Tag: Italian Navy

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

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Italian Air Force F-35B Lands On Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier For The First Time
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.

- Italian Air Force F-35B Lands On Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier For The First TimeThe 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”.

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

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italian Air Force F-35B Lands On Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier For The First Time
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.

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

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Italian F-35B Lands For The First Time On Italy’s ITS Cavour Aircraft Carrier
The third F-35B of the prepares to land on the ITS Cavour’s flight deck. (Photo: )

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.

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

1c874047463801220adcba061ba371a3?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italian F-35B Lands For The First Time On Italy’s ITS Cavour Aircraft Carrier
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.

Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight
The third F-35B for the Italian Navy during its test flight last week. (Image credit: Roberto Resnigo – BestShotAircraft)

BL-4 is the fourth Italian F-35B, the third STOVL aircraft destined to the Italian Navy.

On Jun. 14, 2021, the F-35B BL-4, the fourth STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft assembled in Italy, at the FACO (Final Assembly and Check Out) facility, in Cameri, carried out its maiden flight.

The aircraft, coded “4-03” and serialled MM7454, is the third aircraft destined to the Marina Militare (Italian Navy). The first two aircraft MM7451/4-01 and MM7452/4-02 are currently at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training, where the Italian pilots destined to the STOVL variants are trained too.

BL-4 sports the same livery already adopted on the first two aircraft and clearly inspired to the one used by the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II of the Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati “Wolves”, based at Grottaglie: 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.

BL 4 3 - Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight
The F-35B MM7454 before taking off from Cameri (Image credit: Marcello Alongi – BestShotAircraft)

The images in this post were provided by our friends at BestShotAircraft and their photographers Roberto Resnigo and Marcello Alongi.

The aircraft has already carried out two test flights: the program calls for six test flights, including one in STOVL mode, before the jet is delivered to the customer for acceptance.

BL 4 1 - Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight
BL-4 about to land after its first flight. (Image credit: Roberto Resnigo – BestShotAircraft)

Where the aircraft is headed after being delivered to the Italian Navy is still not clear. Considered that two F-35Bs are already in the U.S., it seems quite likely that the third aircraft will remain in Italy, possibly becoming the first Italian Navy F-35 to land aboard Italy’s aircraft carrier ITS Cavour, the flagship of the Marina Militare, that has recently returned to Italy after successfully completing the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B.

As often explained here at The Aviationist, the Italian Government is currently procuring 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 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. It is not completely clear, however, where the F-35s will be land-based.

This is what this Author wrote last year, commenting the news of the delivery of the first F-35B to the Air Force in February 2020:

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.

But, does the Italian Air Force really need to trade such flexibility for a more expensive and complex airframe, with shorter maximum range, reduced flight envelope, external (in pod) gun? According to the Air Force planners and decision makers, yes: a worldwide survey of all the runways that can be used by military jet highlighted that the ratio, in Africa alone, was 1 to 10, that is, for each runway usable with conventional aircraft, there are ten shorter ones, that are only exploitable by STOVL aircraft.

Still, not everyone agrees, pointing out that within the U.S. military, the F-35B remains a prerogative of U.S. Marine Corps, that uses the type from its amphibious assault ships, while the U.S. Air Force, that is certainly involved in expeditionary operations much more than the ItAF will ever be, has never had the need to operate the STOVL-variant.

The former Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Adm. Luigi Binelli Mantelli wrote to the Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini an open letter (published by La Stampa newspaper) illustrating all the cons of assigning the STOVL jets to the Italian Air Force. The view of the retired Admiral is that the procurement of the F-35B should be exclusive to the Marina Militare: he argues that the purchase of variant B by the Air Force is a mistake because this version would be expensive, with complex maintenance and with different operational limitations compared to the A version operated by the ItAF. On the other hand, the Admiral supports the indispensability of the F-35B for the Navy to operate from “light” aircraft carriers, advising to divert all the STOVL-models to the Marina Militare. The initial requirement of the Navy was for 22 F-35Bs. With just 15 jets, one might expect that no more than 8-10 F-35Bs will be available at any given time, a number that is deemed not sufficient for the needs of the Italian naval aviation.

