Spanish Aircraft Carrier
"Príncipe de Asturias"
by Javier Alba
The concept of this Flagship belonging the Spanish Navy is born in the USA by the mid sixties, at the time of the Vietnam War, when the American admiral Elmo Zumwalt developed the so called SCS (Sea Control Ship). The idea was to apply to this ship all the knowledge acquired during World War II and the Korean War.
The USS GUAM LPH-9 underwent some modifications in order to test this new concept.
In a potential operations theater confronting both blocks, the Atlantic Ocean would become, like in WWII, a vital operations theater to insure supplies to the European allies.
A multifunctional ship was therefore required, which could operate as a flagship, as escort or as a support operations platform in case of a potential disembark.
The introduction of the V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing ) planes allowed for the availability of ships with a high offensive capability, with an economic air weapon on board, low cost and simple maintenance.
But at that time all discussions were focused on supplying this ship with fixed wing planes, which although more expensive and sophisticated, could be supplied by the American industry. The pressure exercised by the military industry against the purchase of the famous Harriers from the United Kingdom, finally led to the abandonment of the project.
The abandonment of this project allowed the Spanish navy to acquire the SCS from Gibs & Cox in 1977, a dozen planes belonging to the basic project. Based on these models, and after several reinterpretations (among which we can include the knowledge acquired during the Argentina and United Kingdom conflict in the South Atlantic) we come to the "Príncipe de Asturias" as we know it nowadays.
Carrier Air Wing
The aerial weapon has nowadays the following devices on board the Príncipe de Asturias (the combination of them depends on the particular mission to be carried out)
Mc Donell Douglas AV8B Harrier II Plus
The R-11 features a ski jump to allow the Harriers to save some fuel upon take-off and be able to carry more weapons.
It also carries four Meroka anti-missile mounts produced in the country (12 tubes each), which, together with the ones carried by the Balearea and Santa María escort ships, conform a very efficient anti-missile shield.
In the next months I will offer notes about the airplanes and helicopters onboard