On May 6th, the flagship of the Italian Navy, the light aircraft carrier Cavour 550 left the Taranto naval base for sea trials after modernization work. The modernization work began back in December 2018.
It is reported that after going to sea, the ship’s crew should begin preparations for deployment off the US east coast, where tests will be made for landing and taking off from the aircraft carrier of F-35B fighter jets. In addition to the conventional take-off and landing version of the F-35A fighter jets, Italy purchased 30 F-35B fighters for the Navy.
A number of aircraft with a shortened take-off and vertical landing will replace the obsolete AV-8B Harrier carrier-based attack aircraft as part of the aircraft carrier’s wing. The Italian Navy received its first F-35B in January 2018. The work on board the Cavour aircraft carrier involved both navy specialists and representatives of defense contractors Fincantieri and the Leonardo group.
The Cavour aircraft carrier will face a preparatory training period for the next departure for the United States in the summer, where it will conduct some tests with the F-35B aircraft on board. These activities will represent the first important steps for achieving the Initial Operational Capacity of the aircraft carrier with its renewed Italian Navy Aviation capability.
The Cavour 550 was laid down by Fincantieri in June 2001, and was launched from the Riva Trigoso shipyard in Sestri Levante, on July 20th 2004. Sea trials began in December 2006, and she was officially commissioned March 27th 2008. Full operational capability (FOC) was reached June 10th 2009.
It has the following characteristics:
- Displacement: 27,100 metric tons (30,000 MT full load);
- Length: 244 m;
- Beam:1 m, 39 m moulded breadth;
- Draught:7 m;
- Propulsion: COGAG (Combined Gas Turbine and Gas Turbine) scheme, 2 shafts, 4 General Electric/Avio LM2500+ gas turbines providing 88,000 kW, 6 diesel generators Wärtsila CW 12V200 13,200 kW;
- Speed: 29 knots;
- Range: 7,000 nautical miles at 16 knots;
- Complement: 1,202 (optional 90 more), out of which 5 flag officers, 486 crew, 211 embarked air wing, 140 C4 staff, 360 troops;
Sensors and processing systems:
- Selex RAN-40L 3D L-band long-range radar
- Selex ES EMPAR (SPY-790) multifunction radar
- Selex ES RAN-30X/I RASS (SPS-791) surface radar
- 2 SELEX ES RTN-25X Orion, fire direction radars
- PAR (Precision Approach Radar) Selex ES MM/SPN-720
- PALS (Precision Approach and Landing System) Telephonics AN/SPN-41A
- 2 GEM Elettronica MM/SPN-753(v)10 navigation radars
- Selex ES SIR-R/S IFF system
- TACAN SRN-15 A
- -WASS SNA-2000 Mine Avoidance Sonar (Leonardo Thesan)
- 2 Selex ES IRST SASS (Silent Acquisition and Surveillance System)
- GEM Elettronica IRST EOSS-100
Electronic warfare & decoys:
- Elettronica Spa NETTUNO-4100 ECM System
- EW System (RESM/CESM, RECM)
- 4 × 8-cell A-43 Sylver launchers carrying the MBDA Aster 15 surface-to-air missile
- 2 × Oto Melara 76/62 mm Strales guns
- 3 × Oerlikon Contraves 25/80 mm Anti-aircraft guns
- 2 x ODLS-H/ODLS OTO Melara decoy launching systems
It has an aircraft deck and hangar that can hold between 20 and 30 aircraft, and it would reportedly be able to hold 10 F-35B fighter jets in its hangar, and 6 more parked on deck.