Strategic Transport

Airmen from the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy Oct. 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Airmen and Marines loaded more than 266,000 pounds of cargo onto the C-5M as part of retrograde operations in Afghanistan. During this mission, the crew reached more than 11 million pounds of cargo transported in a 50-day period. Source - U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock.

The war in Ukraine has shown us once again the importance of Strategic Transportation. In the Russian case, given the enormous distances to be traveled through a country that is the size of a continent. In Ukraine, due to the amount of supplies, systems and platforms sent by its allies throughout the world. However, there are not a few armies, including the Spanish Armed Forces, that neglect a fundamental capacity, especially when they are part of organizations such as the European Union and NATO, as is our case.

Most confrontations or acts of war between sovereign countries take place across common borders. Even so, due to its extension or due to the resources that must be mobilized, both in personnel and in material means, they force their armies to make large transport movements to go to the front. If we refer to great colonial powers or disputed lands far from the metropolis, the countries at war will be forced to project their military power very far from their metropolitan territories.

The concept of strategic military transportation aims to allow armies to fight far from their starting bases, not only when it comes to moving the contingents that bear the brunt of the fight, but also to support them later.

Transport can be carried out by different land, sea or air means, and has two basic modalities, depending on whether or not it implies the need to fight to achieve it. Thus, a movement of troops or supplies may be conditioned by the action of the enemy, who will try to interrupt this flow, forcing defensive deployments to ensure what becomes one more mission in the conduct of war operations.

Failure to do so almost certainly ruins an army’s plans and frustrates its most basic goals. Hence, sustaining an effective strategic transport is essential, and it is not limited only to the material means necessary to cover great distances.

Given that they largely lived off the land, the campaigns of Alexander the Great, as well as those of Genghis Khan, cannot be considered an example of what we now call Strategic Transport. Source –

Strategic Transportation throughout History

Since the world is a world, armed conflicts have existed, and numerous examples of strategic transportation and military operations over long distances, carried out by sea and even on foot, have been associated with them. Certainly, transportation as a logistics activity was not the protagonist in these times, since the armies were sustained by what they found on their way, which does not mean that they did not move amazing distances; These are now considered large-scale combat operations, but without a significant transport component between the front lines and the starting bases.

Thus, the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great in his incursion to India, the odyssey of Genghis Khan from the Mongolian prairies to the very gates of Vienna or the incredible journey of Hannibal the Carthaginian through the entire Mediterranean shore, do not mean actually an example of what we now call strategic transportation; but campaigns where armies moved through terrain that gave them what they might need along the way, sometimes even carrying out settlements that lasted months or years, like sieges.

Yes, it would be, for example, the response that Scipio “The African” would give to Hannibal’s departure; the Roman general who commanded 40 warships and 400 transports, crossed the Mediterranean to subdue Carthage in 204 BC (Second Punic War). The characteristic that makes the difference in this case is measured in the time factor and in the use of war resources for a purpose that, like the Roman ships, was not to fight.

In more recent times, the movement of Christian armies to Jerusalem (the famous Crusades) will have many more parallels with a large modern military logistics operation, including securing access to resources and ports with which to complete the journey through military and diplomatic operations. . This same dynamic was followed by the Spanish Tercios on the so-called “Spanish Road”, which crossed Europe from the crown territories in Spain and Italy, to the domains of Flanders. In fact, it was the Hispanic Empire and the need to maintain operations in the New World territories that gave the concept of “strategic transportation” the character of a warlike enterprise in itself, as the so-called “Race of the Indies” was subjected to harassment by the English and Dutch corsairs; the Spaniards resorting to convoys of assembled transport ships escorted by galleons of war to ensure their protection.

Already in the XNUMXth century and in the context of the two world wars, the transit of Allied troops and supplies across the Atlantic and the harassment to which they were subjected by German submarines, would shape modern naval combat, to the point of making ships of the line, once protagonists of naval battles, disappear to become “escorts” of such valuable objectives. Likewise, the Allied invasion forces on the Pacific islands and their enormous impact on the Western Front (with decisive landings in Morocco, Italy and France) gave strategic transport by sea the status of a combat operation, allowing ground forces to fight as soon as we land, although we must limit the concept of “transport” to the tool that allows these forces to come into contact with the enemy and, subsequently, feed it with logistical resources.

