Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier successfully completed exercise with F-35B

Italian F-35Bs aboard ‘Cavour’ aicraft carrier. Italian MoD picture.

The Italian Navy task group led by Cavour aircraft carrier has successfully conducted last weekend the first joint flight activities with Italian Air Force and Navy F-35B STOVL aircraft, alongside the UK Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) centered on Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, with cross deck operations between the two carriers with Italian and US Marine Corps aircraft.

Operating in the Central Mediterranean, south-east of Sicily island, the joint and international activities were closely followed by Italian Chief of Defense Staff, admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, accompanied for the occasion by the Italian Navy Chief of Staff, admiral Enrico Credendino and by the Chief of Staff of Italian Air Force general Luca Goretti, on board the Italian Navy flagship.

The joint exercise registered different “firsts”: Initially two operational F-35Bs belonging to the U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “Wake Island Avengers”, – embarked on board the UK aircraft carrier with the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” F-35Bs -, landed and operated for the first time from ITS Cavour platform.

Then an Italian Naval Aviation F-35B belonging to the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati (GRUPAER) “Wolves”, the only combat fixed-wing unit of the Navy and one Italian Air Force F-35B of the first 5th generation fighter unit of the armed force, the 13° Gruppo (squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) landed and operated for the first time from the UK aircraft carrier. Finally, for the first time the Italian Air Force F-35B landed and operated from the Cavour platform together with the Navy’s F-35B. All flight activities were integrated into the two aircraft carrier groups naval operations.    

“In addition to the excellent capabilities already achieved by the Italian Air Force F-35As, both in the operational field and in real operations, the today’s exercise represents a strong push in the process of developing the national air projection capacity from the sea, with the integration of a fifth generation joint tactical multirole force”, said admiral Cavo Dragone, congratulating with the Navy and Air Force personnel involved in the activity.

“The synergies between the Navy and the Air Force in the use of the F-35Bs on board the aircraft carrier, will also be achieved in the deployments ashore, operating jointly in operational situations where suitable landing strips for conventional aircraft are not available”, he added according to an official statement, highlighting the multidomain integration of both components and the Italian Navy F-35Bs participation from ashore to both on-land and on-sea operations.

Italian aircraft carrier ‘Cavour’ alongside Royal Navy aircraft carrier ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’. Italian MoD picture.

The interaction with the British aircraft carrier group has made it possible to successfully test the joint technical-operational procedures aimed at achieving full interoperability between the two Navies, added the Italian MoD statement.

“The fact that US, Italian and UK F-35Bs are able to fly to and from one another’s decks offers tactical agility and strategic advantage to NATO”, said Royal Navy Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group in a statement released by UK MoD about the joint activities. “Today’s activity is a telling demonstration of the ability of the UK’s flagship to work seamlessly with other nations; Italy is the third nation to land an F-35B on to the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the seventh military operating F-35 aircraft that the UK’s Carrier Strike Group has exercised with on CSG21”, he added.

The British carrier strike group, to which the ITS Andrea Doria destroyer has been integrated in the last few days, is on its way back to the United Kingdom, while the Italian naval group, also including the Garibaldi amphibious helicopter carrier, the Durand de la Penne destroyer and the Vulcano logistic support ship, headed back to the Taranto naval base. After the participation to the exercise Mare Aperto 2021 in October, the ITS Cavour returned to sea on 11 November to conduct pilot carrier qualifications (CQ) activities with F-35B and AV-8B Plus aircraft.  

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