A pair of F-35B fighter jets have begun sea trials aboard the Italian Navy’s ITS Cavour (CVH 550) aircraft carrier.
Test pilots flew the specially instrumented U.S. F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) jets from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland, to the Italian Navy flagship, which got underway February 28. The pilots and aircraft join a test team of approximately 180 personnel from the NAS Pax River-based F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) embarked for up to four weeks of sea trials, the F-35 Joint Program Office has announced.
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-35Bs 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.