Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier is back in Italy ready for operational deployment with F-35B

According to a statement published by the Italian Navy on April 30, 2021, the Cavour aircraft carrier returned to Taranto at the Mar Grande naval station in Italy after three months of deployment for the Ready for Operations (RFO) Campaign.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier returned to Taranto at the Mar Grande naval station, Italy. (Picture source Italian Navy)

The Italian Navy flagship, the aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550), departed Naval Station Norfolk April 16, 2021, after Joint Force operations with U.S. military forces in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Italian Navy aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550) has participated in a sequence of operations with U.S. assets and the 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.

During the sea trials, two F-35Bs of the ITF were embarked aboard Cavour 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. These activities were followed by a sufficient amount of data analysis, yielding the information telling the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the Italian Navy how to safely conduct F-35B flight operations on Cavour.

Thanks to the RFO campaign, the Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier is now fully qualified to conduct operational deployment with the fifth-generation fighter F-35B, the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 fighter jet.

The modernized Cavour has now a hangar for ten F-35B and six more can be parked on the flight deck. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35A aircraft. Similar in size to the A variant, the B sacrifices about a third of the A variant's fuel volume to accommodate the SDLF (Shaft Driven Lift Fan). The F-35B will replace the AV-8B vertical or short takeoff and landing fighter aircraft which is in service with the Italian Navy since 1990.

The end of the Ready for Operations (RFO) Campaign will start the process to replace the AV-8B V/STOL fighter jets, now reached the end of their operational life cycle, and which aims to achieve Initial Operational Capability of the Cavour aircraft carrier by 2024.