Tag: F-35B Lightning

USAF F-117 Integrated With U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Involved In ‘Lightning Carrier’ Concept Demo

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USAF F-117 Integrated With U.S
An F-35B Lightning II airplane connected to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron(VMFA

)122 and also an F-117 Nighthawk fly over aquatic attack ship USS Tripoli(LHA 7), Apr. 5.( U.S. Navy image by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Theodore Quintana)During”Lightning Carrier” Concept Demonstration, aquatic attack ship USS Tripoli ran with a document 20 F-35Bs. The U.S. Marine Corps packed a tremendous 20 F-35B aboard the USS Tripoli (LHA-7)as component of the”Lightning service provider”principle demo recently. The objective of the demonstration was to reveal Tripoli as well as various other aquatic attack ships ‘capability to run as committed fixed-wing provider systems, with the ability of bringing 5th generation Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing airplane any place they are needed. The 5th generation airplane that participated in the”Lightning Carrier” came from 2 functional armadas: 16x F-35Bs were from the” Vikings “of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225 and also the”Wake Island Avengers”of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211(that participated in the joint release with the RAF 617 Sqn aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2014, both based at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Arizona; 4x were from Marine Operational Test as well as Evaluation Squadron 1, based at Yuma as well as New River, N.C. The airplane were associated with numerous launches as well as healings checking the capacity of the aquatic attack ship to maintain a rise of sorties however the one-week trial concentrated additionally on the treatments for relocating, functioning as well as steering on the

F-35B jets aboard the ship. Based upon the images launched throughout as well as after the demonstration, majority the Lightnings(11 out of 20 F-35Bs), were not bring radar reflectors/luneburg lenses, suggesting that they ran in”stealth setting”( although some had some strange arrangements ): The

absence of RCS boosters+ synchronised visibility of the exterior rail launchers is perhaps a lot more intriguing. I do not believe I’ve ever before seen this arrangement. I’m not certain of the RCS charge generated by the pylons with rail launchers.– David Cenciotti(@cencio4)April

. An F-35B Lightning II airplane connected to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron(VMFA)122 as well as an F-117 Nighthawk fly over aquatic attack ship USS Tripoli(LHA 7), Apr. 5.(U.S. Navy image by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Theodore Quintana )No various other information concerning the assimilation goal however it’s worth keeping in mind that the legendary stealth jets have actually have joined the USMC Lightning IIs, performing DACT(Dissimilar Air Combat Training) with the F-35Bs of the Marine competitor Attack Squadron(VMFA)225″Vikings” of Marine Aircraft Group(MAG )13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, U.S. Marine Corps, released to MCAS Miramar from MCAS Yuma, in February this year. On Apr. 5, the F-117 was likewise identified over Los Angeles possibly on its means back to Tonopah Test Range sustained by a vessel. Discuss a #AvGeek Identifying!!! Heres a #USAF KC-135 vessel c/s COPPER04 HEAVY w/ a #USAF #F 117NightHawk #StealthFighter in tow.

(yes the” retired “ones )overlooking today on a goal to the south of #LosAngeles #StealthFighter #F 117 04-05-22 pic.twitter.com/zuD7kYCuUm– Matt Hartman (@ShorealoneFilms)April 5, 2022 As described in numerous write-ups, while several of the F-117s that were retired in 2008 and also originally maintained in a”Type 1000 “storage space at Tonopah Test Range have actually currently been dismantled as well as moved to galleries around the U.S., F-117s have actually remained to fly over Nevada and also California. We have actually reported discoveries in 2018, in 2019 as well as likewise 2020.

The F-117s are not entirely retired, rather the contrary. Since January 2021, the U.S. Air Force had 48 F-117s staying in its stock. The solution is getting rid of about 4 airplane yearly, indicating that concerning 44 needs to be still readily available. In addition to flying the foe stealth function taking likewise component in Red Flag goals or releasing to airbases throughout the U.S. as reported, the Nighthawks are most likely additionally sustaining the advancement and also screening of stealth or counter-stealth innovations and also methods, as some photos revealing a minimum of one airframe showing off a mirror-like finishing comparable to the one related to 2 F-22s(one that has shown up rather just recently) as well as to an F-35 appears to recommend. NIGHT01(F-117A)from Tonopah identified near Edwards AFB inside the R-2508 facility putting on a chrome coating, March 2022. © Scott Mantegani pic.twitter.com/xhtTqAKnLl– Aircraft Spots(@AircraftSpots) April 4, 2022 Back to the Lightning Carrier,”The principle takes a web page from background”claims Gidget Fuentes on a record released by

USNI News.”In the intrusion of Iraq in March 2003, aquatic attack ship USS Bataan(LHD-5 )and also USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)were called the”Harrier service providers,”each sustaining 2 armadas of AV-8B Harrier assault jetsfor Commander Task Force 51 as U.S. as well as mixed pressures pressed towards Baghdad. The ships at thetime generally had a detachment of Harriers amongst an airplane mix made up greatly of Marine Corps helicopters.”< img data-attachment-id =" 79291"data-permalink ="https://theaviationist.com/2022/04/09/f-117-f-35b-uss-tripoli/uss-tripoli-and-marine-aircraft-group-13-demonstrate-lightning-carrier-concept/"data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/F-117-F-35B-3.jpg"data-orig-size="1024,411"data-comments-opened="0"data-image-meta="hes-back-the-elusive-f-117-stealth-jets-makes-another-appearance-over-star-wars-canyon"data-image-title ="USS Tripoli as well as Marine Aircraft Group 13 show Lightning Carrier Concept "data-image-description data-image-caption="Amphibious attack ship USS Tripoli

