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AV-8B 'Plus' Harrier II

The AV-8B 'Plus', also called the Harrier II is a single-seater all-weather fighter subsonic, directed evolution of VSTOL British Aerospace products under license from Boeing, provided among other things, an allocation of the most advanced avionics. The Navy uses the Harrier II Plus primarily as an interceptor for air defense of the fleet, with a secondary attack.

The Italian version is armed with a 25mm cannon with a budget of 300 shots arranged in a pod in ventral position, with medium-range missiles AMRAAM radar-guided missiles and AIM-9L Sidewinder IR-guided close to signings. It 'also equipped with a radar multimode capable of ensuring in defense missions the engagement of targets in all dimensions and, in tactical missions, the terrain mapping and the identification of the target even in adverse weather conditions.

In 2009, aircraft carrier Garibaldi was replaced by ITS Cavour, the first unit of the Italian Navy to be classified as aircraft carrier (CV) from start. According to the Italian Navy', new operational activities require a "dual use" unit like the Cavour. This ship features high Command and Control skills, to carry out different tasks within the broad range of operations in charge of the Defense General Staff, including peacekeeping and disaster relief operations.

This aircraft carrier can operate 8 AV-8B Harrier II or JSF. She can also operate utility, anti-submarine and airborne surveillance helicopters including 12 EH-101, (fitted also for NH-90 and SH-3D). ITS Cavour can accommodate heavy transport helicopters. A typical air group would be a mix of 20 - 24 V/STOL Harriers and helicopters. The Cavour is fitted with a sky-jump ramp; the runway for takeoff is 183 m. long. The flight deck features 6 helicopter take off spots, plus one spot for SAR. This vessel allows flight operations up to a sea state 6.

Considering her features, one can describe ITS Cavour as a fourfold ship: in fact she can be an aircraft carrier, an amphibious and logistics platform, a command and control unit, and a hospital ship.

Part of ITN Naval Squadron, ITN Air Forces report to the Air Force Command (COMFORAER). Like other Operational Commands, the Air Force Command reports to the Command-in-Chief of the Naval Squadron (CINCNAV). The Command is led by an Admiral who is also Chief of the 6th Airborne Division of ITN General Staff. Comprised of around 2000 men and women and 69 aircraft and helicopters, ITN aviation represents a top niche and an enabler for the air-naval instrument.

Naval Aviation is engaged in a wide range of operations: ASW, ASuW, anti-piracy operations, missions carried out with Amphibious and Elite Forces, as well as interdiction and non-combatant evacuation operations. In line with the Italian Navy multi-role capability, helicopters are deployed to support the Italian Civil Protection Department in relief operations, the Italian Alpine and Speleological Corps in mountain regions, the Forest Wildfire Fighting Campaign, SAR and MEDEVAC operations.

The major challenge ahead for the air forces of the Navy is the renewal of line aerotattica embarked on the aircraft carrier Cavour, with the gradual replacement of AV8B PLUS with the JSF version (F-35B) short takeoff and vertical appontaggio (STOVL - Short Take Off and Vertical Landing), in order to acquire the initial capacity of operational use with the new aircraft presumably in 2023. The F-35B is a plane from the revolutionary operational capabilities, which will be supported by a logistics system with global reach, allowing Forces Aerial Navy to drop in 5th generation combat aircraft, achieving leading edge capability in the areas of air-to-air, air-to-ground, anti-ship and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR).

Whereas until now the aircraft carrier Garibaldi was used in real operations with eight AV-8B Plus, it is clear that the use of Nave Cavour with a dozen JSF, while remaining essentially unchanged in the number of machines on board, will represent a major step forward in the ability to project the sea and from the sea by virtue of the fact that the new aircraft will be far more capable than the AV-8B Plus. At the end of 2011, the aircraft carrier Cavour has achieved full operation with the aircraft currently in force, including aircraft AV-8B Plus, but is not yet ready to receive the F-35B.

The reason is that the ship is designed and set when the JSF program was at an early stage and therefore were not available all the necessary information on the new plane. For this reason, the state Maggiore Marina is finalizing the design stage to achieve the changes necessary to employ the new plane, which, however, are very small, since the vessel has been built with great foresight, especially as regards the weight and the dimensions of the aircraft.

In particular, the sheet thickness of the flight deck of Cavour is higher than that of American amphibious ships on which it intended to take on the JSF STOVL of the Marines. Such a feature is not negligible in view of the much higher stresses (weight, heat and pressure of the exhaust gas) that will undergo the flight deck with the boarding of the JSF respect to the operations with the AV-8B Plus. The vessel will complete the upgrading work for the JSF by 2017, so as to be ready to operate the new aircraft in 2018, when the first plane should render available in Grottaglie, where it will also carry out work to adapt.

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Page last modified: 30-10-2015 19:04:16 ZULU