Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan is a warship equipped with state-of-the-art Aegis combat system, capable of dealing with many threats.
Naval doctrine today has changed a lot, the forces that make up the backbone of a nation’s navy are no longer destroyers or large cruisers but frigates. Modern frigates today possess the same capabilities as a destroyer but have lower operating costs and are easier to build than larger warships.
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Spain is developing with the orientation of a sea country, due to its geographical location, so they attach great importance to maritime security. Historically, Spain has had the world’s No. 1 naval force for several centuries. Currently, the Spanish navy remains one of the forces with powerful potential in Europe. In the current Spanish Navy, the Allvaro de Bazan-class frigate is considered the most modern warships.
Different from other modern European warships like Sachsen or Iver Huitfeldt, although designed for anti-aircraft defense missions, Alvaro de Bazan can still fulfill other missions such as anti-ship, anti-submarine and electronic warfare. The Spanish warships are equipped with the American Aegis combat system that allows Alvaro de Bazan to track targets hundreds of kilometers away. Apart from anti-aircraft, this warship-class can also intercept cruise and ballistic missiles.
In the early 1980s, the Spanish Navy determined to develop a new class of frigates for escort missions. By 1983, the country had participated in the NFR-90 future frigate initiative. Accordingly, eight key members of NATO will jointly develop a new type of warship. However, the NFR-90 project was canceled in 1989, and the eight participating countries initially developed new warships on their own requirements. This led to the formation of the F-100 class frigate, also known as the Alvaro de Bazan class in Spain. Spain wanted to create a high-tech warship to enhance its naval power.
In 1994, Spain signed a cooperation agreement with Germany and the Netherlands to develop the F-100 together. The difference in this agreement from the NFR-90 project is that the countries have only cooperated to develop hydrodynamic designs for ships. Alvaro de Bazan is the first frigate of the class and also the lead ship. Her name was named after a Spanish admiral, who was never defeated in the 15th century. The ship was launched in 2000, officially put into service in 2002.
The Alvaro de Bazan is the first modern Spanish Navy warship designed to incorporate anti-ballistic steel in the hull, power plants are mounted on anti-vibration mounts to reduce noise, making it harder to detect by submarines. The warship is a flexible frigate, medium sized with a displacement of approximately 6,400 tons. The length and the beam are 146.7m and 18.6m, respectively, the draft is 4.75m. The ship able to operate as much in coastal waters as on the high seas. Her service platforms are optimized to meet the need for the group battle. A ship with an excellent ability to survive, protection against fragmentation, damage-control system and bacteriological and chemical defenses, as well as acoustic and very low magnetic radars.
She is equipped with a combined diesel or gas propulsion system, including two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines paired with two Navantia Caterpillar 3600 diesel engines, the shafts drive two controllable pitch propellers. The propulsion system helps the ship reach a maximum speed of 28.5 knots, the range can be up to 4,500 nauticalmiles at 18 knots. The complement of the ship is up to 250 employees, including 48 officers.
The Alvaro de Bazan was designed specifically for air defense, protect the expeditionary forces, anti-submarine warfare, long-range anti-aircraft defense and missile interception. The ship is equipped with an advanced command and control system that can function as a flagship. The ship’s main sensor is the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1D 3-D multifunction radar of the American Aegis advanced combat system.
The Spanish Navy is among the few forces in the world outside of the United States equipped with this advanced radar. Japan’s Kongo class, Korea’s Sejong the Great class, and Norwegian F100-derived Fridtjof Nansen class of frigates also use the Aegis system. Aegis is an integrated combat system designed to deal with a variety of different threats at sea such as fixed-wing aircraft, unmanned aircraft, missiles, high-tech guided weapons, surface warships and submarines. SPY-1D radar can detect hundreds of targets at a distance of 300 km, the data is then transmitted to the Aegis computer system to classify, evaluate and activate appropriate weapons to destroy the target.
In addition, the Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates are also equipped with Link 11 tactical data link that allow the safe sharing of data between ships, increasing combat effectiveness. Other sensors include the Raytheon SPS-67 surface search radar operating in the C band, 104 km reconnaissance range. The Alvaro de Bazan frigate uses the Raytheon DE1160 LF active and passive sonar to detect enemy submarines. The firepower is controlled by the DORNA fire control system from FABA, including a K-band radar, optical-infrared sensor station and laser range-finding system. This system will control the operation of the gunboat and anti-aircraft cannon on board.
The armament on board consists of 48 cell US-made Mk41 vertical launch systems. The Mk41 is equipped with a combination of SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles with a range of 70 km and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile with a range of 50 km. The number of missiles carried is 32 SM-2MR and 64 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With 96 air defense missiles, Alvaro de Bazan possesses powerful anti-aircraft capabilities, no less than destroyers.
Next are 8 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles with a range of 120 km, carrying a 220 kg warhead. The ship is also armed with the 127mm Mark 45 Mod 2 gunboat, which has a maximum range of 23.6 km. Two 20mm FABA Meroka 2B close-in weapon systems. The two sides of the ship are fitted with Mk32 light anti-submarine torpedo launchers, 12 Honeywell Mk46 mod 5 Torpedo available. The task of hunting and destroying submarines also has the support of SH-60B Seahawk helicopter. A helicopter deck and hangar were installed at the stern. Seahawk can drop AN/SQQ-28 LAMPS III sonar signal processing systems to detect enemy submarines.
In late 2005, Alvaro de Bazan was deployed as part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf. This was the first deployment of a Spanish warship as part of an American naval battle group. In early March 2007, Alvaro de Bazan became the first Spanish warship to visit Australia in 150 years. The deployment included several port visits, and was performed to support Navantia’s bid to design the Hobart-class destroyer for the Royal Australian Navy.
The ship was also visiting Australia as part of the first circumnavigation of the globe by a Spanish warship in 142 years. Military experts said that with the powerful weapons system, the Alvaro de Bazan and her sisters could be classified as a destroyer. However, the Spanish Navy identified the ship as a frigate likely for political reasons.