F-35B Test Pilots Train for Cavour Sea Trials
F-35B Test Pilots Train for Cavour Sea Trials

US Navy Begins F-35B Work-Up for Cavour Italian Aircraft Carrier Cavour Sea Trials

According to information published by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service on February 9, 2021, U.S. Marine Maj. Dylan “Bilbo” Nicholas, test pilot with the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron TWO THREE (VX-23), conducts short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) training in an F-35B aircraft from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Wednesday, Feb. 3. This Field Carrier Landing Practice (FLCP) flight training is integral to preparing pilots for the ITF test team’s detachment to the Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour scheduled between February and March.

During carrier-based flight test, also known as sea trials, ITF members with the engineering and test pilot expertise and experience will gather data that will verify compatibility between the 5th generation fighter aircraft and the Italian naval fleet’s flagship. This information will contribute to certifying the ship for the Italian Navy’s operation of its own F-35Bs, the key weapon system of the carrier. The US Navy (USN) has begun land-based test flights ahead of sending a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) detachment to the Italian Navy (Marina Militare Italiana: MMI) short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL)-configured aircraft carrier ITS Cavour.


The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the 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. This variant is limited to 7 g. Unlike other variants, the F-35B has no landing hook. The “STOVL/HOOK” control instead engages conversion between normal and vertical flight. The F-35 can also perform vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL).The F-35B Short take-off and landing for US Marine Corps is the first aircraft in history to combine stealth with short takeoff/vertical landing capability and supersonic speed. Italy planned to order 15 F-35Bs for the Italian Air Force.

Cavour (Portaerei Cavour) is an Italian aircraft carrier launched in 2004. She is the flagship of the Italian Navy. 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 carrier was ready for subsequent integration trials. Cavour will have room for ten F-35Bs in the hangar, and six more parked on deck. The ship 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. It complements the Italian navy’s other aircraft carrier, the Giuseppe Garibaldi.

F-35B Test Pilots Train for Cavour Sea Trials
F-35B Test Pilots Train for Cavour Sea Trials (Photo by Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)

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