The Italian navy's second aircraft carrier was launched at Fincantieri's Riva Trigoso shipyard near Genoa on 20 July and will enter outfitting before undergoing service trials in 2007. To embark an air wing of 18-20 aircraft, including Boeing AV-8B Harrier II Plus short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) strike aircraft and AgustaWestland EH101 helicopters, the 27,100t Cavour will serve as a sister ship to the navy's carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi. The 244m-long (800ft) vessel will also support Italy's future operation of the F-35B STOVL variant of Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter.

The Cavour will be equipped with a command-and-control centre for use in co-ordinating naval, air and amphibious operations. It will also be used to carry up to 100 light vehicles or 24 main battle tanks.

The UK Ministry of Defence expects to issue main gate approval for its two-vessel Future Aircraft Carrier project by mid-2005, having postponed a decision to proceed by a year to enable further risk-reduction activities. BAE Systems and Thales have agreed an alliance framework to develop and build the 60,000t vessels, which will enter service in 2012 and 2015 for a combined target price of £3 billion ($5.5 billion).

Source: Flight International