The Cavour left the Maritime Military Arsenal in Italy’s southern city of Taranto on Wednesday morning after months of upgrades designed to ready the warship for operating the F-35B Lightning II stealth aircraft.
Videos shared on social media showed the 27,000-ton carrier carefully transiting the canal between the Mare Piccolo lagoon, where the arsenal is located, and the wider Ionian Sea.
I’ve just received from a friend this awesome clip of the Italian Cavour aircraft carrier leaving the Maritime Military Arsenal of Taranto this morning after about 10 months of works. F-35B integration tests next. pic.twitter.com/Ts24d4RANX— David Cenciotti (@cencio4) May 6, 2020
The Cavour entered drydock in July 2019 and left it in November, but remained in the Mare Piccolo basin while the final work was done. Naval News reported the upgrades included a reinforced flight deck to handle the stress of direct thrust from the engines of the F-35B, which is capable of temporarily pointing its thrusters downward in order to take off and land vertically.
According to The Aviationist, the Cavour was the largest ship to enter the arsenal’s drydock since World War II, when Italy’s sizable navy fielded several large battleships.
A NATO ally, Rome has committed to buying at least 90 of the Lockheed Martin warplanes for its air force and navy. Production of the stealthy jets at the Leonardo final assembly and checkout facility and Pratt & Whitney engine plant in a Milan suburb was put on hold in March as one of the world’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 hit Italy.
Italy’s navy has two aircraft carriers: the larger Cavour, named for the Count of Cavour, and a smaller carrier named after Giuseppe Garibaldi - the two 19th century statesmen credited with unifying Italy into a single country.