Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour is back in the water after docking for an extensive overhaul that will allow it to operate the fifth-generation short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B fighter jets.
The carrier started the dry-docking overhaul at the Taranto navy yard in July this year. Preparations for the undertaking started in December 2018.
One of the most important parts of the upgrade was the application of a special thermion coating that would allow the carrier’s deck to handle the thermodynamic impacts of F-35B operations.
Once further outfitting is completed by the spring of 2020, the 244-meter ITS Cavour will start preparations for a summer deployment to the US East Coast and shipboard trials with the STOVL variant of the Joint Strike Fighter.
In addition to the F-35A version, Italy is procuring a total of 30 F-35Bs for its air force and navy. A number of STOVL variant aircraft will fly from the flight deck of ITS Cavour, replacing the ageing AV-8B Harrier aircraft.
Once the ship is cleared for F-35B operations, the Italian Navy will join the US and the UK Royal Navy as the third navy worldwide capable of operating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Japan is expected to follow suit after it completes the process of turning its two 248-meter Izumo-class helicopter destroyers into platforms capable of operating STOVL jets. Additionally, South Korea is joining the trend after one of the country’s major shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries, was awarded a contract earlier this year to design a next-generation amphibious assault ship (LPX-II) for the Republic of Korea Navy that would be capable of supporting STOVL jet operations.