Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The aircraft carrier ITS Cavour of Italian Navy arrived in Virginia for trials leading to certification to safely land and launch F-35B fighter planes.
The Italian ship, 800 feet long and carrying over 1,200 officers, crew and an aircraft flight wing, arrived at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Saturday to start the trials, according to the U.S. Navy.
Cavour will be embarked by test team of the F-35 Joint Program Office, a U.S. Defense Department agency, to conduct sea trials and functional activities to create a safe flight operating envelope, the U.S. 2nd Fleet said in a statement.
Italy has ordered 30 F-35Bs, the short takeoff and vertical landing variant used by the U.S. Marine Corps, to be equally divided between its navy and air force.
The Italian ship is officially hosted at Norfolk by the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, which is coordinating refueling, diving operations and other pierside services, U.S. officials said.
While traversing the Atlantic Ocean last week, the aircraft carrier was met by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, as well as the U.S. Navy's Carrier Air Wing 7 and Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11, for a three-day interoperability exercise.
The exercise included integrated ship maneuvering, low-slow-flyer anti-surface warfare trials with the involvement of P-8 surveillance aircraft, an air defense/air intercept control event with F/A-18s and C5I, or Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber and Intelligence, exercises.
"We are deeply grateful for the warm welcome received by the U.S. Navy 2nd Fleet upon our arrival in the Western Atlantic waters," Capt. Giancarlo Ciappina, commanding officer of ITS Cavour, said in a press release.
"My officers and the whole crew were impressed for the professionalism and seamanship shown during these three days of training by the crews of USS Stout, CVW 7 and CPRW 11," Ciappina said.
Prior to departure from Italy, the ITS Cavour was visited by Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini.
"This is for certain a technical and operational activity, but it has important effects for the defense and the country on the strategic military plan in the international scenario," Guerini said.
"In fact, Italy will be one of the few countries the world over, with the United States, [Britain] and Japan, to include within its capabilities a carrier equipped with 5th generation fighter aircraft [the F-35 series]," he said.