The aircraft carrier Cavour received today, March 26, 2021, has completed sea trials for the operational use of the 5th generation STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft of the 35th generation F-8B, replacing the current V / STOL (Vertical / Short Take Off Landing) AV-XNUMXB Harrier II Plus.
The compatibility tests lasted four weeks, starting with the departure from Norfolk on February 28th and with the first landing of an F-35B on March 1st. During the sea trials, the two F-35Bs of the Pax River ITF (Integrated Test Force) - a group of 180 people including engineers, researchers, test pilots, technicians and bridge operators aboard the Cavour - carried out over 50 missions on board flight, in different weather conditions and sea conditions, a night session, about 120 vertical landings and as many short take-offs with the help of the ski jump, and single vertical take-off tests.
This is a milestone in the process of acquiring the strategic capacity of use of the new aircraft, which will be followed, by the end of 2024, by the Initial Operational Capability and subsequently the ending Operational Capability which will coincide with the delivery of the last F-35B (15 machines in all) to the Italian Navy as scheduled by the program.
Just to optimize the performance of the new fighter, the aircraft carrier Cavour, presents one ski jump with an angle of 12 ° in order to allow optimal exploitation of the characteristics of STOVL aircraft.
Il Cavour is a flexible naval platform, capable of carrying out a wide range of missions (support for amphibious operations, prevention of international crises, defense of maritime trade routes).
The four LM-2500 turbines develop 120.000 hp, this is the most powerful propulsion system, non-nuclear, installed on a military ship: with all four turbines in operation, the Cavour it can reach the speed of 30 knots.
Once the validation of the new F-35B fighters is completed, the main weapon system of the Cavour it will be its air component, including helicopters (SH-90 and SH-101), capable of operating both in ASuW and ASW function.
As for the defense systems, the aircraft carrier is equipped with two Leonardo cannons Super Quick 76/62 mm (capable of firing ammunition intelligent DART) and 32 cells Sylver A43 for short-range (30 km) surface-to-air missiles Aster-15.
In the case of support to amphibious operations, all types of vehicles supplied to the Projection Force from the Sea can be embarked, including the new heavy busways. Centaur II.
With six take-off / landing spots on the flight deck, the Cavour is able to transport two navy rifle companies to the ground in a short time.
The only perplexity concerns the number of F-35Bs that will be available to the group on board, which would normally be 10 aircraft (plus 12 helicopters). However, the total number of machines available to the Navy will result in an operational yield not exceeding 8/9 aircraft at a time, with little possibility of being able to embark, if necessary, even a small number of F-35Bs on the LHD. Trieste, to support an amphibious operation.