Italian Navy And U.S. Marine Corps End F-35B Training Agreement At MCAS Beaufort

Italian and U.S. Marines F-35B pilots and maintainers stand in front of two F-35B fighter jets at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort after the ceremony for the end of the joint training agreement. (Photo: Italian MoD)

The Italian pilots and technicians have been training on US soil since 2018.

The Italian Ministry of Defense disclosed on Nov. 30, 2022 that a ceremony was held at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to celebrate the end of the agreement which allowed Italian Navy and US Marine Corps F-35B pilots and technicians to train together at the US base.

The agreement started in 2018 with the arrival of the first Italian F-35B at Beaufort and initially foresaw only an 18-month duration. Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 helped support the Italian Navy F-35B pilots and maintainers and assisted in the development of their organic F-35B training program as the service prepares to replace the aging AV-8B+ Harrier II.

To support the training, the Italian Navy sent to Beaufort its first two F-35Bs while the third, which was initially supposed to also move to the US, was delivered to MARISTAER (Marina-Stazione Aeromobili, Italian for Naval Air Station) Grottaglie. A fourth one is currently being flight tested and will soon be delivered.

“The event marks a further step forward for the Defense towards the achievement of full operational capability in the joint use of the F-35B aircraft and for the Navy towards the achievement of the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the Cavour aircraft carrier with the 5th generation aircraft”, said the very short statement released by the MoD.

Celebrato, alla presenza del Comandante delle Forze Aeree della Marina Militare, presso la Marine Corps Air Station di…

Pubblicato da Stato Maggiore della Difesa – Italian Armed Forces su Mercoledì 30 novembre 2022

Remarkably, the USMC provided a notable detail in the captions of the photos published on DVIDS. The captions, in fact, mentions that the Italian Navy F-35B training program that will now be located at Amendola Air Base, home of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, which hosts both F-35A and F-35B variants.

In the past, there have been disagreements whether the Italian F-35B should all go to the Navy or shared with the Air Force and also if they should all be based at the same airfield. However, the Italians now aim at a “joint capability” with the Italian Air Force and Navy operating their own aircraft in their own units. Still, when needed, the F-35Bs of both services will integrate and operate under a single chain of command from land-bases or from an aircraft carrier or landing helicopter dock.

“The goal is to achieve an expeditionary capacity both from land and from sea [aircraft carrier] by using the F-35B assets of the Navy and the Air Force in an integrated and synergistic manner, in compliance with the prerogatives of the Chiefs of the Armed Forces. There will be increasingly profitable synergies that will allow a unified use of the STOVL capacity: depending on the domain, the F-35Bs will be put under the operational control of one or the other service, always responding to the Joint Chief of Staff”, Adm. Cavo Dragone said during a joint expeditionary exercise earlier this year.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.