DEFENSE

Spain set to approve €7.3-billion weapons program

The money will be spent on building five F110 class frigates, purchasing 348 battle vehicles and upgrading the Eurofighter jet

Prototype of the 8x8 Dragon wagon.
Prototype of the 8x8 Dragon wagon.M.G.

The Spanish Cabinet is set to approve three weapons programs worth a collective €7.3 billion, according to sources at the Defense Ministry.

The programs include the construction of five F-110 class frigates between 2019 and 2032 at a cost of more than €4.3 billion, the purchase of 348 army vehicles worth €2.1 billion to be delivered in 2025, and €906 million in upgrades to the Eurofighter aircraft.

After the Cabinet greenlights the new budget allocations, the government’s total expenditure on defense will rise to €12.1 billion

Since Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE) came to power in early June, the government has also approved the release of nearly €1.2 billion in cost overruns for S-80 submarines, €1.4 billion for communications satellites, €819 million to upgrade Spain’s Chinook helicopters, and close to €1.4 billion to buy NH-90 helicopters.

After the Cabinet greenlights the new budget allocations on Friday, the government’s total expenditure on defense will rise to €12.1 billion. What ministers will be approving is the spending ceiling for these programs, not the contracts themselves, which should materialize next year.

The projects will have a significant impact on job creation, particularly the frigates, whose construction is expected to create nearly 7,000 positions for nine years; of these, 3,300 will be direct jobs, mostly in the northwestern region of Galicia.

The F-110 class frigates are vessels equipped with a US-developed naval weapons system known as Aegis, and they will replace the Spanish Navy’s six Santa María frigates, which have been in service for over 30 years.

The launch of this program had been dependent on a decision regarding Spain’s air defense system, with the government hesitating between Britain’s Sea Ceptor and the ESSM Block 2 made in the US. In August, the Spanish Defense Ministry opted for the second choice after noting the high cost of integrating the European missile into the Aegis system.

The S-80 submarine incurred in cost overruns due to its size.
The S-80 submarine incurred in cost overruns due to its size.Navantia

The Navy had always favored the ESSM (Sea Sparrow) missile, which is already in service on some of its ships, but the previous ministry team had declared the European option “a priority” and commissioned a €9.5 million viability study from Sea Ceptor maker MDBA.

On land, the VCR 8x8 vehicle, which has been dubbed by the Army as “the Dragon,” will replace the ageing BMRs, which had to be pulled from Afghanistan and Iraq over safety issues. On Friday, the Cabinet will approve Phase 1 of a program that includes a total of 998 vehicles at a cost of €3.8 billion.

The program will also lead to job creation, especially in Alcalá de Guadaira (Seville), Trubia (Asturias), Aranjuez (Madrid) and Andoain (Gipuzkoa).

Finally, the Eurofighter upgrade seeks to prevent the Spanish aircraft from becoming obsolete compared with other project members (Britain, Italy and Germany). Factoring in this new expense, the cost to Spain of the European combat plane will reach €10.1 billion.

English version by Susana Urra.

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