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An Italian aircraft carrier is coming under NATO command for the first time

ITS Cavour under NATO command
Italian Navy photo of ITS Cavour with F-35B and AV-8B Harriers on its flight deck

Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour will be commanded by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) for the first time ever as part of exercise Neptune Shield.

The exercise is taking place between May 17 and 31, and includes activities in the Baltic, Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas.

“Neptune Shield is a great opportunity to integrate an Italian carrier strike group into alliance operations,” said, Rear Adm. James Morley, deputy commander, STRIKFORNATO. “This removes artificial seams between the maritime and air domains, and exposes tactical operators to the power of the multinational network training as we would fight – as a simple team.”

ITS Cavour will not be the only aircraft carrier that will be under the batton of STRIKFORNATO, as the US Navy’s USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group (CSG) and the Combined Task Force 61/2, which includes the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), and the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), are also under the command of NATO.

This is the second time this year USS Harry S. Truman has come under NATO’s command umbrella as the alliance continues to test its ability to integrate the high-end maritime warfare capabilities of a carrier strike group to support the defense of the alliance.

The Cavour CSG was part of the same Neptune Strike vigilance activity that took place in the Adriatic Sea, and involved missions at sea and in the air across most of Europe, supporting both Allied Joint Force Command Naples and Brunssum.

Italy’s Cavour operates an embarked air wing with AV-8B Harrier and F-35B short take-off and vertical landing fighter aircraft provided by both Italian Navy and Air Force under tactical command of the CSG.

On May 13, STRIKFORNATO served as NATO Headquarters during the Italian Navy exercise Mare Aperto 22-1, involving the Cavour CSG. The CSG units trained on NATO procedures, communications and policy in order to better prepare the ships, aircraft and staff for future NATO activities.

This exercise allowed the ITS Cavour to utilize NATO systems and structure to train and rehearse working within the greater NATO alliance. It also provided important training for the STRIKFORNATO staff in their interaction with allied nations’ CSGs in high-end training scenarios across the spectrum of crisis.