A milestone in the acquisition of the strategic capability to employ the new fifth generation fighter aircraft
WESTERN ATLANTIC OCEAN, March 26, 2021 – The aircraft carrier Cavour, the flagship of Italian Navy, returning to the port of Norfolk today, completed the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B, the fifth generation combat aircraft of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme with short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities, soon to be supplied to the Italian Navy to replace the AV8B-plus. It was made even more demanding by the global situation related to the pandemic that has imposed strict health protocols.
Lasting four weeks, the compatibility tests began with the departure from Norfolk on February 28th and the first landing of the F-35B on March 1st.. This is a great milestone in the acquisition of the strategic capability of the new aircraft, and will be followed by the “Initial Operational Capability” in 2024, and ultimately the “Final Operational Capability” that will coincide with the delivery of the last F-35B to the Italian Navy under the JSF programme.
“We have completed all planned tests and are currently able to issue an Interim Flight Clearance (IFC), which will allow Cavour and its crew, together with US Marine Corps F35Bs to continue training. When we return to ‘Pax River’ we will carefully analyse the data collected and then we will be able to issue the final certification” – said Ron Hess, who works as the Basing and Ship Suitability (BASS) Team Leader for the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF). The ITF is a group of 180 people including engineers, researchers, test pilots, technicians and flight deck operators temporarily embarked on board Cavour – “Thanks to the cooperation and close collaboration with the teams of the aircraft carrier we were able to carry out the sea trials safely, effectively and smoothly”.
During the sea trials, two F-35Bs of the Pax River ITF were embarked on Cavour and carried out more than 50 flight missions, in all conditions of weather and sea state, a night session, around 120 vertical landings, and as many short take-offs with the aid of the ski jump, and finally a vertical take-off test.
“It is extraordinary how the crew of ITS Cavour and the Integrated Team have reached, so quickly, a very high level of synergy and integration with great professionalism and a strong common will to achieve the ambitious goal,” said the commander of Cavour, Captain Giancarlo Ciappina.
In fact, about 800 people took part in this important certification: the 580 crew members who departed Taranto at the end of January were joined in Norfolk by the ITF team, as well as the nucleus of Italian Navy personnel who operate the aircraft and are currently carrying out training at the US Marine base in Beaufort.
“I am very grateful to all members of the ITF team and every single sailor on my crew for the great job they did to achieve this excellent result” continued Captain Ciappina, “In this sense, I am very proud of the success of the “Ready for Operations” Campaign of ITS Cavour. Thanks to this, the Italian Navy, and with it our entire National Defence, will soon be projected into a new perspective of cooperation with our allies, thanks to fifth-generation aircraft deployable from aircraft carriers, and the importance they represent in any international scenario, specifically for maritime or inter-force operations”.
The aircraft carrier ITS Cavour is currently in the port of Norfolk where it will disembark the ITF personnel while completing the necessary preparation to undertake the last phases of the Ready for Operations campaign before returning to Italy.