Translated from an Italian Navy press release
The Short take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) version of the 5th generation fighter aircraft will soon to be supplied to the Italian Navy to replace the AV8B Harrier II Plus.
The sea trials were a challenge made even more demanding by the global situation linked to the pandemic, which imposed strict health protocols. The compatibility tests lasted four weeks, starting with the departure from Norfolk on 28 February and with the first landing of the F-35B on 1 March.
This is a milestone in the process of acquiring the strategic capacity to use the new aircraft, which will be followed, by the end of 2024, by the “Initial Operational Capability” and subsequently the “Final Operation Capability” which will coincide with the delivery of the last F-35B to the Navy scheduled by the program.
“We have completed all the scheduled tests and at the moment we are able to issue a provisional flight permit (IFC – Interim Flight Clearance), which will allow the Cavour ship and its crew to continue training. Upon our return to Pax. River we will carefully analyze the data collected and at the end we will be able to issue the final certification,” said Ron Hess, engineer in charge of the compatibility verification team of the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF), a group of 180 people including engineers, researchers, test pilots, technicians and flight deck operators aboard the Cavour.
“Thanks to the cooperation and close collaboration with the aircraft carrier teams we were able to carry out the sea trials in a safe, effective and smooth way,” Hess added.
During the sea trials, the two F-35Bs of the Pax River ITF present on board carried out over 50 flight missions, in different weather conditions and sea conditions, a night session, about 120 vertical landings and as many short take-offs with the help of the ski jump, and single vertical take-off tests.
“It is extraordinary how the Cavour ship crew and the integrated team have achieved, so quickly, a very high level of synergy and integration with great professionalism and a strong common will to achieve the ambitious goal,” declared the Cavour commander, captain Giancarlo Ciappina.
In total, about 800 people took part in this major certification: the 580 crew members who left Taranto at the end of January were joined, during the stop in Norfolk, by the ITF team on board, as well as the Navy personnel operating the aircraft and carrying out training at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
“I am very grateful to all the members of the ITF team and to every single sailor of my crew for the excellent work done to achieve this excellent result,” continued Commander Ciappina.
“In this sense, I am very proud of the success of the Campaign “Ready for Operations” of the Cavour ship, thanks to which the Navy and with it all the Italian Defense will soon be projected into a new perspective of cooperation with our allies, thanks to the enabling factor that, on a strategic level, the fifth generation aircraft that can be used from aircraft carriers represent, in any international scenario, for specific maritime or joint operations“.
The Cavour aircraft carrier will now disembark ITF personnel in the port of Norfolk, completing the necessary preparation to face the last phases of the Ready for Operations campaign.