Attrition: The Armada Gets Mothballed


May 22, 2012:  Forced to deal with continuing budget reductions, the Spanish Navy (Armada Españolais) is preparing to put six frigates and their only aircraft carrier into storage. Many naval commanders are opposed to this and as a compromise the ships will first be put on "restricted duty" and then as they lose their crews (to more budget cuts) they will shift to "reserve" status. These seven ships will probably never return to active duty once this process begins. If the naval budget keeps shrinking it will begin.

Since their housing bubble burst in 2008, Spain has been suffering a sustained economic recession. So far the defense budget has been hit by cuts amounting to 25 percent a year. Unless the economy makes a dramatic turnaround, the navy budget will keep shrinking.

The six Santa Maria class frigates entered service in the early 1990s. They were based on the American Perry class frigates. The Santa Marias are 138.8 meters (455 feet) long and displace 4,200 tons. They have a top speed of 56 kilometers an hour and are armed with a 76mm gun, 324mm torpedoes, anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, and a helicopter. There are two auto-cannons for missile defense.

The Perrys came along in the late 1970s. They are 131.6 meter (408 foot) long, 4,200 ton warships armed with a 76mm gun, anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles as well as torpedoes, a helicopter, and a crew of 176. Many of the 69 Perrys have been retired from U.S. service, and most are given to foreign navies, who are glad to have them. But some countries, like Spain and Taiwan, built their own versions of the basic Perry design.

The carrier Principe de Asturias entered service in the late 1980s. It has been overdue for a $500 million refurbishment. This 16,700 ton ship can operate up to 29 fixed wing (vertical take-off Harriers) and helicopter aircraft.



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