ROME — The Italian Navy aircraft carrier Cavour will receive its first F-35B this month after the vessel started certification work in the U.S. earlier this year to host the aircraft.
The fighter jet is undergoing final checks at the Cameri air base in Italy, home to the country’s F-35 final assembly and checkout facility, which is due to turn out 90 F-35s for Italy, including 30 F-35Bs.
“The test flights have been completed, so within a few days [the aircraft] will be available for the Navy to collect and it will [be] delivered directly to the Cavour,” said Rear Adm. Dino Torresi, the head of the Navy’s air operations.
The Navy previously took delivery of two other F-35Bs, which were sent to the U.S. to join a training program for pilots and technical personnel. The new delivery makes it three out of a final order of 15 aircraft for the Navy. The “B” variant can land vertically and take off on short runways.
Meanwhile, the Cavour undertook certification work in the U.S. this year including sea trials with American jets.
“The Cavour has done a series of activities of certification in the U.S., and this will be completed with an Italian aircraft. Until we base an Italian aircraft on the Cavour, we cannot complete this phase,” Torresi said.
“Now the job is to train the personnel on the ship and flight personnel,” he added. “That is the carrier qualification phase.”
Pilots and technicians who trained in the U.S. are now back in Italy to await the jet’s arrival, he said.
The two jets now in the U.S. will stay there until 2024 to continue training more Italian pilots before they are sent to the Cavour, which at that time will declare initial operating capability for the jets, Torresi explained.
The Italian Air Force, which is also expecting 15 F-35Bs and 60 F-35As, has so far received just one “B” model, but Torresi said the next one coming off the Cameri line will go to the Air Force. Then the next F-35B delivered will go to the Navy, giving it a total of four jets.
“That will be in 2022. It was meant to be this year, but everything has slipped due to coronavirus,” Torresi said.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.