(LHA-7), leaves Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., April

7, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps picture by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)”data-medium-file=” https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-9.jpg”data-large-file =” https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-3.jpg”loading =”careless”course= “size-large wp-image-79291″src =”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-3.jpg” alt size =”706″elevation=”283 “srcset=”

https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-3.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-9.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-10.jpg 128w,”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/usaf-f-117-integrated-with-u-s-marine-corps-f-35b-involved-in-lightning-carrier-concept-demo-11.jpg 768w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/F-117-F-35B-3.jpg 1024w”dimensions =”(max-width: 706px)100vw, 706px”> Amphibious attack ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7 ), leaves Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., April 7, 2022.(U.S. Marine Corps image by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)In 2016, an event of 12 F-35B became part of a joint United States Navy (USN)/ United States Marine Corps(USMC)”Proof of Concept”demo aboard USS America resisted the coastline of Southern California. When contrasted to a Nimitz course flattop, the PoC examined the capacity of the America course to run even more than a lots F-35s from its trip deck which is a lot smaller sized. In 2019,”13 F-35B Lightning II airplane with VMFA-122 arrived on the aquatic attack ship USS America( LHA-6)”in the Pacific sea. One of the most current Lightning Carrier trial established the”max”ability at 20. The USS Tripoli(“LHA-7″)”, went back to port at Naval Air Station North Island, California, on Apr. 7, 2022. United States Navy aquatic attack ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7)goes back to Naval Air Station North Island, California on April 7. It sustained the procedure of 20 United States Marines F-35B for Lightning provider principle presentation which revealed that it can run as devoted fixed-wing systems.

pic.twitter.com/mIryL2I4F3– Ryan Chan 陳家翹(@ryankakiuchan)April 8, 2022 About David Cenciotti David Cenciotti is an independent reporter based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder as well as Editor of” The Aviationist”, among the globe’s most well-known and also check out armed forces aeronautics blog sites. Given that 1996, he has actually created for significant around the world publications, consisting of Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and also several others, covering aeronautics, protection, battle, market, criminal activity, cyberwar and also knowledge. He has actually reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia as well as Syria, and also flown numerous fight airplanes with various flying force. He is a previous 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a personal pilot as well as a grad in Computer Engineering. He has actually created 5 publications as well as added to much more ones.

Italian F-35s Will Get AIM-9X Block II Air-To-Air Missiles

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An Italian Air Force F-35A at Amendola Air Base. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

The missiles will fill a capability gap caused by the IRIS-T not being integrated with the F-35.

The Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Air-to-Air Missiles Program Office (PMA-259) just announced that Italy became the 28th Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-9X International Partner on Dec. 17, 2021. The new air-to-air missile will equip the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets of both the Italian Air Force and Italian Navy, which until now had to count on the AIM-120C AMRAAM as their only air-to-air missile.

The Italian Embassy in Washington D.C. notified the Navy International Programs Office that the Italian Air Force accepted and signed the Letter of Offer & Acceptance (LOA) which was provided by the United States Government earlier last year. As mentioned in the press release, the letter was signed on November 19 and shortly after representatives from PMA-259 and Raytheon presented the AIM-9X Block II/II+ Classified Capabilities Briefing to Italian Headquarters Air Force Staff and F-35 Lightning II pilots.

NAVAIR did not provide info about the number of weapons and the economic amount of the deal, other than mentioning that the LOA consists of “a modest quantity” of AIM-9X Block II/II+ missiles to complement the Italian Air Force F-35 fleet. The missiles acquired by Italy will be part of the U. S. Navy’s Lot 23 Production Contract which will be awarded in 2023, with the delivery of the missiles scheduled for 2026.

The Italian Navy has been provided with a separate LOA for the AIM-9X that will equip its F-35Bs and is expected to accept it soon. As the ones for the Air Force, the missiles will be in the Block II/II+ variant part of Lot 23. While not specified, it is safe to assume that the delivery of the Navy’s missiles will be in 2026 too.

The AIM-9X Sidewinder is the latest of the Sidewinder family of short-range air-to-air missiles, featuring a high off-boresight focal-plane array seeker mounted on a highly maneuverable airframe with a greatly improved infrared counter-countermeasures. The AIM-9X incorporates many AIM-9LM legacy components (rocket motor, warhead and active optical target detector), but with performance far exceeding the legacy Sidewinder.

The AIM-9X Block II, which is part of this deal, is considered the most advanced short range air-air missile in the U.S. inventory, capable of using its datalink, thrust vectoring maneuverability, and advanced imaging infrared seeker to hit targets even behind the launching fighter thanks to the Lock-On-After-Launch capability. Unlike previous AIM-9 models, the AIM-9X Block II/II+ can even be used against targets on the ground.

Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-35A in “Beast Mode”, with AIM-9Xs under the wingtips. (Photo: Frank Crebas)

Italy already operates two types of short-range air-to-air missiles: the AIM-9L (for Tornado, AMX and AV-8B+) and the IRIS-T (for the Eurofighter Typhoon).  However neither of those could be used with the 5th gen aircraft. This left the Italian F-35s with only one air-to-air weapon, the AIM-120, available for the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty. As a sidenote, the Italian F-35s covered this role as part of the National Air Defense since 2018, shortly after becoming the first in Europe to declare the Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

Since 2019, the F-35s have also been involved in multiple NATO Air Policing missions, the last of which was the Enhanced Air Policing at Ämari Air Base in Estonia last summer. From Jan. 27, 2022 the ItAF is contributing to the NATO QRA with its Lightning II jets. Much like the Eurofighters, the F-35 in QRA will be under the control of the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) which, if needed, can launch a scramble to intercept and identify any suspect aircraft.

An Italian F-35 in Quick Reaction Alert. Notice the AIM-120 in weapon bay. (Photo: Italian Air Force)

Back to the AIM-9X, the signing of the LOA will allow Italy to equip its aircraft with both the AIM-120 in the internal weapon bays and the AIM-9X under the wingtips’ rails, like other international F-35 users. Italy is not the only user who had to resort to this solution, with a very similar situation happening also to Norway some years ago. Norway, like Italy, used the IRIS-T on its recently retired F-16s, however in 2015 a deal to acquire the AIM-9X was signed as the European missile was not available for the F-35.

The IRIS-T was initially scheduled for integration on the F-35, with Norway sponsoring an initial study preparatory for the works, but for unknown reason the integration did not go ahead. A future integration might still be on the table however, as Greece is another IRIS-T user that will receive F-35s. Moreover, Germany and Spain, two other IRIS-T users, are still reportedly interested in the acquisition of the F-35, taking the total to five nations possibly interested in the continuation of the integration of the IRIS-T on the 5th gen. aircraft.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

The Royal Navy Is Operating Crewed And Uncrewed Aircraft From The HMS Prince Of Wales Aircraft Carrier

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A Banshee Jet 80+ target drone in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm livery on the HMS Prince of Wales. (Photo: Royal Navy)

The aircraft carrier is testing the Banshee target drone as a training, testing and evaluation method for simulating airborne targets at sea ahead of the participation to Exercise Joint Warrior.

The HMS Prince of Wales is at sea again on the way to the Scottish coast, where she will take part to Exercise Joint Warrior, scheduled from Sept. 27 to Oct. 4, 2021. The Royal Navy is moving at a fast pace to get the second aircraft carrier of the Queen Elizabeth class fully operational and ready for deployment, after the F-35B Lightning II first landed on the ship in June 2021.

Earlier this summer, the HMS Prince of Wales was involved in the Sea Acceptance Trials, testing the ship’s capability to receive and launch aircraft and sustain continuous air operations. In addition to the Royal Navy Merlin and Wildcat helicopters and the Royal Air Force F-35B, the carrier also launched and recovered Chinook and Apache helicopters, before completing Basic Sea Training and sailing for a quick visit to Gibraltar.

More recently, at the beginning of September, the ship’s official Twitter account disclosed the beginning of a test campaign with the QinetiQ Banshee target drone, which is being evaluated for a training, testing and evaluation method for simulating airborne targets at sea. The post shows a twin-engine drone, mentioning that it can reach speeds up to 200 metres/second (about 388 knots) and thus allowing us to identify it as the Banshee Jet 80+. The Banshee is fitted with two gas turbine engines that provide 45 kg of thrust each, for a total of 90 kg of static thrust. Fitted with an auxiliary fuel tank, the drone can fly for more than 45 minutes with a range of more than 100 km.

The Banshee can be fitted with an IR Hot Nose to provide, together with the engines’ own IR signature, an all-aspect Infra-Red source to act as a realistic target for IR-guided weapons. Another possible payload is the Rattler Ground Air-Launched Supersonic Target, designed to realistically replicate air-launched Anti-Radiation Missiles (ARMs) and Supersonic High-Diver threats and capable of speeds of between Mach 1.8 to Mach 2.5. Neither of those payloads was tested aboard the HMS Prince of Wales, according to the photos published by the Royal Navy. We did however notice that the Banshee, after the first days onboard with the classic orange livery usually seen on target drones, is now wearing a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm grey livery.

An F-35B Lightning II prepares to launch from the HMS Prince of Wales. (Photo: Royal Navy)

It is not known at this time if the tests with the Banshee are in some way related to Project Vixen, the project that aims to create an autonomous carrier-launched wingman. This program presents many similarities with the Royal Air Force Project Mosquito, part of the bigger Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept that will offer increased protection, survivability and information for the manned aircraft. One of the focus points of the program is to create a drone costing approximately £ 10M or a tenth of the cost of an F-35B.

According to previous official statements, it is likely that Vixen will be a derivative of Mosquito which has been adapted for carrier operations: “The RAF envisions an aircraft derived from LANCA’s Mosquito phase being used on the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers alongside F-35B Lightnings”, said last year Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force.

Some clues in a Request For Information (RFI) of the British government for aircraft launch and recovery equipment suggest that Vixen might be catapult-launched and recovered via arrestor cables, in what is commonly known as “cat and trap” system. The document mentions an electromagnetic catapult able to launch aircraft up to a maximum weight of 55,000 pounds (slightly less than the 60,000 pounds Maximum Take-Off Weight of the F-35B) and arrestor solutions for the recovery of aircraft between a maximum of 47,000 pounds and a minimum of 11,000 pounds.

