Italian Aircraft Carrier Cleared By Joint Program Office To Operate F-35B

The U.S. 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, the Navy announced on Tuesday.

The Italian navy’s aircraft carrier ITS Cavour left Naval Station Norfolk Friday after participating in a sequence of Joint Force operations with U.S. military forces, according to the Navy’s press release.

The Italian Navy also confirmed on Twitter that it had been cleared to use the F-35B.

The sequence included sea trials, as well as a series of tests and functional activities to create a safe flight operating envelope for the short takeoff of the F-35B fighter jet.

“I am very proud for the success of ITS Cavour’s ‘Ready for Operations’ campaign,” Italian Navy Capt. Giancarlo Ciappina, commanding officer of ITS Cavour, said in the Navy’s release.

“Our allies will soon perceive the Italian navy and the Italian armed forces as a whole, as enhanced cooperative partners thanks to the strategic enabler that the fifth generation aircraft carrier capability would represent, in either specific maritime or wider joint operations,” Ciappina said.

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During the sea trials, two F-35Bs were embarked aboard Cavour and carried out more than 50 flight missions, about 120 vertical landings, 115 short takeoffs and two vertical takeoffs.

Teams also conducted data analysis to tell the U.S. Marine Corps and the Italian Navy how to safely conduct F-35B operations on the Italian vessel.

“It was a privilege to work alongside our Italian counterparts while they certified their flagship to launch and recover the cutting-edge F-35B,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, said in the release.

“I look forward to continuing to build upon our trans-Atlantic bridge, enhancing our collective capabilities and strengthening partnerships with our NATO allies,” Lewis said. The Cavour arrived in Virginia for trials in February.

The carrier also conducted a three-day interoperability exercise with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, with support from Carrier Air Wing 7 and Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 — and conducted dual-carrier operations with the USS Gerald Ford, the Navy said.

In June 2020, Lockheed Martin received a $368.2 million contract to build six F-35 fighter planes for the Italian defense ministry, which is slated to receive five F-35As and one F-35B by 2023.

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