Italian Air Force F-35B Lands On Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier For The First Time

Italian Navy and Air Force F-35B
Italian Navy and Air Force F-35Bs together on the flight deck of ITS Cavour. (All images: Italian MOD)

During the joint drills, the Italian Air Force and Navy F-35B integrated aboard ITS Cavour for the very first time and also landed on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

A joint exercise, involving both the Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour and the Royal Navy HMS Queen Elizabeth, was carried out in the central Mediterranean Sea in the last few days. The drills, which officially ended on Nov. 21, 2021, saw several “firsts”: an F-35B of the Italian Air Force landed for the first time on the Italian Navy aircraft carrier; the Italian Air Force and Navy’s F-35Bs integrated for the first time aboard ITS Cavour before landing for the first time on HMS Queen Elizabeth; two operational U.S. Marine Corps F-35B deployed aboard HMSQE operated from the flight deck on the Italian aircraft carrier for the first time.

The end of the international activity was closely observed by the recently appointed Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragon, who was accompanied for the occasion by the Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Enrico Credendino and by the Air Force Chief of Staff General Luca Goretti.

“The aerial activity aboard the Cavour aircraft carrier, carried out in full synergy between the Navy and the Air Force, represents a milestone in the development of the national ability to project the potential offered by the new fifth generation aircraft from the sea, the F-35B,” says a statement from the Italian MOD.

The Italian Navy F-35B next to the Italian Air Force F-35B aboard ITS Cavour.

Admiral Cavo Dragone, congratulating the Navy and Air Force personnel involved in the activity, highlighted how “in addition to the excellent skills already achieved by F-35A of the Air Force, both in the operational field and in real operations, today’s exercise represents a strong impetus in the process of developing the national air projection capacity from the sea, with the integration of fifth generation joint tactical multirole aircraft, allowing our country to be the only one able to guarantee this contribution within the European Union “.

As we have often commented in the past, the joint activity carried out in full synergy between the two Italian services was desirable as it paves the way for more integration: the Italian Government is currently procuring 90 F-35s, 60 of those are F-35As (that will be entirely operated by the Aeronautica Militare) and the remaining 30 ones are F-35Bs. Out of those 30 F-35Bs, 15 will go to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) and 15 to the Air Force. The Lightning II will replace the Navy’s ageing AV-8B+ Harrier II and will be embarked on the Cavour aircraft carrier and the new LHD Trieste.

As already explained in the past, the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati “Wolves”, which will operate the F-35Bs within the Navy, is based in Grottaglie, close to the naval port of Taranto, home to the Cavour aircraft carrier [and to the Trieste landing helicopter dock (LHD), in the future] and not too far from Amendola, the Italian Air Force base that is the MOB (Main Operating Base) to both the F-35A and B of the Air Force. Although still far to become something real a joint Air Force/Navy flight line with common logistics and training, would make a lot of sense to make the best out of the whole Italian STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) fleet.

“The synergies between the Navy and the Air Force in the use of F-35Bs on board the aircraft carrier will also be achieved in use from the ground, operating jointly in operational situations where suitable landing strips for conventional aircraft are not available”.

The Chief Of Joint Staff Adm. Cavo Dragone greets the Italian Air Force F-35B pilot who have just landed on ITS Cavour.

Earlier this year, the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour returned to Italy from the F-35B trials in the U.S. where it carried out an intense training activity with the U.S. Navy aimed at certifying its flight deck for new aircraft. After the successful Sea Trials, an Italian F-35B landed for the first time on the carrier in Italy. During the last days, as already mentioned, the carrier also interacted with the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on her way back to the UK after the maiden deployment dubbed CSG-21. Indeed, thanks to the high level of interoperability achieved, two Italian F-35Bs (one Navy and one Air Force) landed on HMSQE and at the same time two US Marine Corps F-35Bs, deployed aboard the British aircraft carrier, landed on the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour.

“In addition to the success of the joint activities carried out by the Italian Navy and Air Force aircraft on board Nave Cavour, today’s 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.

A few days ago, an F-35B of the RAF 617 Sqn embarked aboard HMSQE crashed for reasons currently being investigated.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.