Another interesting detail mentioned in the RFI is that the equipment could be used for both crewed and un-crewed air vehicles and should be ready for installation on the ship within three to five years. The latter detail would also fit the expected timeline for LANCA, which could be first deployed alongside the Typhoon and the F-35 by the end of the decade, before the entry into service of the new Tempest in 2035. As we already reported, the LANCA project was started to understand innovative combat air technologies and concepts under the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI), the same programme which generated the Tempest 6th generation aircraft.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Italian F-35B Lands For The First Time On Italy’s ITS Cavour Aircraft Carrier

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The third F-35B of the Italian Navy prepares to land on the ITS Cavour’s flight deck. (Photo: Italian Navy)

The historic event follows the recent delivery of the third F-35B to the Italian Navy and the Ready for Operations test campaign in the USA earlier this year.

An Italian F-35B Lightning II, belonging to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) landed on the Italian Navy’s ITS Cavour aircraft carrier for the first time on July 30, 2021 during navigation in the Gulf of Taranto. The aircraft is the BL-4 built at the Cameri Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO), in northwestern Italy, and recently delivered with the serial MM7454 and codes “4-03”, which flew for the first time in June. As the other two F-35Bs delivered to the Navy, it features the wolf’s head insignia on the tail, the wolf’s paw prints on the rudder, the Italian Navy roundel and the “MARINA” text.

“Today we are witnessing the landing on the Cavour aircraft carrier of the first F-35 of the Italian Navy: [it is] a great step towards the strategic objective of providing the Defense and Italy with an aircraft carrier capability with the latest generation of aircraft on board. A capacity that projects us into an elite of a few countries in the world, thus raising the level and international weight of Italy ”, said the Chief of Staff of the Navy, Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone.

The delivery of the new aircraft has been defined as an important milestone in the process that will replace the aging AV-8B+ Harrier with the new 5th gen aircraft on the ITS Cavour and, in future, the new ITS Trieste. The Marina Militare expects to reach the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with the F-35B by 2024 and the Final Operational Capability (FOC) as soon as the deliveries are completed.

Initially it was not clear where the F-35B BL-4 would be assigned, as the first two jets are in the United States to train pilots at MCAS Beaufort. However, the Navy mentioned in the press release that the arrival of this new aircraft allows the naval service to begin the training of pilots for their Carrier Qualification (CQ) on Italian ships: it seems safe to believe that it will stay in Italy (at least for the moment), but it is not known if it will be based at Grottaglie airport with the Harriers or at Amendola Air Base with the Italian Air Force F-35s to reduce the logistical burden until the final decision for the Navy’s F-35 basing is confirmed.

The first Italian F-35B to land on the ITS Cavour as it moves on the flight deck. (Photo: Italian Navy)

The decision about the base for the Navy’s F-35Bs and the delivery of 15 jets to the Navy and 15 to the Air Force have been a much debated topic in Italy, as we often reported here at The Aviationist. Here is an extract of what we wrote last year when the Air Force received its first F-35B:

The Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati, which will operate the F-35B within the Navy, is currently 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]. However, according to some reports, the Italian Defense Chief of Staff has already identified Amendola Air Base, the MOB (Main Operating Base) of the F-35A within the ItAF (about 100NM northwest of Grottaglie), as the national MOB for both the CTOL (Convetional Take Off and Landing) and STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) versions of the Lightning II. This should prompt the relocation of the “Wolves” to Amendola, creating a joint Air Force/Navy flight line with common logistics and training, even though it would practically mean that the entire force would mostly be under Air Force control.

With both Italian Air Force’s and Navy’s F-35Bs based at Amendola AB, the Italians would replicate the British model that sees RAF Marham as MOB for a jointly manned “Lightning Force” made of Air Force (with the 207 and 617 squadrons) and Navy (with the 809 Naval Air Squadron that will be re-established in 2023) personnel, sharing aircraft, equipment and support infrastructures. The creation of an Italian Joint Lightning Force makes much sense: aircrew training, maintenance and at least part of the logistics could be concentrated in one place, with some significant savings. And if the selected base is Amendola, the Italian Joint Force could leverage at least some of the infrastructures built there to accommodate the Lightning. Indeed, preparation to host the F-35 in Amendola started in 2012 and today the “F-35 citadel” is literally a “base inside the base” with modern shelters and buildings located inside an access-controlled restricted zone created to isolate the 13° Gruppo’s area from the rest of the base. It must not be forgotten tha the advent of the F-35 has induced the Italian MoD to adopt tighter security measures than those in place before the arrival of a 5th generation technology and this becomes pretty evident if you think that all the photographs taken inside Amendola, must be reviewed one by one by security personnel so that no sensitive detail would be leaked. For sure, making Grottaglie ready for the F-35B would cost a lot of money and time, considered that the works to prepare the base for the Joint Strike Fighter were halted a couple of years ago.

In a post about the F-35B and the use of the aircraft as part of an Italian Joint Lightning Force published here at The Aviationist about 10 years ago our Editor David Cenciotti wrote:

“I don’t know if Italy is ready for a single type of aircraft for both ItAF and ItNy, capable of operating from the Cavour aircraft carrier as a single unit, something that would logically lead to the creation of a joint force similar to the British Joint Force Harrier and to the subsequent proposal of reabsorbing the unit into the Air Force, an option that the Navy might not accept….”

A decade later, the situation has probably not changed much.

In fact, while the final decision about the basing might still be uncertain, there is no doubt that the assignment of the third F-35B to the Air Force has made the Navy not happy. Navy officials have long challenged the decision of the Italian Air Force to procure the F-35B. The Italian Air Force considers the STOVL variant of the stealth aircraft indispensable for expeditionary scenarios and operations from unimproved and short landing strips.

