Forces: June 23, 2000

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The Spanish Army has been converted over the last decade from a self-defense force to a force capable of taking its share of multi-national expeditions. The Army has been steadily reduced in size (not least by switching from conscription to an all-volunteer force), and the government has decided that with a smaller force it can now afford (and must now have) the most modern equipment. Production of Leopard-2A6 tanks under license will give the Spanish the most modern tanks in Europe. A total of 460 Pizarro armored infantry fighting vehicles are on order, and the first are now supplementing M113s. The light cavalry regiments are to be equipped with a variant of the wheeled Italian Centauro tank destroyer. The wheeled armored vehicles (BMR and VEC) are being modernized, while the Army looks into buying new 8-wheeled armored vehicles for auxiliary roles. Fifteen AS532 Cougar helicopters are on order (seven received to date, the rest in 2003) as are NH90s to replace the old UH-1Hs. The last of the 17 CH-47s are being modernized to the D-standard. The Army wants new missiles to replace Milan and TOW, and has ordered new rifle-mounted grenade launchers for delivery in 2002. The infantry has received 70,000 new German G36 assault rifles, and there are plans to buy a new heavy machinegun from Germany as well as new 81mm and 120mm mortars. The M109 self-propelled artillery is being modernized to M109A5 standards, but the Army has its heart set on new guns, either the German PzH2000, the American Crusader, or the British Braveheart. New engineer vehicles are to be built from discarded tank chassis. The coastal artillery is to get anti-ship missiles, enough to close the Straits of Gibraltar if that is necessary, starting in 2002. Air defense is getting a fire-control makeover, with new digital sights for the 35mm guns and Patriot control systems for the Hawk missiles. The Spanish Navy regards force projection as its principle mission. It must be able to deliver troops to international missions and support them. The new F100 destroyers (with Aegis radar) will (the first will enter service in 2002) provide the only European ships capable of missile defense for the ensuing five years. Two new dock landing ships (the second is still under construction) can each deliver 600 troops and support them with helicopters. Harriers will provide tactical air support from the new aircraft carrier Principe de Austurias. The Spanish Air Force wants the new Eurofighters to provide precision medium-range bombing, and the new A400 to replace its C130 fleet. It is already building C295s to replace the old C212 light transports. The F-18s are being given improvements to keep them flying until 2020. The last of the old F-5Bs are kept for training, and are not expected to retire until new Eurotrainers become available after 2010.--Stephen V Cole 


 


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