Two F-35B Lighting II joint strike fighters (JSFs) are undergoing sea trials aboard the Italian Navy aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550).

The specially instrumented US F-35Bs were flown by the test pilots from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland, to the Italian Navy flagship carrier on 28 February.

The F-35 Lightning II is a stealthy, supersonic multirole fighter developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company for the US Air Force (USAF), navy and Marine Corps and programme partners from the Nato and US allies.

It is the ‘short take-off and vertical landing variant’ of the F-35.

The test team comprises of approximately 180 staff from the NAS Pax River-based F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF). Sea trials are planned to take place for up to four weeks.

ITS Cavour commanding officer Italian Navy captain Giancarlo Ciappina said: “It is a remarkable achievement for all of us, today, to see the fifth-generation fighter aircraft on our flight deck.

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“This represents, indeed, an outstanding success but, at the same time, a new challenge for the future of Italian Naval Aviation.”

Major Leeman and two other pilots associated with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) at NAS Pax River, will fly the F-35 jets during the flight tests.

Ciappina added: “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.”