Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour to start F-35B air operations qualifications in United States

According to information published by the Defesa Aerea & Naval website on January 14, 2021, the Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour C550 is on the way to join Norfolk Naval Station in the United States to start air operations qualifications with onboard F-35B Lightning II fighters using US Marine Corps (USMC) aircraft.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier. (Picture source Facebook Military Armed Forces)

The Cavour is an aircraft carrier in service with the Italian Navy launched in 2004. The ship was laid down by the Italian company Fincantieri in June 2001 and launched on July 2004. The ship was designed to combine fixed wing V/STOL (Vertical and/or Short Take-Off and Landing) and helicopter air operations, command and control operations and the transport of military or civil personnel and heavy vehicles. In December 2018, the Italian aircraft carrier undergoes a modernization plan including a metallic reinforcement of the flight deck to withstand the thermodynamic impact of the F-35B aircraft.

The Italian Navy will replace its 16 Harriers with 15 (originally 22) Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning IIs. By May 2020, the modernization to allow Cavour to support the F-35B was completed, and the aircraft carrier is now ready for subsequent integration trials. Cavour will have room for ten F-35Bs in the hangar, and six more parked on the flight deck. Italy plans to buy a total of 90 F-35 fighter jets. It has currently taken delivery of 15 F-35 aircraft including 12 F-35A’s and three F-35B’s.

The Cavour was designed to be used as an aircraft carrier but also as an amphibious assault ship, she is able to accommodate up to 16 VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft as well as helicopters such as the EH101, NH 90, or SH-3D. The 134 m (440 ft), 2,800 m2 (30,000 sq ft) hangar space can double as a vehicle hold capable of holding up to 24 main battle tanks or light combat tracked or wheeled armored vehicles and is fitted aft with access ramps rated to 70 tons, as well as two elevators rated up to 30 tons for aircraft. Cavour can also operate as landing platform helicopter, accommodating heavy transport helicopters (AgustaWestland UH-101A ASH) and 325 marines. The Cavour has a displacement of 27,900 tons but can reach more than 30,000 tons at full military capacity. 

The Cavour is powered by a combined gas turbine and gas (COGAG) including four General Electric/Avio LM2500+ gas turbines developing 88,000 kW (118,000 bhp) and six diesel generators Wärtsila CW 12V200 developing 13,200 kW (17,700 bhp). She can reach a top speed of 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph) with a cruising range of 7,000 nmi (13,000 km; 8,100 mi) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph). She has a crew of 1,202 people.

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