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First Italian Navy F-35B STOVL fighter aircraft landed on the Cavour aircraft carrier


According to information released by the Italian Navy on July 30, 2021, the first Italian Navy F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft landed on the Cavour aircraft carrier after the test and certification activity carried out with U.S. F-35 during the "Ready for Operations" (RFO) campaign concluded at the end of April this year.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 First landing of Italian Navy F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter aircraft on Cavour aircraft carrier. (Picture source Italian Navy)


According to the Lockheed Martin website, Italy could acquire 60 F-35 for the Italian Air Force and 30 F-35B for the Italian Navy that will replace the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II fighter jet.

In March 2021, the American F-35 Joint Program Office has delivered a flight clearance recommendation to the Italian Navy for the safe operation of fifth-generation F-35B fighter aircraft on the upgraded Italian Navy flagship aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550).

In April 2021, the Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier has completed F-35 certification during sea trials. Two F-35Bs of the ITF were embarked aboard Cavour during the sea trials and carried out more than 50 flight missions in challenging weather conditions sea states, a night session, around 120 vertical landings, 115 short take-offs with the aid of the ski jump, and two vertical takeoffs. Initial operating capability is expected for 2024

The Cavour aircraft carrier of the Italian Navy was launched in 2004. Sea trials began in December 2006, and she was officially commissioned on 27 March 2008. Full operational capability (FOC) was reached on 10 June 2009.

The Cavour is designed to combine fixed wing V/STOL and helicopter air operations, command and control operations and the transport of military or civil personnel and heavy vehicles. The 134 m, 2,800 m2 hangar space can double as a vehicle hold capable of holding up to 24 main battle tanks or many lighter combat vehicles as armored vehicles or light tactical vehicles and is fitted aft with access ramps rated to 70 tons, as well as two elevators rated up to 30 tons for aircraft.

In May 2020, the modernization of the Cavour was completed to operate the American F-35B. She has now the capability to carry ten F-35Bs in the hangar, and six more parked on deck. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the aircraft. The STOVL capability of the F-35B allows it to operate from the Cavour aircraft carrier and the vessels of allied nations, as well as short airstrips.

A typical armament of the F-35B includes two AAMs (Air-to-Air) missiles and two bombs carried internally, with an optional 25mm gun pod and underwing pylons enabling stores carriage of up to 6,800 kg.