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Juan Carlos I Strategic Projection Vessel
BPE Buque de Proyección Estratégica

In the international organisations where Spain participates, the enhancement of the strategic projection capability is a priority within the military defence planning process which has been translated into the Strategic Defence Review. In order to carry out these missions, it is necessary to promote the procurement of adequate means, among them, the shipbuilding of a Strategic Projection Ship. The Project Definition of a warship is a complex engineering process due to the great number of activities involved. The PAPS method (Phased Armaments Programming System) was used.

The Spanish Navy and Izar defined the technical and operative requirements for a ship that will be essentially multipurpose: its construction was developed in an historical frame characterized by decreasing budgetary availability and the gradual assumption of international responsibilities on the part of Spain, that are materialized in the unfolding of their Armed Forces in scenes in many distant occasions of the national territory.

The Buque de Proyección Estratégica - Ship of Strategic Projection (well-known also by abbreviations LL or BPE) is called on to play an important role in the Fleet. This platform not only supports the mobility of the Marines (it will replace the popular "cornudas", L-41 Hernán Corte's and L-42 Pizarro), but that will possibly act as a platform for carrier-based aviation, and as a strategic transport of the Ground forces is required.

According to the ship's characteristics, the cargo capacity of personnel of the ship will be of around 900 Naval infantry, with their equipment and elements of support. The Juan Carlos I will count on multi-functional areas of garage and hangar of light material (standardized vehicles, containers, helicopters, etc.) of 3,000 ms 2 of surface, with capacity for 6,000 load t. In the immediately inferior level is a garage for heavy vehicles, of 3,000 ms2, that communicates to stern with the dock, that has capacity similar to the one of the LPD of the Galicia class, being able to lodge up to four LCM-1e boats or one LCAC.

The name Don Juan Carlos I continues the long tradition, maintained since the arrival of the House of Bourbon to the throne of Spain in 1700, of assigning the proper name of the reigning monarch to one of the main vessels the Navy. In addition to that first and main mission, the Juan Carlos I could be used as a complementary platform with the aircraft carrier Prince of Asturias in air operations, or alternatively, during the periods of immobilization programmed for the ship standard of the Navy. For it, the Ship of Strategic Projection will count on a flight deck of 185 ms of length with Ski-jump at the prow, 6 points for airplanes of the Harrier /JSF types, or medium helicopters, or 4 points for heavy helicopters of the Chinook type. The main armament will be the Harrier airplanes and in addition it will have capacity to embark 1,200 soldiers and 12 helicopters, with an internal dock for landing craft.

This new ship is an intelligent mixture of aircraft carrier and assault ship and gives the Spanish Navy an operational capacity of enormous strategic importance. The novel aspect of this ship is that the ship has been designed for the first time taking care of the possibility of operation with elements and material of the Ground forces, being prepared to operate from its cover and to transport in its hangars heavy apparatuses of the Airmobile forceses of the Tierra Army (FAMET) or to transport in its warehouses and to disembark to heavy vehicles of the bearing of the cars battle Leopard that will equip the Army.

As far as technical innovations, this project contemplates for the first time in a unit of the Spanish Navy the use of diesel-electric propulsion, connected - for the first time also not to helices, but to a pair of azimuthal pods. The use of POD type propellers is not new in the Spanish Navy. The aircraft-carrier "Príncipe de Asturias" and the FFG frigates use the same systems but are just auxiliary mechanisms and are less powerful. In agreement with current shipbuilding trends which demand high manoeuvrability and the initial feasibility studies, the ship is conceived as a "totally electric ship" (AES) with POD-type azimuthally propulsion propellers operated by alternating current electric engines. The propulsion electric engines are fuelled by two diesel engine generators and a gas turbo-generator group.

