Italy's Aircraft Carrier Will Soon Train with Japan on F-35 Fighters

Cavour Aircraft Carrier Italy
June 3, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ItalyJapanF-35BMilitaryDefenseAircraft Carrier

Italy's Aircraft Carrier Will Soon Train with Japan on F-35 Fighters

The Italian Navy's flagship aircraft carrier, ITS Cavour, has departed for its first Indo-Pacific deployment, including visits to Australia and Japan.


Summary: The Italian Navy's flagship aircraft carrier, ITS Cavour, has departed for its first Indo-Pacific deployment, including visits to Australia and Japan.

-It marks the first port call by the Italian flagship to Japan. The deployment will involve joint training exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) on operating the F-35B Lightning II fighters.


-Italy's carrier has three F-35Bs, with more expected to join.

-The JMSDF is also preparing its Izumo-class ships for F-35B operations, enhancing Japan's naval capabilities against China's expansion.

Italian Flagship Carrier Training With F-35s in Japan

Italy and Japan were allied in both world wars, and today remain key partners. That fact was on display on Saturday as the Italian Navy's flagship aircraft carrier ITS Cavour departed her home port of Taranto in southern Italy for her first deployment to the Indo-Pacific. The flattop, which was commissioned in 2008 and can carry a dozen rotary aircraft or eight fixed-wing fighters, is scheduled to visit Australia and then will head to Japan in August.

It will mark the first-ever port call by the Italian flagship to Japan, and the most recent deployment of a European aircraft carrier to the region, following those of the UK and France.

Last July, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) announced that it would conduct training exercises with the Italian Navy on the operation of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting II, the short/vertical takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Italian Navy currently operates the fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter.

In early 2021, the Italian carrier took part in training exercises with the United States Navy from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland. Italy is a Level II partner on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, with the Italian Air Force first taking delivery of the Lightning II in 2016, while the Italian Navy received its first F-35Bs in 2020. The Italian sea service has three of a planned 15 now in service, and it is likely all of those aircraft will accompany ITS Cavour on her Indo-Pacific deployment.

Moreover, while in the waters of Japan, it is likely the flight deck could get a bit more crowded. The JMSDF currently expects to receive its first batch of F-35Bs this year, in advance of carrier operations.


Joint Carrier Operations Helping Both Nations

Both Tokyo and Rome will likely welcome any joint operations involving the F-35B. The Italian would likely see how its carrier can operate with additional aircraft from the flight deck of its flagship, while the JMSDF is seeing its two Izumo-class helicopters being converted to true aircraft carriers that can operate the Lightning II.

Both JS Izumo and JS Kaga have been undergoing major modifications that will allow the 800-foot (248-meter) long vessels to become the first carriers operated by the island nation since the Second World War. In August 2013, Japanese officials announced that the two helicopter destroyers would be modified for use in national defense – notably to confront China's naval expansion in the Indo-Pacific.


As previously reported, the Japanese military confirmed that the Izumo-class was designed with the possibility of operating such fixed-wing aircraft. Yet, that fact was not made public as Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which was adopted after World War II, prohibited Japan from possessing offensive military weapons including aircraft carriers.

Japan is now turning to an old and faithful ally to help it prepare for carrier operations again.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].