The Italians have been key players in the F-35 program.
They build the aircraft in Italy and their Air Force is buying both the A and B models.
In an interview conducted during a visit to Rome in 2013, the then head of the Italian Air Force, Lt General Preziosa, highlighted why he saw the Air Force buying Bs:
“We studied the issue carefully and for the kind of missions we face we needed the flexibility which the B can add to the fleet. We need to go to the mission not the airfield. We will operate in many areas where there are only short runways; the B allows us to operate in those conditions.
We can mix the fleet and operate at sea on land, on our own ships or own others. It is the kind of flexibility, which we see as crucial to a 21st century setting.
I will give you an example of what we don’t want. We planned to operate with the USMC in Afghanistan. But we were three months later in the deployment than we intended because our Tornados could not operate in the same conditions as the USMC. We had to take three months to build out the air base from which we would operate with them.
Time is crucial to many of the missions in which we will be engaged. The Bs give me a more rapid insertion aircraft.”
The B has come to the Italian Navy’s ITS Cavour as it is finishing up its training and certification missions off of the East Coast of the United States.
The B could provide a powerful integrating capability between the Italian Navy and Air Force but cultural barriers remain which need to be dealt with.
In addition to completing its F-35B integration, the ITS Cavour welcomed MV-22Bs onboard their deck as part of training and certification as well.
As David Cenciotti of The Aviationist put it in an article published April 13, 2021:
The Italian Navy has recently declared the successful completion of the “sea trials” for the operational use of the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that will replace the service’s AV-8B+ Harrier II jet.
The “Ready for Operation” campaign included various compatibility tests carried out with two specially-instrumented U.S. F-35Bs belonging to VX-23 (Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23) from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River), Maryland. The “sea trials” lasted four weeks and ended on Mar. 26, 2021, with the return of the carrier to Norfolk.
Interestingly, the Italian Navy’s flagship was also involved in take-off and landing training with a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft…. The interoperability between the platform and the Italian Navy’s flagship is needed to “increase interoperability between the USMC and the Italian Navy, and increase the operational reach of Naval forces for crisis or contingency response or in the event of conflict.”
A tweet from the Italian Navy commented: “This verified the flight deck with the American tactical transport aircraft as part of the Ready for Operations Campaign in the USA, aimed at expanding and strengthening the interoperability and the historic cooperation between the Italy Navy and the USMC.”