Navy F-35B stealth aircraft begin sea trials aboard Italian Navy aircraft carrier

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The F-35 Joint Program Office has announced that two F-35B Lightning II stealth aircraft begin sea trials aboard Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550).

Test pilots flew the specially instrumented U.S. F-35Bs from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland, to the Italian Navy flagship, which got underway Sunday, February 28.

The Lockheed Martin’s F-35B is the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the F-35.


The pilots and aircraft join a test team of approximately 180 personnel from the NAS Pax River-based F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) embarked for up to four weeks of sea trials.

“Our team has trained extensively to prepare for this day, and I was honored to land one of the first two jets aboard Cavour,” said F-35B test pilot U.S. Marine Maj. Brad Leeman, the ITF test team project officer.

Maj. Leeman and two other pilots attached to the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) at NAS Pax River, will fly the ITF jets during the flight test.

“The ITF plays a key role in the ship achieving carrier qualification in the near future,” Leeman said. “All of our hard work planning and training will ensure a successful sea trial and ultimately lead to Italy achieving the milestone of initial operating capability.”

Today’s milestone, or pietra miliare, was the landing of the F-35Bs aboard Cavour.

“It is a remarkable achievement for all of us, today, to see the fifth-generation fighter aircraft on our flight deck,” said ITS Cavour Commanding Officer Italian Navy Capt. Giancarlo Ciappina. “This represents, indeed, an outstanding success but, at the same time, a new challenge for the future of Italian Naval Aviation.”

“Each and every officer and the whole crew are very proud to work closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office test team during these sea trials, and we are very well prepared to do the hard work to equip ITS Cavour and the Italian Navy with the Joint Strike Fighter’s fifth-generation air combat capability,” Ciappina said.

With the pilots and jets on board, the test team will now collect data that will ultimately lead to the ship’s officers’ and crew’s ability to safely conduct carrier operations with Italy’s own F-35s.

“We are excited to be underway with the crew of Cavour and honored to contribute to the aircraft carrier achieving the Italian Navy’s strategic goal of it being ‘Ready for Operations,’” said Andrew Maack, F-35 Pax River ITF chief test engineer and site director. Maack is embarked with the team, whose members have the engineering and test pilot expertise and experience to conduct F-35B envelope expansion flight test. “We look forward to a phenomenally successful shipboard detachment,” he said.

 

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With her departure on the morning of February 28th from the base of the US Navy's Second Fleet in Norfolk, the aircraft carrier ITS Cavour began the "hot" phase of the "Ready for Operations" campaign. The first landing of an F-35B aircraft on the deck of the Italian Navy's aircraft carrier Cavour represents an important milestone in the integration phase with the fifth generation aircraft.

The purpose of the Sea Trials, which will continue in the Atlantic Ocean for a further four weeks, is to achieve the certification of the operational envelope of Cavour’s flight deck. Following this, it will be time to verify the impact of the fifth generation aircraft on the ship in various conditions of wind and sea when taking off and landing in order to achieve the "Ready for Operation" certification.

"It is a remarkable achievement for all of us today, to see the 5th generation fighter aircraft on our flight deck", said ITS Cavour’s Commanding Officer Captain Giancarlo Ciappina.
"This indeed represents an outstanding success but, at the same time, a new challenge for the future of Italian Naval Aviation. Each and every officer and the whole crew are very proud to work closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office test team during these sea trials, and we are very well prepared to do the hard work to equip ITS Cavour and the Italian Navy with the Joint Strike Fighter’s 5th generation air combat capability".

During the stopover in Norfolk prior to the Sea Trials, the 580 members of the aircraft carrier’s crew were joined by further Italian personnel, trained at the US Marine Corps base in Beaufort to operate the aircraft, as well as US personnel from the Integrated Test Force (ITF) team who are fundamental in the integration phase.

"Our team has trained extensively to prepare for this day, and I was honoured to land the first jet aboard Cavour," said F-35B test pilot U.S. Marines Maj. Brad Leeman. Leeman is the ITF test team project officer. He and two other pilots attached to the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, will fly the ITF jets during the test flights. "The ITF plays a key role in the ship achieving carrier qualification in the near future.  All of our hard work planning and training will ensure a successful Sea Trial and ultimately lead to Italy achieving the milestone of Initial Operating Capability," Leeman said.

After demonstrating safe launch and recovery of the aircraft, ITS Cavour will be declared "Ready for Operations", which will allow her to start tests with the F-35B that will lead to the achievement of the "Initial Operational Capability" (IOC) by 2024. The process will be complete with the declaration of the "Final Operational Capability" after the delivery of the last aircraft of the program.
 

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