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Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire) - Modernization

The Spanish armed forces are in a continuous modernization programme. Further (secondhand) F/A-18s have been delivered, they will serve as a stopgap until the 87 ordered Eurofighter Typhoons were delivered. Other new aircraft are Eurocopter EC120B helicopters to replace the H269s of Ala 78. Also, nine Casa C295s are on order, to supplement Ala 35's fleet of CN235s. There are also plans to replace the fleet of C101 jet trainers.

In order to improve its Command and Control capability in the short run, implementation of the Integrated Air Command and Control System (SIMCA) must be completed on a national level, in coordination with the Air Command and Control System-NATO (ACCS-OTAN). This will guarantee the Air Defence function, which is key to security. Participation in the NATO Integrated Aerial Defence System (NATINADS) and in the NAEW Force does not imply giving up the possibility of acquiring Spanish airborne early warning systems (AEW) in the future.

Another short-run necessity for ensuring operational flexibility in far removed scenarios is the acquisition of Deployable Communications Modules capable of supporting two simultaneous aerial detachments. In the long run this will involve acquiring Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC) platforms for conducting aerial operations and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR).

Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability is essential for Air Force action as it guarantees information superiority for all types of combat and non-combat operations. To ensure maximum warning time and preparation for military or terrorist aerial threats, it is essential to have intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, along with warning, operational and tactical evaluation capabilities. Obtaining the real-time intelligence required for current operations will necessitate acquisition in the short run of next generation tactical air reconnaissance equipment capable of allweather operations and new sensors with multiple capabilities for full spectrum functioning. Unmanned aerial vehicles are a midrun objective.

Based on accumulated experience, the first doctrinal studies for integrating aerial means and their space element had been completed by 2003. Space-based means will have a decisive influence on all types and levels of conflicts. Information from space will at all times be utilised by joint and multinational operations. This integration of aerial means and their space element will improve the capability for surveillance, reconnaissance, weapons launch and navigation, communications, and monitoring of environmental factors affecting land, maritime, aerial and space operations. Analogous to control of airspace, the control of space will be a future factor in guaranteeing freedom of action.

The Capability for Electronic and Acoustic Warfare should be attained in the mid-run by modernising the current platforms that carry out these functions, and developing and acquiring new equipment and means to complement them. In the long run they will be replaced with more technologically advanced platforms. While maintaining their traditional role in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, the Maritime Patrol aerial components must also incorporate new roles that include obtaining information, supporting combat operations and participating in offensive missions. Their next generation of platforms must have the capability to fulfil these requirements.

Several subordinate capabilities are linked to guaranteeing the execution of Precision Combat Capabilities in a safe, effective and sustained manner. These are: Offensive and Defensive Air Operations Capabilities, Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) Capabilities and Special Operations Capabilities. The Offensive Air Operations Capabilities will involve offensive aerial means based on multirole combat platforms, capable of day/night operations, in low-visibility and adverse meteorology, and equipped with precision-guided short or longrange air-to-surface weapons for any type of ground targets.

The Defensive Air Operations Capabilities (active and passive) will involve three complementary elements: land-based air defence means with high readiness SAM missiles with electronic identification systems, multirole air combat means equipped with next generation air-to-air weapons, all-weather capabilities, able to simultaneously strike multiple targets with high success, and protection and redundancy of Air Operations Centres.

In order to insure the continuity of these Offensive and Defensive Air Operations Capabilities, which are critical to any Air Force, it will be necessary in the long run to begin the corresponding technological studies and international agreements for defining both the successor to the F-18, that is the Future Air Combat System (FACS), and the outcome of the foreseeable programme for updating the EF-2000. After 2020, the FACS will be the key element in Air Force combat and deterrence. It will include manned aerial platforms, unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) and unmanned reconnaissance air vehicles (URAV).

The Air Force should identify potential Allied partners to help it develop and maintain an adequate Suppression of Enemy Air Defence Capability in its platforms, while looking into the possibility of using UCAVs on certain missions, linked to the FACS.

The Special Operations Capability employs specialised forces to strike or neutralise a series of special interest targets. These forces would be responsible for obtaining HUMINT, supporting CSR operations, and identifying or neutralising offensive air forces targets under difficult circumstances. They must be capable of day/night operations within enemy-controlled territory and have adequate (precise and lethal) weapons for the mission as well as discreet and secure CIS equipment.

