On July 19, Fincantieri has been awarded a €74 million contract by the Italian Ministry of Defense to start the adaptative works for the use of the F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing) Lightning II aircraft onboard the STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) aircraft carrier CV Cavour. Works will end in late 2019. The first landing of the aircraft carrier is planned for 2020.

Italy has planned to acquire in total 90 F-35 aircraft (60 F-35A and 30 F-35B). Concerning the Marina Militare, the F-35B aircrafts aim at replacing aging AV8B+ Harriers.

The Cavour’s hangar capacity is for 8 AV-8B+/ F-35B Joint Strike Fighter or 12 EH-101/NH90.

This contract comes shortly after Italy received its first F-35B in late January 2018. The Italian F-35B, which is for the Italian Navy, is the first F-35B assembled aircraft outside the United States within the Cameri site (Novara, Italy). Since December 2015, nine F-35A have already been made and delivered for the Italian Air Force. Four of them are based for training purposes in the US Air Force Base of Luke (Arizona) and the remaining five are operated on the Italian Air Force base of Amendola.

The Italian F-35B has since been tested in the USA at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River (Maryland) for the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification (electromagnetic compatibility), and then being used in the US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (South Carolina) where the Pilot Training Center for the USMC is. The next two Italian F-35B aircrafts will join the first aircraft later on.

On board the CV Cavour, F-35B aircrafts will be in charge of doing the following missions:

  • AI (Air Interdiction),
  • APCLO (Air Power Contribution to Land Operations),
  • APCMO (Air Power Contribution to Maritime Operations),
  • CAS (Close Air Support),
  • COMAO (Composite Air Operations)
  • DCA (Defensive Counter Air),
  • OCA (Offensive Counter Air).

By 2023, Italian F-35B aircrafts will have progressively replaced AV8B+ Harriers on board the Cavour aircraft carrier.

The FACO (Final Assembly and Checkout), operated by Leonardo, is responsible for the manufacturing of Italian F-35 aircrafts. Besides Italian orders, the facility will be also in charge of the manufacturing of 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The production process for the Netherlands has already started.

The partnership between Lockheed Martin and Leonardo is at high stake for Italy: 27 Italian companies have been directly contracted by Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman while more than 70 others companies are sub-suppliers. In addition, Leonardo is responsible for the wings manufacturing for F-35 partner and Foreign Military Sales nations. The FACO in Italy will be, as well, the European Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade Center of Excellence.


Written by Benjamin Voisin (Finance Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence

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