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Copyright (C) Diego Crotti
Cavour (550) (Italian: Portaerei Cavour) is an Italian aircraft carrier (CVH) and the newest flagship of the Marina Militare Italiana, the Italian Navy. She is named after the Italian statesman and politician Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour.
Cavour was laid down by Fincantieri on 17 July 2001, and she was launched from the Riva Trigoso shipyard in Sestri Levante, on 20 July 2004. Sea trials began in December 2006, and she was officially commissioned March 27, 2008. Full Operational Capability (FOC) was reached June 10, 2009. The ship was never moved to Taranto, as usually happens for the maintenance of the Italian Navy ships, because the dock is not deep enough to host it. It stays in Muggiano harbour, close to La Spezia.
On 2010 January 19, Cavour was dispatched to Haiti as part of Operation White Crane, Italy's operation for 2010 Haiti earthquake relief. This was the first mission of the aircraft carrier, where it supplemented international efforts to provide relief for the victims of the January 2010 earthquake.
The ship is designed to combine fixed wing V/STOL and helicopter air operations, command and control operations and the transport of military or civil personnel and heavy vehicles. The 134 metre, 2,800 m2 hangar space can double as a vehicle hold capable of holding up to 24 main battle tanks (typically Ariete) or many more lighter vehicles (50 Dardo IFV, 100+ Iveco LMV), and is fitted aft with access ramps rated to 70 tons, as well as two elevators rated up to 30 tons for aircraft. Cavour can also operate as Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH), accommodating heavy transport helicopters (EH 101 ASH) and ~325 marines.
Cavour has a displacement of 27,900 tons but can reach more than 30,000 tons at full military capacity, after improvements done in 2008.
Initially she was to be named after Luigi Einaudi, then Admiral Andrea Doria, before receiving her current title. Now that Cavour has become operational, it is the Nuova Unità Maggiore (NUM, or New Main Unit) of the Marina Militare, complementing the Giuseppe Garibaldi. The ship was originally constructed in two sections (bow and stern) then later fused together.
The Italian Navy will replace its 16 Harriers with 22 F-35B within the next few years. The F-35 schedule is uncertain at the moment, but it is planned to modify the Cavour to support the F-35 by 2016. The Cavour will have room for ten F-35's in the hangar, and six more parked on deck.

Copyright (C) Diego Crotti

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