Under the title Embedded Fixed Wing Aviation, an Essential Element of the Spanish Navy, Captain Luis Daz-Bedia Astor, an expert in fixed-wing aviation for the Spanish Navy and a doctor in international security, explains in detail in General Marine Magazine the consequences that the loss of this capacity can have for the institution would have.
The commander, who has many years of experience in command of the AV-8B Harrier II fighter-bombers of the Navy’s 9th Squadron FLOAN (Aircraft Flotilla), sums up just over 100 years of aviation on a global level. Extracts the operations and capabilities of the various Harrier models in the Navy since the AV-8As were introduced in 1976.
After a brief chapter in which he remembers the nations that have lost this type of aviation, he lists the capabilities of a naval group operated by an aircraft carrier or an LHD (Landing Helicopter Dock) with fixed-wing aviation on like the Juan Carlos I. is cited. Such a group will be able to react quickly to a crisis, be stationed in any sea region in the world, great strategic mobility, integrated leadership and control, self-defense ensured by its own aviation, logistical autonomy, interoperability with units from allied nations, versatility to carry out missions of various types, tactical or strategic, and easily switch from one to the other.
But where it’s really powerful is to uncover how much we’re going to lose. For example, naval captain Luis Daz-Bedia Astor, whom we interviewed when he was in command of the FLOAN, assures that our navy would have been very different without the Harrier and that its development in the near future will or will not be affected by ownership. of an airplane to replace it. If we lost our embarked fixed-wing aircraft, the consequences would be dramatic:
-The deterrent and influence that a combat group with fixed wing aviation offers us will disappear through its very existence or through its presence in a crisis zone.
– Our ability to control the sea and protect maritime communication routes would be severely restricted.
-Our naval forces do not have their own air cover unless they operate near national territory and the air force could provide it.
– It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for our amphibious ships and naval forces to conduct a purely national operation to evacuate noncombatants because there is no essential air support in the area. Only the option of their employment as part of a multinational force would remain with the support of embarked aircraft from other nations.
– We could never lead a multinational operation that requires the action of a combat group, and our participation would be limited to the contribution of escort ships, logistic or submarines accompanying aircraft carriers or LHD ships of other nations.
– In the event of a conflict, the air defense and attack capabilities of the naval forces against enemy naval forces are reduced. We could not risk conducting amphibious operations without planes guaranteeing air defenses and supporting the airborne forces. The ability to hit targets inland will be lost if we cannot equip our ships and submarines with ground attack missiles.
– We will lag behind a large number of allied or friendly nations technologically, and our interoperability with their sea air forces will be affected, particularly in terms of the ability to operate on networks.
-Increase the risk that potential opponents will match or exceed our capabilities.
– Our ability to act independently will be drastically reduced, Spain will lose relevance within the multinational organizations to which it belongs and its ability to influence regions that are considered strategically interesting will be reduced.
In addition, owning a Spain-built aircraft carrier or LHD is an element of great prestige for our country and provides great added value for our marine industry. This was demonstrated with the construction of the Chakri Naruebet aircraft carrier for the Royal Thai Navy and the LHDs Adelaide and Canberra for the Royal Australian Navy in Ferrol, as well as the construction of the Anadolu Navy in Turkey, which is also based on the Juan Carlos I. The Loss of embarked fixed-wing aviation and a ship it can carry on board affects potential customers’ confidence that we have a ship of this type in service that was built by our naval industry.
The Juan Carlos I was designed to embark the F-35B, the only fighter that can fly vertically and therefore replaces the AV-8B Plus. The acquisition of this aircraft would allow Spain to have on board a modern combat aircraft that guarantees projection capacity in scenarios far outside our national territory, with characteristics superior to those of possible threats and interoperable with the military means of a good number of allies and friendly nations that already include it.
Finally, the captain of the ship comes to the conclusion: The importance of the embarked fixed-wing aviation is still unreservedly valid today. A combat group focused on an aircraft carrier or LHD has capabilities that enable it to control large sea spaces, refuse to use an enemy, or hit targets in remote environments, not just in coastal areas but inland as well . Thus, by its very existence or by its presence, it can act as a deterrent and significantly influence the development of a crisis.
For this reason, nations that intend to maintain or increase their strength at a global or regional level consider it a fundamental element of their naval forces. If Spain wants the Navy to be relevant to its important geostrategic position and the weight it should have in the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance, it can influence the regions of interest and face the challenges that may arise. To guarantee the reputation of your marine industry in the future, you need to keep your fixed-wing aviation going. Only the F-35B can replace the Harrier as it is the only next generation short take-off and vertical take-off aircraft. Therefore, the Juan Carlos I was designed to operate with her. Its integration would make it possible not only to maintain the required projection capacity, but also to increase efficiency in all types of missions due to its innovative characteristics and superiority over most current combat aircraft, at a cost that has come down significantly over the years . last years.
With the acquisition of the F-35B, our Navy can have a 5-aircraft combat group operating on a network with the F-100 and F-110 frigates, giving it capabilities far superior to current ones. Interoperability with our allies, easy integration with multinational forces, and a significant operational advantage over potential threats. It could therefore continue to make an important contribution to the defense of Spain, the protection of its national interests and international security, even in the most remote places. The commander finishes his job with an eloquent The future is already here, we cannot allow ourselves to let it pass. (Julio Maz Sanz)
Photo: United States Marines F-35B fighter-bomber, the only possible replacement for the AV-8B. (USMC Photo)
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