In the naval scope, the strategic projection meant a real capacity to take to the naval action and its influence on earth to the chosen coastal scene, to be able to act in him with freedom of action and during the necessary time, and to cooperate to the projection and support of specific means of other Armies, specially the one of Earth. This capacity constitutes the fundamental contribution of the Navy to the joint and combined strategy as far as dissuasion, crisis management and answer in case of training.

The Juan Carlos I won a competition with in 2007, during an international competition held by the Australian Navy. At the end of the competition Australia decided to purchase two ships similar to the Spanish one. The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported 01 March 2010 that Spain was being considered as a potential supplier to Russia. According to the Spanish newspaper, Paris and Madrid are conducting a tough competitive battle. While the Spanish ship was better than the French one in a number of ways, France is more influential, and is trying to use its influence to obtain a profitable contract with Moscow. The newspaper reported that Russia is choosing between French BPC (The Mistral-class landing platform dock ships) and Spanish BPE (a strategic projection vessel) Juan Carlos I. A delegation of high-ranking Russian Navy officials had recently visited Ferrol shipyards of Navantia, manufacturing company, located in La Coruna. Some see the Spanish vessel as having better technical features, it is larger and has a bigger capacity than the French one.

Navantia's pace of construction was suprprisingly sedate. The LHD was launched in March 2008 at Navantia Ferrol Shipyard. The strategic projection ship cost approximately 360 million euros. The ship was designed in 2005 and completed sea trials in June 2010. The ship was commissioned in the official ship list of the Navy on 30 September 2010, the numeral on its side "L-61", in a ceremony presided over by His Majesty the King. In October 2011 the ship’s commanding officer Cristobal Gonzalez-Aller Lacalle said the Multipurpose landing ship L-61 Juan Carlos I would be commissioned into the Spanish Navy in December 2011.

The deck of `Juan Carlos I' received for the first time the landing of a “Harrier” AV8B Extra airplane of the Ninth Squadron of Aircraft of the Navy. At 19:51 h. on Monday 02 May 2011 the first landing of an airplane was realised successfully on the deck of `Juan Carlos I', `Cobra 23 ', piloted by lieutenant commander Manuel Rodriguez Giner. The successful landing marks a new landmark in the process of Sea and air Certification of the Juan Carlos I, whose first landing of helicopters it took place 08 February 2011 on the part of the Head of 5ª Squadron, who took in spot 3 with a WALRUS 08 (SH-3D “Seaking”). This first flight of this Squadron followed others of helicopters of 6ª (Hughes 500) and of 3ª Escuadrilla (AB-212). The LHD of the Spanish Navy was conducting necessary flight operations for the Sea and air Certification with and onboard Unidad Aérea Embarcada (UNAEMB) composed by three helicopters of 5ª and 6ª Squadrons and an airplane “Harrier” AV-8B Extra. The ship carries, in addition, a compound landing party of naval infantry as well as two amphibious assault aircrafts LCM-1E of the Naval landing party.

The Juan Carlos I can handle up to 30 medium or heavy helicopters when configured as an amphibious helicopter carrier or between 10 to 12 Harriers and a similar number of medium helicopters when configured as an aircraft carrier. The hangar can accommodate 12 aircraft, while six aircraft can be parked on the flight deck. By one account the ship's carrying capacity is 9 VTOL aircrafts Harrier and 8 heavy transport helicopters Chinook. Air wing may include helicopters Cougar and Tigre. The flight deck of the LHD “Juan Carlos I” has been designed to operate, to send, to receive and to support, as much by day as at night, to airplanes and helicopters like the AB-212, SH-3D, and the airplanes AV-8B Harrier II Extra, that are modernizing by the Spanish Navy through the EADS branch, Cassidian, in San Pablo (Seville). The conversion to version AV-8B Extra includes the installation of a new Rolls Royce Pegasus 408A engine, the implementation of improvements in the structure and the positioning systems and communications and in the main avionics systems. The skijump bow allows it to effectively operate AV-8B+ Harrier IIs: the ship serves as back up Harrier carrier for when the Principe d'Asturias is docked for maintenance.

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