Now, back to our main topic. The first landing of an Italian Navy F-35B on the ITS Cavour follows the “Ready for Operation” compatibility testing in the United States earlier this year, when two specially-instrumented U.S. F-35Bs belonging to VX-23 (Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23) from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River) were deployed on the ship to test every aspect of the 5th gen aircraft operations onboard.

As part of the sea trials, the two F-35Bs of VX-23 carried out more than 50 flight missions, in all weather and sea state conditions, a night session, around 120 vertical landings, and as many short take-offs with the aid of the ski jump, and finally a vertical take-off test. Based on the images released during the campaign, some tests were also conducted with external loads, a configuration often referred to as “Beast Mode”.

These milestones come just as Navy prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Harrier landing on the ITS Garibaldi (the ITS Cavour predecessor) at the end of August. However, this is the only important anniversary this year, as 2021 also marks the 160th anniversary of the Marina Militare, the 10th anniversary of the ITS Cavour becoming the fleet’s flagship (replacing the ITS Garibaldi) and the 30th anniversary of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati “Wolves” (which operates the Harrier and, in future, the Lightning II).

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

F-35B Jets From HMS Queen Elizabeth Have Joined The Fight Against Daesh

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One of the F-35B embarked aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Image credit: Crown Copyright)

UK Carrier Strike Group launching F-35B missions in support of Operation Shader from the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

On her maiden operational deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth, with F-35B jets belonging to both the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, is heading to the Indo-Pacific region as the flagship of the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war.

“This will be the first time UK fighter aircraft are embarked on an operational aircraft carrier deployment since 2010, and will be the largest number of F-35Bs ever to sail the seas,” says the UK MOD in a public statement, referring to the fact that during the 28-week deployment – dubbed CSG21 (Carrier Strike Group 2021), 10x VMFA-211 F-35Bs and 8x RAF 617 Sqn F-35Bs will operate from the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The naval line-up includes Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender and HMS Diamond; Type 23 anti-submarine frigates, HMS Kent and HMS Richmond; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s logistics ships Fort Victoria and Tidespring; along with an Astute-class nuclear submarine will accompany the British aircraft carrier along with U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and a Dutch frigate, HNLMS Evertse.

F-35B Shader
RAF F-35B.

As planned, before reaching the troubled waters of the South China Sea, the British aircraft carrier will be quite busy: it has already taken part in Exercise Joint Warrior/Strike Warrior off Scotland; then have joined drills with NATO partners, including Falcon Strike 2021 in the Mediterranean Sea; and is now about to support counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.

“F-35B Lightning fast jets will be the cutting edge of the Carrier Strike Group’s (CSG21) formidable power in the air.

These are next generation multi-role combat aircraft equipped with advanced sensors, mission systems and stealth technology, enabling them to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.

The renowned 617 Squadron RAF (‘The Dambusters’) will operate the jets to provide tangible and impactful support to counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.”

Although this will be the first time they launch from a British aircraft carrier, RAF F-35Bs have already grown experience in the air war against Daesh: 617 Sqn’s Lightning, deployed to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, as part of Operation Lightning Dawn, flew their first operational sorties in support of Operation Shader on Sunday Jun. 16, 2019.

F-35B Pantelleria
British F-35B performing a short landing at Pantelleria AB during Falcon Strike 2021 exercise (Author).

Photos of the aircraft released by the UK MOD after the first F-35B returned from the armed patrol over Syria showed Paveway IV bombs being loaded and the AIM-120 AMRAAM carried inside the internal weapons bay. Moreover, the aircraft featured their RCS (Radar Cross Section) enhancers (also known as radar reflectors/Luneberg lenses).

“Lightning Dawn was our first Proof of Concept deployment away from the UK. We had lots of different objectives we wanted to achieve and we met all of them,” told us RAF 617 Squadron Wing Commander John Butcher at the end of the deployment. “We performed armed overwatch of our forces on the ground in support of Operation Shader. We flew just with F-35s. We worked alongside the Typhoon detachment, they gave a lot of briefs on the airspace, issues they had seen in operating in those airspaces. So we took their lessons, applied them to ourselves and then we went off”.

The type of missions the F-35B are going to fly in the next weeks is probably quite similar. It’s still not clear whether the USMC F-35Bs will support OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) too, although it seems quite likely. VMFA-211 is a Marine squadron with significant combat experience with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the F-35: on September 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B with VMFA-211, launched the first-ever combat mission by a U.S. military F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The long-range strikes that struck insurgent targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, took off from the U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft flew that first raid with the gun pod and GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bays but bomb markings applied to some of the aircraft’s front landing gear door showed two different types of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions): the GBU-12 500-lb LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and GBU-32 JDAMs.

According to our sources, the F-35Bs have already started flying sorties in support of Shader flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth on Jun. 20, 2021. Some interesting flying activity, likely related to the Lightning sorties, was tracked online on Jun. 21, when both a British E-3D AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft and an RC-135W Airseeker operated off Syria.

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

Nine U.S. Marine Corps And Eight RAF F-35Bs Have Embarked On HMS Queen Elizabeth

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One of the USMC F-35Bs launches from RAF Lakenheath to embark on HMS QE. (All images: Stewart Jack).

