Andrea Fazio, an experienced flight operator based in Catania, Sicily, died after the helicopter crashed into the sea and flipped onto its side as it prepared to land on a patrol boat, the navy said in a statement.
Divers rushed to pull Fazio from the chopper but were unable to revive him. The four other crew members aboard the helicopter escaped without major injuries.
The patrol boat was part of the “Mare Sicuro” (Secure Sea) navy operation in the central Mediterranean.
It was launched in March 2015 to protect oil rigs and fishing boats from ruthless Libyan militias, as well as to combat people trafficking.
The navy has also rescued thousands of migrants during its operations, either by taking them on board or by assisting other rescue ships.
Their onboard helicopters often carry out emergency medical evacuation operations.