The flagship of the Marina Militare Italiana (MMI, Italian Navy), the aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (C550), will be sailing to Naval Station Norfolk (VA) in the United States to start aircraft qualifications with the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II in close corporation with the United States Navy (USN), but especially the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
Italy plans to procure thirty F-35Bs for both the Aeronautica Militare (AMI, Italian Air Force) and Marina Militare Italiana (MMI, Italian Navy).
The MMI F-35Bs will replace the ageing AV-8B Harrier jump jets at Grottaglie airbase, in southeastern Italy, and aboard the new Trieste (L9890) and Cavour.
After the arrival of Cavour in the US, a USMC F-35B detachment will be stationed at the carrier for a period of six weeks for aircraft carrier qualification training. A likewise situation we have seen with the British carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
In preparation for the operations with the Lightning II, the aircraft carrier was refitted and upgraded by Arsenale Militare Marittimo (Maritime Military Arsenal) of Taranto. This included the overhaul of the flight deck with a new deck coating, which is necessary to limit the thermodynamic impacts of the F-35B during take-off and landing. 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.
Currently, Italy has two F-35Bs present at MCAS Beaufort (SC) , serials MM7451/4-01 and MM7452/4-02. Both jets are supporting the training of the MMI F-35B pilots and technicians.
Photos: Marina Militare Italiana and Marco Muntz (Scramble Archive)