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Principe de Asturias

The aircraft carrier Prncipe de Asturias (R-11) is the flagship of the Spanish Navy and the core of the Combat Group. She was built in Banzans Shipyards and delivered to the Spanish Navy on May 30th 1988. Her Air wing provides the ship more reconnaissance capability and longer range of weapons than any other type of ship, thus improving both zone control capabilities and tactical possibilities of the Group.

On 20 July 1977, the government of Adolfo Suarez ordered an aircraft carrier built to fill the pressing need of the Navy, which had only the antiquated Dedalo, acquired from the US Navy in 1967 after it had seen service in World War II. The Bazan National Enterprise was commissioned to build a vessel for delivery in 1982, with an initial budget of 30 billion pesetas.

The vessel was launched at the Bazan shipyards in El Ferrol in 1982, although it is not to be delivered to the Navy until the end of May, after testing at sea, 6 years after the scheduled date and at a total estimated cost of more than 200 billion pesetas. This delay, which caused a certain displeasure in Navy circles and resulted in several parliamentary summonses, was explained, according to the construction enterprise, by the fact that this was the first aircraft carrier built in Spain, and gradual installation of the very latest sophisticated electronic equipment was required.

The aircraft carrier Prince of Asturias (R-ll) was 195 meters long, displaced 15,000 tons, and had a crew of 774 men. Its most distinctive characteristic was its ski-jump launching ramp on a 12-degree incline, which provided fuel economy in launching planes. This innovation, which was then unique in the world, was adopted by Great Britain for use on the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.

The Prince of Asturias, which is equipped with extremely sophisticated radar systems, carries four Meroka CIWS cannons and can accommodate three Harrier aircraft, 14 Sea King SH-3D helicopters and two SeaHawk SH-60 helicopters designed for antisubmarine, interception and reconnaissance missions. It is possible that its cargo of aircraft will be mixed half planes and half helicopters.

Spain has operated aviation ships since the 1960s, initially with the light carrier Dedalo, which was formerly the US Navy's World War II light carrier Cabot. The Dedalo has been replaced as the Spanish navy's fleet flagship by the Principe de Asturias. The design is basically that of the US Navy's abortive Sea Control Ship of the 1970s, considerably modified and refined to enable V/STOL aircraft to be carried.

A special special feature is the 12 "ski-jump", sightly off the longitudinal axis, tilted portside, providing greater security to aircraft while taking off. This helps to save fuel and increases the cargo capability of the aircraft. The "Ski-jump" and stabilising fins make the ship an adequate platform to operate even in rough weather conditions.

The ship is permanently assigned to the Alpha Group as well as six "Santa Maria" class frigates (a Spanish version of the USN Oliver H. Perry FFGs). Other vessels like logistic ships, tankers and corvettes are frequently assigned to the Group when required. R-11 and the Alpha Group have participated in peace support operations in the Adriatic sea.

The ship supports up to 12 AV-8B Harrier II Plus and Harrier II (being upgraded to Harrier II Plus configuration) aircraft. The Harriers are armed with AIM-9L Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and AGM-65E Maverick air-to-ground missiles, in addition to GAU-12U cannon. The carrier also has facilities to support up to 12 helicopters, usually six Sikorsky Sea King SH-3H, four Agusta AB-212 and two Sikorsky SH-3 AEW helicopters.

The ship normally supports a maximum of 29 fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft with up to 12 on deck and 13 aircraft in the hangar. In an emergency a maximum of 17 aircraft can be stored in the 2,300 square m hangar. The hangar deck is accessed by two flight deck lifts. The 5,100 square m flight deck is 176 m in length.

Constructed by the National Company Bazan [Empresa Nacional Bazn] in their shipyard of Ferrol, the aircraft carrier Prince of Asturias (R-11) was given to the Navy the 30 of May of 1988. The construction process had begun eleven years back, the 29 of May of 1977, with the company/signature the Order of Execution. The processing of the steel gave to beginning the 1 of March of 1978 and the putting in keel took place the 8 of October of 1979. The 22 of May of 1982, in a ceremony presided over by King Don Juan Carlos, the launching took place, of which Reina was godmother Do6na Sofa. The ship made his first exit to the sea in November of 1987. In her it demonstrated to be a solid platform, stable and maneuvering to fulfill his assignment effectively.

Thanks to its embarked aerial unit, the ship has a great capacity of exploration. It is equipped with a flight deck of 175.3 meters and 32 meters of width, with a takeoff incline of 46.5 meters, 12 degrees of inclination and a height on the flight deck of 4.8 meters. The maximum operational capacity of airships is of 17 in the hangar deck and 12 in the flight deck. The self-defense armament of the aircraft carrier includes four near defense Meroka systems and six throwers of decoys (chaff) to display false echoes to the radars of enemy missiles. For offensive weapons, the ship has the ones of its embarked aircrafts Force, mainly air-to-surface missiles air-air Harpoon and AS-12 and missiles Sidewinder. It also relies for anti-submarine defense on the aerial means, the detection capacity and attacks of its SH-3D helicopters.

In the design of Prince de Asturias special importance was given to its habitable space. The result is the sanitary existence of the numerous premises of subsistence, spaces and general common use spaces, that widely cover the necessities with lodging and services of the 572 components of the ship.







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