While it’s now hard to believe the decision to give the Air Force some (or half) of the total F-35Bs will be reversed, the Navy at least wanted to receive most (if not all) of the first F-35Bs so as to continue the transition of its pilots and expedite the achievement of the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the new aircraft as the training required by the at-sea operations is far more complex than the one required for land-based operations. But the Italian MoD decided to give the Air Force its F-35B so that its pilots could start training on the new aircraft too. And Amendola, as explained above, has already been prepared to accommodate the new STOVL-models.

Whatever your opinion on this subject is (this is a much debated topic in Italy) it’s pretty evident that much more will have to be done to improve synergies between the two branches and make an Italian Joint Lightning Force a reality.

The situation remains more or less unchanged.

The Italian Navy carried has been declared ready to accept the F-35B while the Italian Air Force has taken continued to operate with its only B, that the service has presented to the public for the first time last year, during an Expeditionary Proof Of Concept on Pantelleria island. The same aircraft has been shown flying in “Beast Mode” alongside an A model and has recently returned to Pantelleria again earlier this month, along with a B model of the Royal Air Force embarked aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth for an Expeditionary Combat Support Event (ECSE) conducted as part of the large Falcon Strike 2021 exercise.

“The Italian Air Force needs the F-35B to be able to operate from short runways, a capability we had in the 1960s with the G-91 and lost with its successor, the AMX,” told us Gen. Gianni Candotti, the Italian Air Force’s operational commander during the ECSE at Pantelleria. “The lack of such ability has caused us issues for quite a long time. When we deployed to Afghanistan [in 2008], we first had to find an alternate airbase [Mazar-i-Sharif] with a runway that was suitable for the Tornado, then we started working on the runway at the forward operating location that was hosting the Italian base [Herat] and, after one year, once we had extended the runway, we were eventually able to operate from there [with the AMX]. The F-35B would have allowed us to operate from there since the beginning. That being said, while it is possible, operating from aircraft carriers is not our immediate objective: that is not the reason why we have selected this kind of aircraft.”

Interestingly, considered the number of F-35Bs both the Air Force and Navy are getting, Candotti didn’t rule out the eventual joint command similar to the British one that’s being considered (at least among analysts). “Everything is possible. Our British colleagues did it with the Harrier and continue with the F-35B. There are various ways to integrate from minimum collaboration to full integration. It is being studied.”

BL 4 2 - Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight
The Italian Navy should receive 15 F-35B. BL-4 is its third Lightning II aircraft. (Image credit: Roberto Resnigo – BestShotAircraft)

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Third F-35B For The Italian Navy Makes First Flight
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.

Libyan Coast Guard Shoots At Two Italian Fishing Boats: Italian Frigate And P-72A Surveillance Plane On The Scene

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Libyan Coast Guard Shoots At Two Italian Fishing Boats: Italian Frigate And P-72A Surveillance Plane On The Scene
A P-72A of the Italian Air Force (Image credit: Italian Air Force). In the right box the Libeccio frigate (Image credit: Italian Navy). In the left box: AIS situation off Libya (Image credit: MarineTraffic.com)

The Italian Navy and Air Force intervened in international waters off Libya after a Libyan Coast Guard patrol boat shot at Italian fishing boats.

Two Italian fishing boats were involved in an incident about 30 miles off Libya on May 6, 2021. Warning shots were fired at the Aliseo and Artemide fishing boats, in international waters, off Misrata by a Libyan Coast Guard patrol vessel: the commander of one of the two fishing boats was injured, the Italian media reported.

The Libeccio frigate of the Italian Navy (Marina Militare), supporting “Operazione Mare Sicuro” (Italian for “Safe Sea”) in the Mediterranean Sea was dispatched to assist the fishing boats. Operation “Mare Sicuro” was established in 2015, is a mission of the Italian Navy aimed at ensuring maritime security in the Central Mediterranean Sea – an area of major national interest – launched following the worsening of the Libyan crisis in order to provide presence, surveillance and maritime security, and to ensure freedom of navigation, according to national legislation and international agreements in force.

