Additional reporting by Luca Peruzzi
This was announced by Captain Gianfranco Vizzini, Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC, during 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 U.S. Marine Corps. The unit is expected to arrive in Norfolk in a few weeks, actually half of February.”
Captain Gianfranco Vizzini
The Italian Navy officer added that for the following six weeks (after its arrival in the United States), ITS Cavour will be trained by a USMC detachment that will be embarked, to become an aircraft carrier qualified with the F-35B.
“As you know, the Italian Navy has acquired a total of 15 F-35 Bravo that will be delivered to the Italian Navy in accordance with the company’s schedule. The next airplane will be actually delivered in April therefore it could be the first F-35 Bravo that will be embarked onboard the Italian carrier”
Captain Gianfranco Vizzini
Following some verifications with various Italian sources, Naval News understands that the aircraft reference above by Captain Vizzini will be delivered in April in Italy and therefore will be the first Italian F-35B to land on ITS Cavour once the carrier is back in Mediterranean waters… meaning the aircraft used for the qualification campaign in the United States should all belong to the U.S. Marine Corps or Joint Program Office.
Cavour – F35B upgrade
For the record, the aircraft carrier Cavour left the Arsenale Militare Marittimo (Maritime Military Arsenal) of Taranto in May 2020 after completing a 16 months refit and upgrade period to operate F-35B Joint Strike Fighters.
Technical interventions carried out on board the aircraft carrier included the overhaul of the flight deck with a new deck coating. This was necessary to limit the thermodynamic impacts when the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant will take off and land. In addition to the structures, equipment and flight systems of the deck, the ship’s island compartments, hangar, equipment store, aviation fuel storage, data distribution network, sensors and electronics were also modified and upgraded. This was required for the integration and flight operation of the F-35B from ITS Cavour.
The Cavour upgrade phase started a month after the second Italian Navy’s F35B – individual registration code 4-02 – took off from the Cameri (Novara) Final Assembly and Check Out plant FACO to make its flight to the United States. The aircraft final destination was MCAS Beaufort, in South Carolina, where the aircraft joined the first F-35B (4-01) in supporting the training of the F-35B Italian pilots and technicians.
The Italian Navy ordered a total of 15 F-35B fighter jets. The Italian Air Force has the same amount on order (in addition to about 60 F-35A models).