With the end of the PIA – Pooling Implementing Arrangement – signed in 2018 by Italian Ministry of Defence and the US Marine Corps and the return flight with subsequent landing on the aircraft carrier Cavour of the first two F-35Bs delivered to the Italian Navy (reg. MM7451, MM7452, code 4-01 and 4-02), another significant page has been written for the Italian Armed Forces and for the almost 110-year history of Naval Aviation and the collaboration, uninterrupted for more than 30 years, between the men and women of the Navy and the aeronautical component of the United States Marine Corps.
During the ceremony held last 29 November, at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort (South Carolina – USA), in the presence of the Commander of the Navy Air Forces, Rear Admiral Marco Casapieri and the Commanders of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 31 and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501, the numerous activities, lasting five years, that took place within the PIA were ideally retraced, enabling the training of the first significant contingent of pilots and technicians destined to operate the 5th generation F-35B aircraft.
At the end of the ceremony, the Marine Corps also wished to decorate a ‘wolf’, as the pilots of the Group of Embarked Aircraft (GRUPAER) are called, with the ‘Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal’ for their activities and brilliant achievements during more than three years assigned to VMFAT 501.
The successful transfer flight from Beaufort to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Cavour, including a technical stopover at Lajes airport (Azores Archipelago), was the result of close inter-force cooperation and coordination between the Navy and the Air Force.
In fact, the Atlantic crossing was supported by a KC-767A refuelling aircraft from the 14th Air Force Wing, which responded to logistical transport and in-flight refuelling needs (more than 20 refuellings were carried out), by a C-130J aircraft from the 46th Pisa Air Brigade and by a P-72A from the 41st Sigonella Wing, which ensured Search and Rescue (SAR) activities during the transfer route. The security framework of the personnel and aircraft was ensured by a team of riflemen from the 3rd Regiment of the San Marco Marine Brigade.
During the phases preceding the docking on the Navy’s flagship, which took place on 16 December, the two F-35Bs returning from the USA were escorted by a formation of AV-8B+ aircraft, testifying to the important transition process underway between the 4th and 5th generation of jet aircraft that the Navy is undergoing.
With the return of the two aircraft from the USA and with the imminent delivery of the fourth aircraft to the Italian Navy, the Naval Aviation continues on the road towards achieving Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in the deployment of the 5th generation aircraft from the aircraft carrier Cavour by 2024, which represents the highest expression of expeditionary sea-based capability (the ability to autonomously project the national military instrument in very distant areas to protect national interests and the Alliance’s collective security).
Leave a Reply