The undefeated Spanish Armada


The former Empire wisely tames its warlike spirit

Spain has a rich military history, though not very victorious. It is enough to recall the Invincible armada, which was defeated not even by the British fleet (it simply did not exist then), but by a "team of pirates" led by Francis Drake.

In the twentieth century, the country experienced a brutal civil war. During the Second World War, the fascist regime of Francisco Franco was in power in Spain, but Caudillo did not dare to side with Hitler. Spain joined NATO only in 1982, after the restoration of democracy, but fell into the sphere of influence of the United States immediately after World War II.

the past

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Spanish army received from the United States more than 650 M24 and M41 light tanks, and then 130 M48 main tanks, more than 90 self-propelled artillery units (ACS) and 130 towed guns. The Air Force acquired about 250 F-86F Sabre fighters, and then 21 F-104 Starfighter. Naval aviation – 20 HU-16 Albatross anti-submarine aircraft and 6 SH-3D Sea King helicopters. A battery of the Nike Hercules anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) and 4 batteries of the Hawk anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) entered the ground air defense (air defense). For the Spanish Navy, ships built in the 1940s were delivered from the USA: a submarine (submarine) of the Balao type, an aircraft carrier (in Spain it was called "Daedalo", served until the end of the 1980s), 5 Fletcher-type destroyers (in Spain, the Lepanto type), 2 patrol boats, 12 minesweepers, 2 amphibious transports and 3 amphibious ships.

During the same period, Spain acquired at least 170 105-mm M-56 guns and about 30 helicopters in Italy, about 150 AML armored vehicles and 3 amphibious assault ships in France. In Spain itself, 12 destroyers were built (9 of the Audas type, 3 of the Oquendo type) and 6 corvettes of the Atrevida type.

In the 1970s, under an American license, 70 F-5A/B fighters were produced in Spain and 5 Knox-type frigates were built (Spanish type Baleares, by now all of them have been disposed of or sunk as targets) with American weapons (including anti-ship missiles (PKR)"Harpoon"). Also, the Spanish Navy received 4 submarines, 5 "Gearing" type destroyers, 4 minesweepers (all from World War II) and 5 amphibious ships.

The Spanish Air Force received 44 of the newest at that time fighter-bomber F-4S "Phantom" with air-to-air missiles AIM-7 "Sparrow", 10 medium transport aircraft C-130N "Hercules", 3 refueling KS-97. In naval aviation – 6 more "Sea Kings" and 7 anti-submarine aircraft P-3 "Orion". The army aviation includes 8 AN–1 Cobra attack helicopters and 10 CH-47 Chinook heavy transport helicopters. Ground-based air defense received 4 batteries of the Advanced Hawk air defense system. The ground forces and Marines received 66 M48A2 tanks, 900 M113 armored personnel carriers and 19 amphibious LVTP-7, up to 50 M107 and M109 self-propelled guns.

After the United States, France became the main supplier of weapons for Madrid. It received up to 200 AMX-30B tanks, 23 M-3 armored personnel carriers, several hundred Milan anti-tank missile systems (ATGMs), 7 SA330 Puma and 8 SA316 Alouette-3 helicopters, 30 Mirage-3E and 73 Mirage-F1 fighters (partially aircraft assembly was carried out in Spain itself).

Under a French license, 4 Dafne-type submarines were built at Spanish shipyards. Under a German license, 5 RV-57 (Spanish name "Lasaga") and TNC-36 ("Barcelo") patrol boats were built in Spain. A dozen and a half VTOL "Harrier" were received from the UK.

It was from the 1970s that Spain became a prominent manufacturer (not only under foreign licenses, but also under its own projects) and arms exporter. The construction of frigates (later reclassified into corvettes) of the Descubierta type (with the Harpoon missile defense system), as well as the production of C-212 light transport aircraft, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes, began. This aircraft was exported to many countries, and was also produced under license in Indonesia (since 2008, it has been produced only in this country).

C-101 training aircraft were also produced. According to a project similar to Descubierta, 6 frigates (3 each in Germany and Spain) of the Joao Coutinho type were built for the Portuguese Navy. Specifically for Portugal, 4 frigates (later also reclassified into corvettes) of the Baptista de Andrade type were built in Spain.

In the late 1970s, the BMR-600 armored personnel carrier and the VEC combat reconnaissance vehicle (BRM) structurally similar to it entered production. The Spanish army received 682 and 340 of these vehicles, respectively; in addition, the BMR-600 was exported. Spain lost 1 such APC in Bosnia and 4 in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia – 10 BMR-600 in Yemen (Riyadh was supplied with 140 of these APCs for the country's marines). In addition, Spain supplied 81 mm and 120 mm ECIA mortars to several countries (mainly Latin American).

After Spain's transition to democracy and joining NATO, the United States remained the main supplier of weapons for it. According to American licenses, 6 Oliver Perry frigates (local Santa Maria type) were built in Spain and 72 F-18 fighter-bombers were produced (in the US Navy they are used as deck-based, but they were not suitable for Spanish aircraft carriers, so they were used in the ground version).

Up to 250 M113 armored personnel carriers, 60 155-mm M109A1 self-propelled guns, 8 more Phantoms, 3 more Hercules, 3 Boeing-707s (as tankers), 9 more Chinooks, 6 SH-60V Sea Hawk anti-submarine helicopters, 2 amphibious dock transports arrived from the USA (DTD) type "Paul River" (local type "Castile"), 12 vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) AV-8B "Harrier-2" for the aircraft carrier "Prince of Asturias" built in Spain (replaced "Dedalo"). 4 previously delivered batteries of the "Hawk" SAM were upgraded to the "Improved Hawk" variant.

