Juan Carlos I in Palma.

18-11-2016Gabriel Alomar

The flagship of the Spanish navy made its first visit to Palma today. The Juan Carlos I, a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship, is being escorted by the frigate Victoria as it heads into the Mediterranean for a series of training exercises.

Commisioned in September, 2010, it plays a similar role to many aircraft carriers. The ship has a ski jump for STOVL operations and is equipped with the AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft.

The vessel is named in honour of Juan Carlos I, the former king. It plays an important role in the fleet as a platform to the Newport-class LSTs Hernán Cortés and Pizarro for supporting the mobility of the Marines and as strategic transport of ground forces. It also acts as a platform for carrier-based aviation replacing the now withdrawn aircraft carrier Príncipe de Asturias. It has been involved in a number of important international operations, but because of high operating costs, has spent much time moored up at the home port of Rota in Cadiz.

The vessel has a flight deck of 202 metres (663 ft), with a "ski-jump" ramp. The ship’s flight deck has eight landing spots for Harrier, F-35 Lightning II or medium-sized helicopters, four spots for heavy helicopters of the CH-47 Chinook type, and one spot large enough for aircraft of V-22 Osprey size.

The ship can carry either 30 helicopters or 10/12 AV-8B or F-35B and 10/12 helicopters, using the light vehicles bay as an additional storage zone. The complement of the ship is around 900 naval personnel, with equipment and support elements for 1,200 soldiers.

Next week, a security and surveillance test operation by Spain’s Defence and Air Operations Command will be staged in the Balearics. F-18 fighter-bombers will be deployed in the operation and be based at the Son Sant Joan base as will the air defence unit and the anti-aircraft artillery command, which will be covering the surveillance areas of Soller, Pollensa and Alcudia.

A total of 425 army personnel will take part in the operation to test defence of Majorca, the Balearics and the Mediterranean area between the Balearics and the Valencia coast. The frigate Alvaro de Bazán will also be taking part by using its multi-function radar - Spy-1D - and various command and control systems.

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