The In-flight Refuelling Capability extends the reach, load, permanence, time and flexibility of aircraft, allowing the Air Force to rapidly deploy its air combat means and operate at considerable distances for extensive periods of time. This allows Spain to fulfil the commitments we have with various multinational organisations. With few exceptions, the current Air Force combat aircraft have this capability and the new platforms will extend it to the latest tactical and strategic transport airplanes.

Spain plans to acquire three Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transports. A contract for these had been expected during 2015, but this was pushed back to 2016, due to a general election in the nation on 20 December 2015.

Sustainment Capability extends to all activities related to the use of force, ensuring or denying the possibility of operations and permitting prolonged deployment of diverse air units to locations far removed from their logistical centres. For this reason it is indispensable for the Logistical System 2000 to achieve full operational status as a decisive factor in guaranteeing the combat level of the force. This will also ensure interoperability with other national systems and optimise the modernisation process of Air Force systems and equipment.

To improve Deployment and Mobility Capability, actions should be taken to optimise strategic air transport means and other logistical capabilities that allow deploying, sustaining, rotating and redeploying the Air Force Expeditionary Level that has been committed, along with other forces. There are two related subordinate capabilities that ensure its secure, effective and sustained development: Projection Capability and Air Deployment Support Capability.

For Projection Capability, the Strategic Air Transport potential will be greatly increased in the long run via the important A-400M military transport airplane programme. Tactical Air Transport should permit whole units to be moved from their principal bases towards the theatre (deployable or airtransportable units) while also facilitating intra-theatre movements for repositioning forces and guaranteeing logistical flow of operations and executing specific disembark or special air operations. The Air Deployment Support Capability should be increased by reorganising the various support units into a single larger unit and incorporating additional combat support elements. The continual increase in demands and commitments requires modular and flexible units with potential for multiple rotations over time.

On 01 December, 2015 the Spanish air force agreed with Airbus Defence & Space to acquire an initially reduced fleet of 14 A400M tactical transports, pending a funding solution for the remaining 13 of the type Madrid to which was committed. Maj Gen Pablo Jose Castillo of the air force’s air mobility command said 14 A400Ms will be delivered to Spain by 2022 after which a decision will have to be made on how to proceed with the remainder of the acquisition – postponed until 2024.

In order to increase the Survival and Protection Capability of the Force, self-protection systems must be incorporated in all combat platforms and in combat support platforms operating in hostile environments. Installations security efforts should be increased, especially in deployment, equipping them with NBCR protection capabilities, explosives deactivation systems, deployable fuel deposits, fire protection systems and rapid repair of critical infrastructures.

Spain selected the Pilatus PC-21 to be its next pilot trainer on 27 November 2019, and will buy 24 to replace its fleet of aging CASA C-101 jet trainers, which are due to be retired beginning in 2021. The Air Force currently had 60 units of this type of aircraft that entered service in 1980. Pilatus has been the winner of the public tender, with an offer for its 24 airplanes and ground equipment comprising an emergency exit coach, two cockpit simulators and two networked flight simulators, and an initial logistics package for 204,750 million euros, significantly below the maximum price indicated in the contest rules of 225 million euros. The first six aircraft must be delivered in March 2020.

In addition to this contract of the Swiss PC-21, for basic flight training, the Air Force expects to acquire another training aircraft before 2027 to replace 50 units of F-5, combat instruction, and 40 units of the T-35C Pillán (for first flights). That new plane, together with PC-21, would offer the complete training system for future Air Force pilots.

A purchase contract for 20 new Eurofighters was signed 23 June 2022 by the Air Force and NATO's Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) that will go to ALA 46 in Gando (Canary Islands) for the replacement of current F-18s. This order is made up of 16 single-seaters and 4 two-seaters that will be equipped with the latest technological advances, such as the electronic scanning radar (E-Scan) and the new CM02+ software implementation that allows the new air-to-surface weapon self-designation capability, through the integration of the Litening-III designation pod. In addition, new air-air and air-ground capabilities are integrated, as well as communications. With these new aircraft, the Spanish Eurofighter fleet will increase to 90 aircraft in operation in the Spanish Air Force. Deliveries are expected to start in 2026.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2022 18:50:52 ZULU