Spanish Navy is considering acquiring six more S-80 submarines

In the period leading up to the start of the Ukrainian war in February 2022, a parliamentary report underscored the necessity of augmenting the power of the French navy.

Spain unveiled the S-80 sub with air-independent propulsion [AIP]
Photo credit: Navantia

This recommendation arose as a response to the shifting security landscape in the Mediterranean region, which has been plagued by issues such as territorial disputes, power consolidation, coastal state rearmament, the risk of maritime terrorism, illegal trafficking, and exploitation of migration traffic.  

The paper emphasized the necessity of reinforcing our premier fleet. It argued that this measure is essential to bolster the standing of the National Navy amidst the increasing naval rearmament in the Mediterranean.  

However, this recommendation doesn’t seem to align with the Military Programming Law [LPM] 2024-30. According to this law, the composition of the French Navy would remain the same, maintaining fifteen first-class frigates.  

In contrast, the Italian navy is set on a different course. Under an ambitious plan initiated in 2019, Rome plans on substantially scaling up its naval power. By 2030-35, the Marina Militare is projected to achieve a significant increase in its frigate count, destroyers, multi-purpose offshore patrol vessels, corvettes, U-212 submarines, and aircraft carriers. The complex security situation in the Mediterranean is causing the Spanish Navy [Armada Española] to ponder over increasing their resources.  

The navy is currently focused on modernizing their five F-100 frigates, commissioning their new S-80 submarine, and constructing five F-110 frigates as replacements for the Santa Maria class. Additionally, they anticipate receiving a €400 million package for fleet enhancement in the years to come.  

Spanish Navy is considering acquiring six more S-80 submarines
Photo credit: Navantia

The strategic intent of the Spanish Armada was to not just modernize its fleet. However, this goal heavily relies on Madrid’s potential agreement to increase its military expenditure to 2% of the GDP by 2028/29. Admiral Ricardo Hernández, in charge of logistic support for the Navy, affirmed this necessity during a conference in Córdoba.  

He asserted, “As it stands now, we exchange one vessel for another. If the government stays true to its commitment of amplifying the defense budget to 2% of the GDP by 2029, we will expand our fleet.”  

Admiral Hernandez shared their plan to secure more F-110 frigates and S-80 submarines along with amphibious assault ships in the upcoming decade.  

However, a boost in military budgetary allowance is not all it takes. There’s an urgent need for the Spanish Navy to ramp up recruitment, which should happen as soon as possible considering that training sailors is a time-consuming task. “This could easily take 10-15 years,” Admiral Hernández acknowledged.  

If Admiral Hernández’s vision materializes, the Spanish Navy will be looking at the inclusion of twelve first-class frigates [five F-100s and seven F-110s] and six S-80 submarines. The first of these submarines, the Isaac Peral, was inaugurated into active service in November of the previous year, two decades after Navantia received the order. The final one, the S-84 “Mateo García de los Reyes”, is expected to commence service in 2028.  

The Armada Española has never possessed more than four submarines to date. Currently, they operate two—the S-81 Isaac Peral and the S-71 Galerna—a French design.  

That said, Admiral Hernández didn’t address the future of the Spanish Naval Aviation [Flotilla de Aeronaves, FLOAN]. This fleet currently awaits a decision on the replacement of its EAV-8B+ Matador II fighters. The only aircraft that seems to meet their needs is the F-35B—a short take-off and vertical landing [STOVL] model.

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