The Italian Navy flagship, the aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550), arrived at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Feb 13 for a series of operations alongside U.S. military assets to attain the Italian Navy’s “Ready for Operations” certification to safely land and launch F-35B aircraft.
While in the Western Atlantic, Cavour will be embarked by an F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) test team to conduct sea trials, a series of tests and functional activities to create a safe flight operating envelope for the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the 5th generation aircraft aboard the recently upgraded ship.
The F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) team from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. (NAS PAX River) comprises almost 200 people with the engineering and test pilot expertise and experience to conduct F-35B envelope expansion flight test, two specially instrumented developmental flight test aircraft, and support equipment.
“We are excited to get underway with the sailors of Cavour and honored to contribute to the aircraft carrier achieving the Italian Navy’s strategic goal of it being ‘Ready for Operations,’” said Andrew Maack, F-35 Pax River ITF chief test engineer and site director.
Italy has ordered a total of 30 F-35B jets- 15 each for the Air Force and the Navy. The Navy received two of these jets in 2018 and 2019, while the Air Force took the delivery of its first F-35B on February 22, 2020.
The Cavour will reportedly have room for ten F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) in the hangar, and six more parked on deck.
The vessel is 244m long and 39m wide. It has a displacement of about 27,000 tons. The aircraft carrier will complete the technical tests in the coming weeks, at the end of which an intense training period will begin.
Modernization and restructuring work of the carrier began in December 2018. Flight deck received a new deck coating and metallic reinforcement. Upgrades include reinforced flight deck to handle the stress of direct thrust from the engines of the F-35B, which is capable of temporarily pointing its thrusters downward in order to take off and land vertically.