Italian Navy press release
Departed on February 28 from the base of the US Navy’s Second Fleet in Norfolk, the Cavour ship has started the “hot” phase of the “Ready for Operations” campaign. The first landing of a US Marine Corps F-35B aircraft on the deck of the Navy aircraft carrier represents a fundamental step in the long and complex certification process for the use of the new aircraft.
The completion of the “Sea Trials” phase of sea trials, which will last in the Atlantic Ocean for about four weeks, will allow the flagship of the Naval Team to test the flight deck and verify the impacts with the fifth-generation aircraft in key take-off and landing moments in different trim conditions and in relation to various factors such as winds and the state of the sea, to arrive at the final certification of “Ready for Operations”.
“It is a remarkable achievement for all of us today to see the US Marine’s fifth generation fighter on our flight deck. This represents, in fact, an exceptional success but, at the same time, a new challenge for the future of the Italian Naval Aviation and the Navy. The whole crew is very proud to work closely with the ITF, the team of testing the F-35 Joint Program Office during these sea trials, and we are very well prepared to do the hard work to equip the Cavour aircraft carrier and the Navy with the fifth generation Joint Strike Fighter weapon system”.
Cavour Aircraft Carrier Commander, Captain Giancarlo Ciappina
During the stop in Norfolk before the sea trials, the 580 crew members of the aircraft carrier were joined by the Italian personnel trained in the Marine base in Beaufort to operate on the aircraft, as well as the US personnel of the Integrated Test Force (ITF) team, essential in the integration phase.
“Our team trained extensively to prepare for this day, and I was honored to land the first jet aboard ship Cavour. The ITF plays a key role in achieving certification. All of our hard planning and training work will ensure the success of the sea trials,” said Leeman. After verifying the compatibility between the F-35B and the Cavour aircraft carrier, it will be declared “Ready for Operations”, to start the activities that will lead to the achievement, by 2024, of the “Initial Operational Capability” (IOC). The process will be complete with the acquisition of the “Final Operational Capability” after the delivery of the last aircraft provided for in the programme.
US Marine Corps’ F-35B test pilot. Major Brad Leeman, of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) at Naval Air Station in Patuxent River and officer in charge of the ITF test team
Naval News comments:
Additional reporting by Luca Peruzzi
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).