26 March 2021. The Cavour aircraft carrier, returning to the port of Norfolk, today completed the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B, the fifth generation fighter aircraft of the Joint Strike Fighter programme with short take-off and vertical landing capabilities (STOVL), soon to be supplied to the Italian Navy to replace the AV8B-plus. A challenge made even more demanding by the global situation linked to the pandemic which has 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 Italia Navy as planned by the programme.
“We have completed all 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 bridge operators aboard the Cavour. “Thanks to the cooperation and close collaboration with the aircraft carrier teams we were able to carry out sea trials in a safe, effective and smooth way “.
During sea trials the two F-35Bs of the Pax River ITF 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 ship captain, Captain Giancarlo Ciappina.
In fact, about 800 people took part in this important certification: the ITF team on board, as well as the team of Italian Navy personnel who operates the aircraft and is conducting training at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, were added to the 580 members of the crew that departed from Taranto at the end of January.
“I am very grateful to all the members of the ITF team and to every single sailor of my crew,” Captain Ciappina added, “for the excellent work done to achieve this excellent result. In this sense, I am very proud of the success of the Cavour ship’s “Ready for Operations” campaign, 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, fifth-generation aircraft that can be used by aircraft carriers represent, in any international scenario, for specific maritime or joint operations “.
The Cavour aircraft carrier in the port of Norfolk will disembark the ITF personnel, completing the necessary preparations to face the last phases of the Ready for Operations campaign.
Source Italian Navy
Unofficial translation by EDR On-Line
Photos courtesy Italian Navy