17 F-35Bs have already landed aboard British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of CSG21 deployment.

As already reported 10 USMC F-35Bs aircraft, belonging to the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, have arrived at RAF Lakenheath, UK between Apr. 26 and 28, 2021 to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth, for UK’s new aircraft carrier’s first operational cruise, named CSG21.

On her maiden operational deployment, HMS QE will travel to the Indo-Pacific region leading the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war. However, before reaching the troubled waters of the South China Sea, the F-35Bs will be quite busy: they will take part in Exercise Joint Warrior/Strike Warrior off Scotland; then in drills with NATO partners in the northern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea; and will also support counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.

The deployment represents “the first time UK fighter aircraft are embarked on an operational aircraft carrier deployment since 2010, and will be the largest number of F-35Bs ever to sail the seas,” said the UK MOD in a news release. “The renowned 617 Squadron RAF (‘The Dambusters’) will operate the jets to provide tangible and impactful support to counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.”

Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey MP said: “The F-35B Lightning jets will pack a potent punch against Daesh and help prevent them from regaining a foothold in Iraq. This is a prime example of the UK Armed Forces stepping forward with our allies to confront persistent threats around the world. It is Global Britain in action.”

The British F-35Bs have already grown experience in the air war against Daesh: 617 Sqn’s Lightning flew their first operational sorties over Syria launching from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, on Sunday Jun. 16, 2019, supporting of Operation Shader, the UK contribution to the Global Coalition’s counter Daesh mission in Iraq and Syria.

It’s still not clear whether the USMC F-35Bs will support OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) too, although it seems quite likely. VMFA-211 is a Marine squadron with significant combat experience with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the F-35: on September 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B with VMFA-211, launched the first-ever combat mission by a U.S. military F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The long-range strikes that struck insurgent targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, took off from the U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft flew that first raid with the gun pod and GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bays but bomb markings applied to some of the aircraft’s front landing gear door showed two different types of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions): the GBU-12 500-lb LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and GBU-32 JDAMs.

F-35Bs start embarking on HMS QE

In anticipation of the upcoming deployment, the U.S. Marine Corps and RAF F-35Bs have started, on Sunday May 2, 2021, to launch respectively from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Marham to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

USMC F-35B embark HMS Queen Elizabeth
VMFA-211 F-35B takes off for HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Marines F-35Bs took off in three sections, flying as “WAKE 11-12”, “WAKE 21-22” and “WAKE 31-32”. 617 Squadron also launched four aircraft from RAF Marham as “GHOST 11-12” (ZM150/016 and ZM154/020) and “GHOST 21-22” (ZM152 and ZM151).

The Aviationist‘s contributor Stewart Jack was at RAF Lakenheath and took the photographs of the USMC F-35Bs taking off from there on Sunday.

USMC F-35B embark HMS Queen Elizabeth
Close up on the cockpit of one of the USMC F-35Bs.

In the morning on Monday May 3, another four 617 Squadron jets went to the carrier: F-35B Lightning “Ghost 31-32” (ZM147/013 and ZM153/019) and “Ghost 41-42” (ZM155/021 and ZM148/014). Only three USMC Lightnings launched for the carrier as one went tech. Here are the serials: “WAKE41-42” (169608/CF07 and 169610/CF08) and “WAKE51” (169614/CF09). “WAKE52” (169416/CF03) aborted take-off at 10.20LT returned to parking.

The U.S. Navy has also shared some interesting images of the USMC F-35Bs aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

USMC F-35Bs Have Landed At RAF Lakenheath For Upcoming HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Indo-Pacific Deployment

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The CAG bird of VMFA-211 lands at RAF Lakenheath on Apr. 26, 2021. (All images credit: Stewart Jack)

USMC F-35Bs have arrived at RAF Lakenheath to deploy aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Split into two sections, each including 5 jets, a total of 10 USMC F-35Bs aircraft have arrived at RAF Lakenheath, UK. The first five jets landed on Apr. 26, 2021; the remaining ones arrived at the base in Suffolk, England, on Apr. 28, 2021.

The USMC F-35Bs aircraft belong to the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, and, in the next weeks, they will depart RAF Lakenheath to head to the HMS Queen Elizabeth, for UK’s new aircraft carrier’s first operational deployment. The photographs in this article were taken by The Aviationist‘s contributor Stewart Jack as the first section of USMC F-35Bs landed at RAF Lakenheath on Monday.

“Moving the Marines, aircraft and equipment to the United Kingdom required coordinated planning, complex logistical effort, diligent maintenance and seamless execution,” said Lt. Col. Andrew D’Ambrogi, the commanding officer of VMFA-211 in a public release. “Now that we have arrived in the United Kingdom, we are reintegrating with our UK counterparts and focused on providing both the commodore of CSG-21 and US combatant commanders with ready, combat-capable, 5th-generation aircraft.”

One of the F-35Bs of the first section lands at RAF Lankenheath at sunset.

As part of the Covid-19 mitigation measures, VMFA-211 pilots will complete a 14-day restriction-of-movement prior to boarding HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Heading to the danger zone

On her maiden operational cruise, HMS QE will travel to the Indo Pacific region leading the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war.

The naval line-up is going to include: Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender and HMS Diamond; Type 23 anti-submarine frigates, HMS Kent and HMS Richmond; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s logistics ships Fort Victoria and Tidespring; along with an Astute-class nuclear submarine will accompany the British aircraft carrier along with U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and a Dutch frigate, HNLMS Evertse. During the 28-week deployment, the 10x VMFA-211 F-35Bs will operate alongside with 8x F-35Bs belonging to the Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron “Dambusters”.