According to the Italian Navy, the Libeccio frigate was instructed to assist a group of three fishing boats (Artemide, Aliseo and Nuovo Cosimo) which were conducting fishing activities in the waters of Tripolitania,  within the “high risk” zone defined by the Interministerial Coordination Committee for Safety of Transport and Infrastructure  located 35 nautical miles from the Libyan coast, north of the city of Al Khums.

The intervention of the Italian Navy warship was requested due to the presence of a Libyan Coast Guard patrol boat rapidly approaching the Italian fishing boats.

Nave Libeccio, which at the time of the report was about 60 miles from the scene, headed towards the fishing boats at maximum speed and sent the helicopter, which reached the area and made radio contact with the patrol boat personnel.

The Libeccio frigate, which arrived in the vicinity of the fishing boats, received news of the presence of a seaman aboard Aliseo who was wounded in the arm.

Currently the fishing boats Artemide and Nuovo Cosimo are safely sailing northbound towards Mazara del Vallo harbour. The Libeccio frigate remained in support of the Aliseo fishing boat as the commander had been transhipped by Libyan personnel on board the patrol boat for medical checks and later released. The Aliseo fishing boat is currently free.

The P-72A

To verify the situation, a P-72A MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) was also dispatched to the area: the aircraft observed some warning shots from the Libyan patrol boat.

The aircraft, that operates a mixed Air Force/Navy crew, belongs to the 41° Stormo (Wing) an Italian Air Force unit based at Sigonella Air Base, in Sicily. The P-72A is a military variant of the ATR 72-600. The Italian Air Force has received four P-72s that the service has used to replace the Breguet BR1150 Atlantic.

The P-72A can undertake a variety of roles ranging from maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The P-72A is equipped with a communication suite that enables the aircraft to transmit or receive information in real-time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system. The aircraft is said to be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.

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The Atlantic and the P-72 flew alongside during the very last flight of the Atlantic, from Sigonella to Pratica di Mare on Nov. 22, 2017. (Image credit: Italian Air Force)

Previous incidents

The firing of warning shots at the Italian fishing boats is just the latest in a series of incidents in the troubled waters located within the ZPP (Zona Protezione Pesca – Fishing Protection Zone) unilaterally declared by Libya in 2005 with the intention of exercising sovereign rights over fishing resources.

Last year, the Antartide and Medinea fishing boats, were seized with eighteen seafarers on board and remained in Libya for 108 days before being able to return home on Dec. 20, 2020.

A few days ago, in the same area, the Italian Navy FREEM frigate Alpino was dispatched to protect a group of 7 fishing boats threatened by a rubber dinghy, coming from Cirenaica. The attempted seizure was averted by the timely intervention of the Alpino warship.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Libyan Coast Guard Shoots At Two Italian Fishing Boats: Italian Frigate And P-72A Surveillance Plane On The Scene
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.

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey Conducts Qualifications Flights Aboard Italian Aircraft Carrier Cavour

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey Conducts Qualifications Flights Aboard Italian Aircraft Carrier Cavour
USMC MV-22B Osprey pilots conduct night deck landing qualifications aboard the Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour, off the Maryland coast. (Image credit: USMC)

After completing the Sea Trials with the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, the aircraft carrier Cavour conducted training with a USMC MV-22B Osprey.

As already reported, the Italian Navy has recently declared the successful completion of the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that will replace the service’s AV-8B+ Harrier II jet.

The “Ready for Operation” campaign included various compatibility tests carried out with 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. The “sea trials” lasted four weeks and ended on Mar. 26, 2021, with the return of the carrier to Norfolk.

Interestingly, the Italian Navy’s flagship was also involved in take-off and landing training with a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

The purpose of the activity was to verify the compatibility of the flight deck with the American tactical transport aircraft.

Back in 2015, Boeing considered the Italian Navy among the possible export customers for their V-22 platform, considered its ability to carry the F-35’s Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan in its cargo bay (a capability required to support blue waters engine replacement) and to operate from the flight deck of the current and future aircraft carriers, including the new LHD Trieste.

