15 F-35B STOVL aircraft from the United States and the up-gradation of the ship to house the new stealth fighter jets was completed in May 2020. According to the reports, Cavour will have room for ten F-35Bs in the hangar, and six more parked on deck.
Captain Gianfranco Vizzini, Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Washington mentioned that Cavour would reach the States for training and integration trials soon while addressing the Surface Navy Association (SNA) 2021 virtual symposium.
“The major issue for 2021 is the ITS Cavour, our major carrier, that will be deployed here in the United States for what we have called ‘Ready for Operation Campaign’ that consists to achieve the qualification and to conduct joint and combined maritime operations by embarking F-35 Bravo air assets. The campaign will be executed in close cooperation with the U.S. Navy but especially the U.S. Marine Corps. The unit is expected to arrive in Norfolk in a few weeks, actually half of February,” he said.
The officer also told that Cavour’s crew would be trained for six weeks by a Marine Corps detachment that will be embarked, to become an aircraft carrier qualified with the F-35B. As the first F-35B for the Italians would be delivered in April when Cavour would be back in Mediterranean waters, Naval News has confirmed that the aircraft to be used for training at Norfolk should all belong to the USMC or Joint Program Office.
The F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-engine stealth multirole combat aircraft intended to perform both air superiority and ground strike missions. It was developed as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme principally funded by the United States, with additional funding from program partner countries from NATO and close U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and formerly Turkey.