The Naval News website reports that the Italian Navy flagship, the aircraft carrier Cavour (C550), is set to reach Naval Station Norfolk next month to begin F-35B STOVL qualifications with the United States Marine Corps.
The Cavour left the Arsenale Militare Marittimo (Maritime Military Arsenal) of Taranto in May 2020 after 16 months refit and upgrade period to operate F-35B Joint Strike Fighters. The carrier entered into the Maritime Military Arsenal on 18 december 2018 and the works started at the end of July 2019.
Captain Gianfranco Vizzini, Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC, during the Surface Navy Association (SNA) 2021 virtual Symposium added that for the following six weeks (after its arrival in the United States), ITS Cavour will be trained by a USMC detachment that will be embarked, to become an aircraft carrier qualified with the F-35B.
The the first Italian F-35B will land on the Cavour once the carrier is back in Mediterranean waters.
To replace the AV-8B Harrier IIs, the Italian Government has ordered 15 F-35B STOVL. According to the reports, Cavour will have room for ten F-35Bs in the hangar, and six more parked on deck. Currently, the vessel carries 10 AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and can support only fixed-wing V/STOL and helicopter air operations.