The two units have already carried out joint training last year, when 10x F-35Bs of the “Wake Island Avengers” landed at RAF Marham on Sept. 3, 2020 to prepare the 2021 deployment. After local area training sorties with the Dambusters, the USMC F-35Bs took part in Exercise Point Blank with the F-15s from RAF Lakenheath and other NATO nations, before going to sea aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for carrier qualifications and Exercise Joint Warrior 20-2.

Along with the 18x STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft (10 USMC F-35Bs currently at Lakenheath and 8 RAF F-35Bs from RAF Marham), the air component of the Carrier Strike Group will include 4x AW159 Wildcat and 10x Merlin helicopters. It’s not clear whether the latter will carry the Crowsnest AEW (Airborne Early Warning) system, although it seems quite likely. Here’s what we wrote in the article covering the deployment of the VMFA-211 to RAF Marham in September last year, quoting Save the Royal Navy:

Crowsnest will not formally achieve Initial Operating Capability until September 2021 but 3 of the 9 Merlins are planned to be fitted with pre-IOC standard kits. At least the CGS will have some kind of Airborne Surveillance and Control capability, even if not properly certified and complete. In a significant change of plan, 849 Naval Air Squadron, which had been the ASaC squadron equipped with Sea Kings and was supposed to transition to Crowsnest, was disbanded in April 2020. The role will now be absorbed into 820 NAS. The squadron will have two streams of observers that specialise in either, anti-submarine warfare or ASaC. The RN has just 30 Merlin Mk2 helicopters, airframes are in short supply.

Merlin Mk4s will also be deployed and maybe ‘FOBed’ (Forward Operating Base) on RFA For Victoria or the tanker. For parts of the deployment, the RFAs and warships may detach and operate independently of the main CSG. USMC V-22 Ospreys will not be permanently embarked on the carrier but, together with CH-53E Stallions, may be used to provide Maritime Intra-Theatre Lift to the carrier group as it moves around the world, supported by the global US military logistic support footprint.

The CSG led by HMS Queen Elizabeth will set sail towards the troubled waters of the Indo-Pacific region, an area of rising tensions with China.

According to the Independent, “the UK Carrier Strike Group will carry out engagements with the navies of India and Japan, who are in dispute over land and sea borders respectively with Beijing, as well as the navies of South Korea and Singapore. All four countries being visited are considered the west’s allies in countering what is seen as China’s expansionist strategy in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.”

The F-35Bs that arrived in the UK on Apr. 26 were: 169621/CF-01; 169607/CF-06; 169416/CF-03; 169608/CF-07; 169589/CF-04.

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

Sea Trials Successfully Completed: Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier Achieves F-35B Airworthiness Certification

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An F-35B launches in “Beast Mode” from ITS Cavour. (All images: Italian Navy)

The Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour has completed the “Sea Trials” with the two specially instrumented U.S. F-35B Lighting II aircraft of VX-23.

Italy’s aircraft carrier ITS Cavour, the flagship of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), has successfully completed the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the 5th generation combat aircraft the service will use to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II.

The “Ready for Operation” compatibility testing began with the departure from Norfolk on Feb. 28, 2021, and the deployment aboard the carrier of the two specially-instrumented U.S. F-35Bs belonging to VX-23 (Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23) from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland, on Mar. 1, 2021.

The “sea trials” lasted four weeks and ended on Mar. 26, 2021, with the return of the carrier to Norfolk.

The testing campaign was crucial to the Italian Navy as it represents one of the milestones towards the acquisition of the strategic capability of the new aircraft. It will be followed by the “Initial Operational Capability” the naval service plans to achieve in 2024, and ultimately the “Final Operational Capability” that will coincide with the delivery of the last F-35B to the Italian Navy under the JSF program. The Italian Government should procure 90 F-35s, 60 of those are F-35As and the remaining 30 ones are F-35Bs. Out of those 30 F-35Bs, 15 will go to the Navy and 15 to the Air Force. The Navy’s F-35Bs should also operate from the new LHD Trieste.

A VX-23 F-35B prepares to land aboard Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier. 

“We have completed all planned tests and are currently able to issue an Interim Flight Clearance (IFC), which will allow Cavour and its crew, together with US Marine Corps F35Bs to continue training. When we return to ‘Pax River’ we will carefully analyse the data collected and then we will be able to issue the final certification” – said Ron Hess, who works as the Basing and Ship Suitability (BASS) Team Leader for the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF), in an official Italian Navy release.

As part of the sea trials, the two F-35Bs of VX-23 carried out more than 50 flight missions, in all weather and sea state conditions, a night session, around 120 vertical landings, and as many short take-offs with the aid of the ski jump, and finally a vertical take-off test. Based on the images released during the campaign, some tests were also conducted with external loads, a configuration often referred to as “Beast Mode”.

Italian Navy Cavour Sea Trials
A U.S. F-35B during the sea trials aboard ITS Cavour. 

“It is extraordinary how the crew of ITS Cavour and the Integrated Team have reached, so quickly, a very high level of synergy and integration with great professionalism and a strong common will to achieve the ambitious goal,” said the commander of Cavour, Captain Giancarlo Ciappina.

Overall, about 800 people took part in the certification: the 580 crew members who departed Taranto at the end of January were joined in Norfolk by the ITF team, as well as the nucleus of Italian Navy personnel who operate the aircraft and are currently carrying out training at the US Marine base in Beaufort.

