No, Two More DDG to Spain is not Something to Celebrate
imperial inertia is a hell of a thing
Let’s set the table.
First: one of the best places to be stationed overseas if you are a Sailor in the US Navy is Rota, Spain. Nothing else even comes close. I spent no small part of my life in and out of that port, and … let’s just say it wasn’t bad.
Second: the Armada, (AKA Spanish Navy) is no slouch. At the top of her surface force, she has five Aegis ~destroyers of their own that they built from 2002-2012, the Álvaro de Bazán Class, They call a frigate, but it is really on the edge of being a destroyer by mission with 75% the displacement of the Flight-I Arleigh Burke DDG (6,391 v. 8,200 full-load long tons), and 53% of the MK-41 VLS cells (48 v. 90).
A fellow navalist let me know SEPCOR earlier that nine months ago steel was cut on the first of five F-110 Aegis at a slightly smaller 6,000 long tons which I really should accept as a heavy frigate, as the USN Constellation FFG (PBUH) will come in at a robust ~7,400 long tons.
ESP has a population (47 million) just a little less than the US West Coast states of California and Washington combined, and larger by 20% or so of the landmass of California alone. ~14% of the US population.
She’s a medium sized power. but she is not a rich nation. Her per capita income is $30,103 compared to the USA’s $70,480 - and her national GDP tracks accordingly at only 6% of the USA (fairly close to Russia. Yes, that Russia).
An imperfect comparison for the next part of the post would be to look at the number of Aegis ships in the USN. Grant me a few hulls one side or another and I fully understand that the plan is that by the end of the decade what few TICO CG’s we have will be decommissioned w/o replacement, but our combined DDG+CG totals are in the neighborhood of 85 ships. 6% of that is … 5. OK, seems correct.
However, what does ESP invest in its military overall? In 2022, as per NATO, it is estimated that Spain spent 1.01% of her GDP on defense. The USA? 3.47%. NATO’s “minimum” is 2%.
Clearly - and correctly - using these imperfect benchmarks ESP it makes it clear that ESP spends more on its Navy than its other services. Stuck on a peninsula in the southwest corner of Europe where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean with France and Portugal as neighbors, she’s a maritime and aerospace power, not a land power.
She is a long way from NATO’s eastern front and has a natural and historical place in eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Her national - and alliance - requirements naturally point to what appears to be her spending priorities.
In the last year, ESP put out a marker that she will push harder to reach 2% of GDP, almost double what she invested in 2022.
Yes, some of this will need to go to replace everything from tanks to small arms ESP sent to Ukraine in the last year, but naturally - most of that should go to their navy and air force.
Keep your finger on that point, we’ll come back to it.
Not unrelated, earlier this week we found out;
The United States will increase its destroyers based in southern Spain to six from four under an agreement to strengthen their bilateral strategic relationship, the countries said on Monday.
The agreement follows the commitment last June by U.S. President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at a meeting held on the margins of the NATO Summit in Madrid.
The U.S. destroyers based at the Rota naval base in Cadiz are the only ones with a permanent home port in Europe. The ships are positioned to make daily operations in various missions, including ballistic missile defence and anti-aircraft warfare, the U.S. embassy said in a statement.
What needs to happen is that instead of sending two more USN DDG to fill up the Boar’s Breath, ESP needs to increase their F-110 buy to seven, or even better, 10 ships … and accelerate their construction.
As ESP decided to be a responsible ally and increase to 2% - they should do more - and they should invest that in building a greater Armada.
The Med will only become more important over the next few decades for reasons from migration to energy, and the USN does not have enough surface escorts to protect convoys from North America to back up Europe should it find itself in a spot of bother. A strong ESP Armada - with Aegis ships that can also conduct anti-ballistic missile missions - are the answer to this European challenge. Italy has a nice 10,000 ton new DDG due to show up at the end of the decade that can play in this arena as well. France, call your office.
If the USN needs to forward deploy DDG, Europe is not the place they need to go. I would rather them be on the West Coast or Hawaii. If they need to get closer to the fight, not Japan or Guam. One is already under the enemy’s guns, and the other is about to tip over.