Spanish Armada Flagship completes operational assessment as Australia welcomes its largest ever warship

The Strategic Projection Ship LHD ‘Juan Carlos I‘ (L61), flagship of the Spanish Navy, has completed the operational assessment with two of the main aircraft used by the Army’s Air Mobile Forces (Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra – FAMET): Eurocopter AS 665 Tiger/Tigre (HA.28) HAP-E attack helicopters and AS 532UL Cougar transport helicopters.

Image credit: Spanish Navy

These tests aim to achieve the highest degree of interoperability between the ship and helicopters.

During the first phase, carried out at the ship’s home port of Rota, near Cadiz, earlier in the month, tests were made loading and carrying two helicopters type ‘Tiger’ and ‘Cougar’ with start-ups, hot refuelling, weapons replenishment, and take-off exercises.

Previously, in January, the FAMET’s heavy-lift helicopter Boeing CH-47D Chinook had been involved in trials on board the ship and conducted its first operational evaluation from the flight deck of “Juan Carlos l”.

With a length of 231 meters and a maximum displacement of 27,000 tons, the ship is the biggest one in the history of the Spanish Navy. It has the ability to operate as a multi-platform and can be configured as amphibious ship, aircraft carrier, force projection ship or platform of humanitarian aid operations.

Two days ago, oct 17, the hull of ‘Juan Carlos I’ sister ship, HMAS Camberra, the first of the Royal Australian Navy’s two new amphibious ships, arrived at its Australian home port for the next 18 months in Victoria.

Transported from Spain to Australia by the Heavy Lift Ship ‘Blue Marlin’, the trip has taken around eight weeks and 12,000 nautical miles (approx 18,520 km).

The Canberra Class LHDs, build by Spanish shipbuilding Navantia, are bigger than Australia’s last aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Each ship can carry a combined armed battlegroup of more than 1100 personnel, 100 armoured vehicles and 12 helicopters and features a 40-bed hospital.

HMAS Canberra (LHD01) will be accepted into service in 2014, followed by her sister ship HMAS Adelaide (LHD02) the year after.

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