The Spanish Navy has always operated an aircraft carrier. Its most recent carrier is SNS Juan Carlos I, which is, in essence, an amphibious assault ship capable of operating Spain's force of EAV-8B Harriers. Juan Carlos I's predecessor, though, was Spain's first home-built aircraft carrier.
The Principe de Asturias, named for the heir to the Spanish throne, replaced the Dedalo, which began its life as the Independence-class light carrier USS Cabot (CVL 28). The Dedalo had been modified to operate AV-8S Harriers, which were very similar to various the Harriers in service with both the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force.
The Spanish aircraft carrier SPS Principe De Asturias (R 11) steams through the Atlantic Ocean while participating in Majestic Eagle 2004. Majestic Eagle is a multinational exercise being conducted off the coast of Morocco. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class William Howell)
The fact of the matter was that Independence-class light carriers were good ships — of the nine vessels to serve in World War II, eight survived — but they were designed to launch a piston-engine fighter, like the F6F Hellcat. The Principe de Asturias was designed to be a Harrier carrier from the getgo. One of the primary features of that ship was the ski-jump ramp on the bow.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Principe de Asturias displaced 17,190 tons and had a top speed of 25 knots. It could operate a mix of Harriers and anti-submarine helicopter and had four Meroka 20mm close-in weapon systems.
An EAV-8B Harrier II from the Spanish aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias (R 11) prepares to land after a live-fire exercise as part of a passing exercise with ships assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG-2). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Leonardo Carrillo)
25 knots seems quite low when compared to American Nimitz-class supercarriers. This is because the Principe de Asturias wasn't meant to take on the Soviet Navy in the Norwegian Sea. Her mission was to help protect convoys heading across the Atlantic. The Harriers might not be able to destroy a regiment of Backfires, but they could kill the occasional Tu-95 "Bear D" search aircraft. Meanwhile, her helicopters could keep an enemy submarine at bay — or better yet, sink it.
This ship gave Spain 25 years of excellent service. Despite reports of a number of countries wanting to buy it, she was sold for scrap.
Learn more about this vessel in the video below.