In the UK in the 1980s, Spain acquired 6 Sea King helicopters and 17 Scorpion light tanks (in 2008 they were resold in Chile). According to French licenses, 4 Agosta-type submarines (local type "Galerna") were built in Spain, 18 Roland SAMs were produced. Another 100 AMX-30V tanks, up to 30 AS332 helicopters, 250 Milan ATGMs and several dozen Hot ATGMs were received from France. 6 Spada sams and AV-212 helicopters, 50 old American light M47 tanks were purchased in Italy, 5 American P-3 Orion aircraft were purchased in Norway. Spain received another 50 M47s from Germany, and production of multi-purpose Vo-105 helicopters began under a German license.

At the end of the 1980s, Spain began, together with Indonesia, the production of the CN-235 aircraft, which, like the C-212, could be used both for military (transport and patrol) and civilian purposes. It was also sold to many countries, including the USA and France, and was produced under license in Turkey. 2 Descubierta-type frigates were delivered for the Egyptian Navy and 1 for the Moroccan Navy.


In the 1990s, Spain and Portugal, being the "rear" countries of NATO, became one of the areas of supply of equipment by "frontline" countries in order to save this equipment from the restrictions of the CFE Treaty. Spain received from the United States as part of this process 310 M60 tanks, 100 M113 armored personnel carriers (and 31 more command and staff vehicles (KSM) M577 based on it) and 64 203-mm M110A2 self-propelled guns. For the Spanish Air Force, the last 6 "Phantoms" and 24 F/A-18A/V "Hornet" were transferred (in addition to the 72 that were previously produced in Spain itself), the assembly of "Harriers" was started under an American license. Also, a significant amount of various aviation and naval weapons, 2 landing ships of the Newport type were delivered from the USA. Spain produced 200 Tow ATGMs and 10 anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) for each.

In the UK, Spain bought 56 105-mm L-118 guns, in Italy – 2 more Spada sams. Up to 20 Mirage-F1 helicopters, 15 AS532 helicopters, and up to 200 Mistral man-portable air defense missile systems (MANPADS) have arrived from France. 108 Leopard-2A4 tanks were leased in Germany. They were later bought out by Spain.

For Thailand, the Chakri Narubet light aircraft carrier was built in Spain, almost similar to the Prince of Asturias; up to a dozen Harriers were delivered to it as an "annex".

Spain began to participate in the creation of the 4th generation fighter "Typhoon". In addition to Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy became participants in the program, which implies joint development and production of the fighter. Production of the aircraft began in 2003. The volume of purchases of the car was reduced several times; in particular, the final order of Spain was 73 cars, but, apparently, some more Typhoons will be built to replace the Hornets. It is supposed to create a 6th-generation fighter together with Germany and France (if the 5th is skipped), but so far the fate of this program is completely unclear.

Together with Austria, Spain has developed an IFV, which in Austria is called "Ulan", and in the Spanish army – "Pizarro". 261 cars were built for Spain (including KSM and engineering ones). It was not exported anywhere, but on its basis, the production of the Ajax family of combat vehicles was launched in the UK.

In addition, the development and production of the C-295 light transport aircraft was completed in Spain, which immediately began to be actively exported, including to the countries of Eastern Europe and the former USSR.


In the XXI century, 5 Alvaro de Bazan frigates were built at Spanish shipyards for their own fleet (in some sources they are called the best in the world in their class), 2 Galicia-type DTDs and Juan Carlos universal landing ships (UDC), which after the disposal of the Prince of Asturias became the largest a ship of the Spanish Navy and the only carrier of the Harriers.

According to a similar project, 2 UDC of the Canberra type were built for Australia, the same UDC was built in Turkey under a Spanish license. 5 frigates of the Nansen type were built in Spain for Norway, according to the Spanish project, 3 Hobart-type destroyers were built in Australia for the Navy of this country. Based on the French Scorpin submarine, 4 S-80 submarines are being built in Spain for its Navy, but this program is very far behind the original schedule.

Spain has become a participant in the creation of the European transport aircraft A-400, and it is in this country that its final assembly is carried out. The VAMTAC light armored car (of the American Hummer type) was created and produced in a large series (several thousand units). 219 Leopard-2A6 tanks were produced under a German license (in addition to the aforementioned 108 purchased Leopards-2A4).

18 Franco-German Tiger combat helicopters were produced under license. 6 more Tigers and up to 50 different multi-purpose helicopters were bought directly in France. More than 20 helicopters and 3 batteries of the American Patriot anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) were received from Germany.

In the USA, several more Harriers and Sea Hawks, 4 MQ-9 Reaper combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as various aviation and naval weapons were purchased ("in response" Spain sold 20 Mirage-F1 fighters to the American PMCs). In the UK – 6 Sandown–type minesweepers (Spanish Segura type), in Norway – 4 NASAMS SAM batteries, in Israel - 260 Spike ATGMS and a dozen and a half Sercher reconnaissance UAVs. 84 Centauro heavy-armed combat vehicles (BMVS) and 185 LMV armored vehicles were purchased in Italy (at least 2 of them were lost in Afghanistan). In South Africa – 100 armored vehicles RG-31 "Nyala" (one of them is also lost in Afghanistan). Sweden has 20 articulated Bv-206S APCs. Switzerland has 39 Pirana armored personnel carriers and 24 RS-21 training aircraft. It is planned to purchase another 348 Piran armored personnel carriers in several variants.

In 2022, Ukraine received from Spain 8 M-56 guns, a battery of the Spada air defense system and several dozen missiles for the Advanced Hawk air defense system.

In general, the Spanish army has degraded to a somewhat lesser extent than most other European NATO armies. At the same time, the country managed to occupy a certain "niche" in military exports.

Alexander Khramchikhin

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