While the interest in the Osprey has probably cooled now, the interoperability between the platform and the Italian Navy’s flagship is needed to “increase interoperability between the USMC and the Italian Navy, and increase the operational reach of Naval forces for crisis or contingency response or in the event of conflict.”

Moreover, Italy has shown interest in the U.S. Future Vertical Lift helicopter initiative, that sees the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft, developed by Bell and Lockheed Martin, among the contenders. Tilt-rotor designs are also being developed as part of the unmanned V-247 Vigilant tiltrotor concept for the US Marine Corps (USMC) and might be considered for the US Navy’s (USN’s) Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Maritime Strike programme: this means that interoperability tests with tilt-rotors make perfect sense for the Italian Navy and ITS Cavour to prepare the future at-sea operations.

MV 22B Cavour - U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey Conducts Qualifications Flights Aboard Italian Aircraft Carrier Cavour
Interoperability tests aboard ITS Cavour. (Image credit: Italian Navy)

After completing the “Sea Trials”, the ITS Cavour will carry out carrier qualification of the six Italian Naval Aviators that completed their transition on the F-35B at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, South Carolina, and then head back to Italy, where the Italian Navy is planning to perform the first flight activities with an Italian F-35B from the Cavour. The aircraft that should be used will be the fourth F-35B built in Italy and the third to be delivered to the Navy. As we mentioned in previous articles, the first two aircraft built went to the Navy and are now in Beaufort for pilot training, while the third one was delivered to the Air Force. Italy has plans to procure a total of 90 F-35s for the Italian Air Force and Navy: 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (15 for the Marina Militare and 15 for the Aeronautica Militare).

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey Conducts Qualifications Flights Aboard Italian Aircraft Carrier 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.

Italian Navy Officer Arrested Over Alleged Spying For Russia. Two Russian Diplomats Expelled From Italy

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Italian Navy Officer Arrested Over Alleged Spying For Russia. Two Russian Diplomats Expelled From Italy
Russian Embassy in Rome. (Image credit: TASS)

An Italy Navy officer caught passing classified documents to Russian diplomats for money during clandestine meeting in Rome. It’s the most serious spying episode since the end of Cold War.

An Italian Navy officer, Capitano di Fregata (Captain of Frigate – Italian Navy rank equivalent to Lt. Col.) Walter Biot, working at Italy’s Stato Maggiore Difesa (Defense Staff) in Rome, was arrested in an alleged spying episode: according to the Italian authorities, he was caught passing documents to a military official accredited at the Russian Embassy in Rome.

Police intervened after the Italian officer had transferred a pen drive to the Russian military, in exchange for a sum money, during a “clandestine meeting” in Rome, held on the night on Tuesday Mar. 30, 2021. Italian media have reported that the sum the Italian Navy officer was paid was 5,000 Euro.

As a consequence of the spy scandal, Italy ordered the expulsion of two Russian diplomats: the military official involved in the meeting (that was initially detained) and another one involved in the affair, whose role has not been clarified yet. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a statement on Facebook that Italy had lodged a formal protest with the Russian ambassador and notified him of “the immediate expulsion of the two Russian officials involved in this very serious affair.”

No other detail about the kind of documents the Italian officer passed to the Russians has been released, however, later on Wednesday, some more details about Captain Walter Biot have been unveiled by the Corriere della Sera newspaper. According to the Italian media outlet, he had the role of assigning a security level to the documents of the Defense Staff. All confidential and classified documents passed through his office, including those from NATO. To Russia, Biot could therefore have sold papers on planning international missions, including crisis support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some analysts said that the documents the Italian officer was trying to give the Russians were not so important considered the relatively small sum of money (5,000 Euro = 5,860 USD) paid for them; however, it is unclear how the money were transferred and the sum might have been low so that it could be more easily hidden.

