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 on the upgraded Italian Navy flagship aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550). To develop the recommendation, an embarked team from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (Pax River ITF) and the Cavour’s crew conducted five weeks of at-sea flight tests evaluating how the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Lightning II performed onboard and around the ship, and how well the F-35 air system is integrated with the carrier. The Cavour Sea Trials comprised more than 115 ski jump short takeoffs and 120 vertical landings plus two vertical takeoffs.
“The (shipboard operating bulletin) is done. We provided the data and recommendations for a limited envelope, or sail home envelope, that will allow U.S. Marine Corps and Italian F-35B pilots to fly training workups aboard the ship. By April, flight clearance and airworthiness documents “should be in place” for a safe launch and recovery envelope. They don’t have to wait weeks, months, and years” to have the capability to operate F-35Bs on the flight deck, Hess explained. The limited sail home envelope will be followed up with a full envelope recommendation once all Sea Trial test data has been evaluated” said Ron Hess, F-35 Pax River ITF Basing and Ship Suitability (BASS) team lead aboard Cavour.
“It’s amazing how ITS Cavour crew and the ITF team have reached, so rapidly, this level of synergy and integration with great professionalism and a strong common will to achieve the ambitious goal. I am very grateful to each and every ITF team member as well as to each sailor of my crew for the great job done and for such tremendous achievement. In this sense, I am very proud for the success of ITS Cavour’s “Ready for Operations” campaign: 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,” said Italian Navy Capt. Giancarlo Ciappina, commanding officer, ITS Cavour.
These activities were followed by countless hours of data analysis, which yielded information that tells U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the Italian Navy how to safely conduct F-35B flight operations on Cavour. 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. 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.