The Juan Carlos I can carry aircraft

Spain's largest warship sighted in Navy manoeuvres off the Costa del Sol

The Juan Carlos I, which is a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship-aircraft carrier, has been visible from the coast this week

SUSANA ZAMORA MALAGA.

The manoeuvres that the Spanish Navy undertook this week in the Mediterranean allowed its flagship the Juan Carlos I, a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship-aircraft carrier, to be visible week off the coast of Malaga on Wednesday.

The Dédalo-23 amphibious air-naval group is being deployed throughout the first quarter of the year to improve its training and to highlight Spain's "firm commitment to the Alliance's deterrence and defence policy," Defence sources said.

Never before has Spain had such a large warship with such capabilities. It is a versatile ship with the capacity for air operations, although it does not correspond to the strict configuration of an aircraft carrier but is principally for amphibious missions; force projection; and humanitarian aid.

It was delivered to the Spanish Navy at the Navantia shipyard in 2010 in the presence of the king emeritus. This followed the Navy's long tradition of naming one of its main ships after the reigning monarch, which has been maintained since the arrival of the House of Bourbon to the Spanish throne in the early 18th century.

The current deployment is to prepare for its certification and subsequent incorporation into the Nato Readiness Initiative in 2024 and to strengthen the image of the Armed Forces in the international context.

The group is structured around the Juan Carlos I, an airborne unit composed of Harrier AV8B+ aircraft and helicopters, a reinforced landing battalion of the Tercio de Armada and a frigate. The amphibious ships Galicia and Castilla, the combat supply ship Cantabria, the submarine Tramontana, and Army helicopters are also expected to join the group as the deployment progresses.

The first phase of these manoeuvres will take place off the coasts of Italy and France. This will be followed by Egypt, before returning to the Italian coast before the end of the deployment in March.

For the duration of the exercise, the battle group will interact with other Nato groups and units, which will multiply training opportunities for the group's staff and personnel, Defence sources said.