“I am very grateful to all members of the ITF team and every single sailor on my crew for the great job they did to achieve this excellent result” continued Captain Ciappina, “In this sense, I am very proud of the success of the “Ready for Operations” Campaign of ITS Cavour. Thanks to this, the Italian Navy, and with it our entire National Defence, will soon be projected into a new perspective of cooperation with our allies, thanks to fifth-generation aircraft deployable from aircraft carriers, and the importance they represent in any international scenario, specifically for maritime or inter-force operations”.

During the sea trials, ITS Cavour also had the opportunity to integrate with the U.S. Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) on Mar. 20, 2021. USS Ford was conducting integrated carrier strike group operations during independent steaming event 17 as part of her post-delivery test and trials phase of operations. The joint ops marked the first time a Ford-class and Italian carrier have operated together underway.

The aircraft carrier ITS Cavour is currently in the port of Norfolk where it will disembark the ITF personnel while completing the necessary preparation to undertake the last phases of the Ready for Operations campaign before returning to Italy.

The U.S. deployment and the sea trials came during an important time for the Italian Navy. As a matter of fact, 2021 marks the 160th anniversary of the Marina Militare, the 10th anniversary of the ITS Cavour becoming the fleet’s flagship and the 30th anniversary of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati “Wolves” and their operations with the AV-8B+ Harrier.

An interesting image of an Italian Navy NH-90 helicopter flying close to ITS Cavour. 

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier Cavour

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The first F-35B about to land aboard ITS Cavour. Highlighted is the special tail marking for the sea trials (Image credit: Italian Navy edit: The Aviationist)

The Italian Navy has just released the first shots of the VX-23 F-35B aircraft taking part in the certification of the compatibility between the 5th generation fighter aircraft and Italy’s aircraft carrier ITS Cavour. At least one, sports a new, special sea trials tail marking.

The Marina Militare (Italian Navy) has just released some interesting shots showing the U.S. F-35B from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland, operating aboard Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour, off the US East Coast.

The two specially instrumented U.S. F-35Bs of the Integrated Test Force (ITF) landed aboard the Italian Navy flagship to being the sea trials that will verify the compatibility between the 5th generation fighter aircraft and the ITS Cavour. The trials also represent an important step towards declaring the Initial Operation Capability (IOC) of the F-35B in the Italian Navy, expected by 2024.

As already explained in a previous article, the of the F-35Bs aboard Cavour was a significant milestone for the Italian naval service, as it prepares to operate the 5th gen. stealth jet from an aircraft carrier.

An F-35B landing aboard Italy’s aircraft carrier Cavour off the U.S. East Coast. (Italian Navy)

The photographs that the Italian Navy has released show the two F-35Bs during the first vertical landing aboard the aircraft carrier and operating on the flight deck of Cavour.

One of the two F-35Bs about to perform a vertical landing aboard Cavour. (Italian Navy)
An F-35B of VX-23 about to land. (Italian Navy)

Interestingly, one of the shots unveils the special tail marking applied to the right tail of the F-35B 168717/69 that celebrates the sea trials activity aboard Italy’s aircraft carrier. It’s not clear whether the other aircraft sports the same marking too.

The F-35B with the special marking on the right hand tail. (Image credit: Italian Navy / edit: The Aviationist)

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

Enjoy These Stunning Shots Of RAF Voyager “Vespina” During Aerial Refueling Ops With RAF F-35Bs And Typhoons

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The Vespina refuels two F-35B from RAF Marham. (All images: RAF/Crown Copyright)

Yesterday we reported about the maiden flight of the RAF A330 Voyager ZZ336 with its brand new (and controversal) livery. Following its arrival at RAF Brize Norton airbase, the aircraft was immediately rushed back to its primary task: aerial refueling. On Jun. 26, flying as TARTAN 58, the “special” Voyager took part in AAR ops with RAF Lightning and Typhoon fighters during Exercise CRIMSON OCEAN.

The Vespina refuels two F-35B from RAF Marham.

Noteworthy, the tanker and its receivers could be tracked online on ADSBExchange website.

Tantan 58 refueling F-35B as seen on ADSBExchange website. (Image via @RAF100_2020)

The RAF refers to the aircraft as “Vespina”, from Operation VESPINA, the name for A330 Voyager VIP missions. In fact, the aircraft will perform (along with AAR) transport missions for Government Ministers and the Royal Family.

A Typhoon flies alongside the Vespina and F-35Bs.

Exercise CRIMSON OCEAN allows the Royal Navy and RAF to train and hone their ability to deliver routine fighter and helicopter operations in a range of environments from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Lightning aircraft from 617 Squadron have been onboard the carrier since 10th June when they left their base at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

Image shows F-35B, callsign Ghost, refuelling on ZZ336.

After the mission, the Royal Air Force posted some really cool aerial shots on their official website, along with a clarification about the way has been painted on the aircraft for all those people who are not aware of the convention among all the air forces for the flag to appear as it flying from a pole on the nose:

Despite appearances the flag design is correct in all respects and follows the convention for the flag to appear as though it is flying from a flag placed on the nose of the aircraft, as it travels through the air. When viewing the starboard side (right hand side), this can give the mistaken impression that the design is backwards, or upside down, when in fact the observer is simply viewing the reverse side of the flag.

This RAF F-35B model is available from AirModels. Click here to buy yours.