Today I was on board of the Spanish amphibious ship Juan Carlos 1 for a press conference and a guided tour of the ship. The attendance to the conference was higher than I have expected.
The press conference started with the speaking of the commanding officer Captain Christopher Gonzalez-Aller Lacalle. He talked in general terms about the ship and its role in the Spanish Navy. He stated that Juan Carlos 1 is the biggest ship ever operated by the Spanish Navy in history. On a question why the ship was here in Istanbul, he answered that the ship was still in the warranty period of Navantia and they were on a endurance trip to determine how the ship operated away from their logistical base. This 45 day endurance trip will end soon when the ship returns to Spain. She will be declared operative in November 2011.
How to dock if you have no rudders.
Later Lt. Commander Calvo made a small briefing about the capabilities of the ship. I have asked about the turning radius of the ship and its stopping distance. As the ship does have two pods with pulling and pushing propellers instead of conventional propellers and rudders she can turn basically on the spot. And if an crash stop order is given when the ship is cruising on standard 15 knots she can come to full stop in less then 2 time the ship length. That means the 26.000 ton ship can decelerate from 27 km/h to 0 km/h in less than 462 meters. I think that this is impressive.
As there are no propeller shafts and ruder in traditional sense the main machinery consisting of one gas turbine and two diesels are used for producing electricity to run the ship. There are also no reductions gears. The main machinery is capable of producing 36 MW @ 6600 volts.
The number of aircraft, helicopters, main battle tanks and other military vehicles depends on the mission profiles and on the types of the vehicles. In general she has 6 spots on the flight deck for a simultaneous operation of NH-90 size helicopters. This number decreases to 4 if large helicopters such as CH-47 Chinooks are operated.
The helm and controls for the pods and bow thrusters
After the press conference first we taken to the bridge and then to the flight dispatcher. Both are very specious and all the windows which are necessary to see every thing going around creates a greenhouse effects. The black interiors painting does not help either. On the bridge the controls for the pods and bow thrusters were more prominent than the helm. In the era of pods and bow thrusters , the size and the importance of the helm is diminishing.
The CIC is very specious compared to the CIC’s I have seen on various frigates. The CIC is dived in two one half is for maritime component the other half is for amphibious and air operations. There are large office spaces for the staff officers on the same level of the CIC. The direct access the CIC from these office space which makes going back and forth and easy walk.
Inside the CIC
The combat management system SCOMBA was developed by Navantia in house. Obviously were not informed about the sensors and the SCOMBA. But according the internet gossip, it is not without any problems.
When were walking and climbing up/down the stairs I have realized that the gangways and the bulkheads were wide. I do not want to compare my Lowepro Pro-Trekker 300 AW camera backpack to a marine infantryman’s rucksack but I had no difficulty in moving inside the ship with my backpack on my back.
The ship has a citadel for protection against NBC weapons and a sprinkler system for decontamination. One cannot fully close a ship that has so many elevators, doors and access hatches. Therefore I assume that the citadel is limited to the living and main working areas inside the ship.
The hangar / garage spaces appeared to me very large. This may be due to the fact that the ships was not fully loaded for this endurance cruise. The height of the hanger was sufficient for a mechanic to stay on a wing of a Harrier or to work on a helicopter like SH-3D.
The dock can be flooded in 90 minutes and emptied in same duration. The dock can hold 4 LCM’s. The gangway in the middle of the dock makes it easier for the marines to climb to the LCM’s on the second row but makes it impossible for any craft wider than a LCM to operate.
I was told that a demo was made for high ranking Turkish Admirals visiting the ship. In that demo it took only 5 minutes for a army truck to be loaded on a LCM and for the LCM to depart the dock.
Starboard side of the dock with a LCM inside.
When I was younger I would ask questions about the sensors, weapons and such stuff. I have realized as I grow older I am more interested in the habitat of the ship for its crew. When I asked the young engineering officer about the habitability of the ship his eyes glowed. He said that the ship is as comfortable as civilian cruise ships.
The officers berthing is comfortable with two officers sharing a stateroom. 4 to 6 petty officers share a stateroom. The seamen are accommodate in dozens. The officers and petty officers have their own WC in their rooms. The sailors share communal WC’s/baths. The marines stay 18 in a stateroom. In each officers cabin there is a PC for personal use. There are films and music on the shared on board LAN. Besides there is satellite TV, and phones to call home. I have seen vending machines. The sole galley of the ship is located in the middle of the eating area and is easily accessible. The quality of the food was good according to my guide and hey there is alcohol on board if you are not on duty.
The tour ended with a small reception inside the aircraft hangar.
SPS Juan Carlos 1 is the biggest warship I have ever visited yet. After seeing the capability, the amenities and the facilities such a warship provides I know now why amphibious ships are dreadnoughts of our era.
The heavy cargo garage seen from the docks
The entrance of the hangar seen from the aft elevator