While we don’t really know what documents the Russians were looking for, the episode is quite remarkable as it proves Moscow is still quite active in NATO countries, including Italy, that is one of those nations with the best diplomatic ties with Russia and where most of people and some political forces do not see Russia as an “enemy”. Maybe this “friendly” scenario even favored the spy affair.. Whatever, it’s clear that we are living a new Cold War, with Russia actively spying on Italy and other NATO nations; a “Cold War 2.0” that along with “traditional” spies, HUMINT (Human Intelligence), is also waged in the air, with flights of bombers, fighters and spyplanes along the borders of NATO airspace as we reported yesterday.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italian Navy Officer Arrested Over Alleged Spying For Russia. Two Russian Diplomats Expelled From Italy
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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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Sea Trials Successfully Completed: Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier Achieves F-35B Airworthiness Certification
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.

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

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

51 - Sea Trials Successfully Completed: Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier Achieves F-35B Airworthiness Certification
An interesting image of an Italian Navy NH-90 helicopter flying close to ITS Cavour. 

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Sea Trials Successfully Completed: Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier Achieves F-35B Airworthiness Certification
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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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier Cavour
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.

Primo appontaggio F35 LCH 30 - Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier Cavour
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.

f35 MC 7 - Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier Cavour
One of the two F-35Bs about to perform a vertical landing aboard Cavour. (Italian Navy)
f35 MC 5 - Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier Cavour
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.

Highlight markings - Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier Cavour
The F-35B with the special marking on the right hand tail. (Image credit: Italian Navy / edit: The Aviationist)

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Here Are The First Photos Of The US F-35B (With Special Tail Marking) Operating Aboard Italy’s Aircraft Carrier 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.

Watch This: Italian Cavour Aircraft Carrier Passes Through A Narrow Canal To Leave Taranto Maritime Military Arsenal

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Watch This: Italian Cavour Aircraft Carrier Passes Through A Narrow Canal To Leave Taranto Maritime Military Arsenal
A screenshot of the video showing the Cavour leaving the Arsenal.

Early in the morning on May 6, 2020, the Italian Navy Cavour aircraft carrier left the Arsenale Militare Marittimo (Maritime Military Arsenal) of Taranto, Italy.

The 27,000-ton ship had entered the Arsenal in December 2018. On Jul. 6, 2019, the ship entered the Arsenal’s “Edgardo Ferrati” drydock to start the maintenance and modernization works required to accommodate and operate the F-35B Lightning II aircraft: it was the largest ship to enter the drydock since WWII. The aircraft carrier left the drydock in November 2019, after completing the careening works started on Jul. 20, 2019, but remained in the basin for the works required to integrate the new stealth jet: part of the works focused on the flight deck to prepare it to the severe thermo-mechanical impact of the F-35’s engine exhaust plumes on the non-skid surface and structure of ship.

The Cavour has left the Arsenal after about 90 percent of the overhaul activities have been completed: the rest of the “restyling” will be carried out in the  “Mar Grande” naval station. The Arsenal is located in the Mar Piccolo Basin, an inner, semi-enclosed basin with lagoon features divided by two rocky promontories into two inlets, called First Inlet (Primo Seno) and Second Inlet (Secondo Seno). The ship-yard of the Italian Navy with its dry-docks is located in the First Inlet of the Basin. The Mar Piccolo is connected to the Mar Grande through two channels, one of those is the Navigabile channel that ships use to enter or exit the Arsenal.

The pass through the Navigabile channel was filmed by several people who shared some really awesome clips across social media. Among all the footage available, the videos below, we received from Raffaele Fusilli, are particularly interesting as they give a clear idea of the size of the ship as she crosses the tight canal:

Here are some other videos posted to Youtube:

Once the modernization works are completed, the Italian aircraft carrier will undertake a preparatory training before sailing to the U.S. where the ship will conduct trials with the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter on board. The Italian Navy received its first two jets in 2018 and 2019. These were transferred to MCAS Beaufort, home of the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

The trials represent one of the steps required to achieve the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) of the aircraft carrier with the new jet.

For a more detailed breakdown of the Italian Navy F-35B program you can find more details in this article, published here at The Aviationist in February. Here’s an excerpt:

The Italian Government is currently procuring 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 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. It is not completely clear, however, where the F-35s will be land-based.

The Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati “Wolves”, 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.

[…]

Whatever, the Cavour is almost ready to receive the F-35B and its air group.


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