The United Kingdom Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and Italian carrier ITS Cavour (CVH550) on Monday performed a cross-decking and integration exercise of their embarked F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters south east of Sicily in the Mediterranean, making Italy the second nation after the United States to operate the aircraft off the U.K. warship.
The exercise had three phases. The first phase saw two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs from the “Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 from Queen Elizabeth landing on the Cavour. This was followed by an Italian Navy F-35B and an Italian Air Force F-35B from Cavour landing on Queen Elizabeth. The third phase saw F-35Bs taking off from the two carriers and flying interoperability flights, along with a joint flight formation of four F-35Bs, one each from the U.S. Marines, the U.K. Royal Navy, Italian Navy and Italian Air Force. The U.K Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” embarked on Queen Elizabeth is a composite squadron of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel, though organizationally it is an RAF squadron.