To conclude this summary, we can recall the birth of aviation, its rapid technical development and its impact on military operations, including transportation. The first milestone of this type happened, again, in Spain, when in 1936 a modest fleet of six planes from the rebel air force transferred part of General Franco’s Army of Africa to the peninsula from Tetouan. Between July 19 and August 4, 1936, six infantry battalions would be transported by this means, compared to the two that made the crossing by sea, which constituted 40% of the existing battalions in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco. . As of that date, the German Ju-52s of the Condor Legion would join the effort, consolidating the first operation of this type in history.

Years later, Germany would fail in the attempt to hold Stalingrad by airlift, while parachute assault operations would suffer uneven fate in European fields. However, we will have to wait until the end of World War II to see another success that we consider essential for achieving a strategic objective, and that, as a good transport operation, did not require a single shot.

The growing tensions between the former allies, which would go down in history with the descriptive name of “Cold War”, had their climax during 1948, in the western part of occupied Berlin. The American decision to introduce a new currency, the German mark or German Mark, different from the devalued Reich mark, obtained the rejection of the Soviet Union, which led it to close road access from West Germany to Berlin, within the zone occupied by the USSR.

The allies, who did not contemplate the option of leaving the supply in the hands of the Soviets, even considered sending armed convoys to ensure the survival of the city, but that meant an invasion of the territory of the USSR and the possibility of triggering an incident of serious proportions, so he opted for the legally established route and that the USSR could not deny without initiating a conflict: use the three air corridors that had been stipulated in 1945 to connect Berlin with Frankfurt, Hamburg and Bückeburg.

This, in addition to being a risk, represented a complete physical challenge: moving up to 4.000 tons of daily supplies by air for a city with more than two million inhabitants.

After hesitant beginnings, the air forces of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa managed to make 200.000 flights during the short year that the blockade lasted, lifted by Stalin when he saw the failure of a measure which was also affecting his management in East Berlin in the media, more in need of consumables than Western areas despite such special circumstances (a situation that would ultimately lead to the erection of a wall to prevent mass defections).

Douglas DC-4 during the airlift over Berlin in 1948.

Strategic transportation by air

That demonstration of power by the US represented the consolidation of air transport as part of the commitment of this country as a global power and its fight against the expansion of Communism, which would culminate in the intervention in Southeast Asia or the war of Vietnam.

The Soviets, who also intended to maintain their continental sphere of influence, added to the extension of their territory and the importance they gave to airborne forces [1], also opted for a method of transport that has given birth to the largest cargo ships in history , like the extraordinary Antonov An225, belonging to the Ukraine since the disappearance of the USSR and lost (only one prototype existed) in the war that currently confronts it with Russia. Precisely this warlike climate has suspended what has been a good deal for Ukraine and a sign of weakness of the European powers in the field of strategic air transport: the rental by these of the Antonov An124 freighters (somewhat more modest than the previous , but operating at full capacity) to cover its own military needs.

With the capacity to lift one hundred and fifty tons, it is a medium unequaled in the West, although the USAF has similarly designed aircraft, such as the C5M Galaxy (up to 120 tons) and even others to move cargo directly from their bases to forward positions. on the front, be they fortune airfields or simple dirt runways. This requirement, which avoids supplementing long-range or strategic flight with others within the theater to deliver cargo directly to final distribution points, has brought about new aircraft that, while somewhat more modest, offer considerable cost savings. costs and greater speed when making deliveries, in the case of the C17 Globemaster and A400M Atlas.

The North American model belongs to a higher category, the Airbus plane being penalized by very poorly defined requirements [2] and which sought to amortize the design in tactical flights, in addition to purely strategic ones. Of similar conception is also the Japanese C2 or the new heavy transport Y20 of the People’s Republic of China, a demonstration that tensions continue to rise and with them, the need for air transport in an area as extensive as the Indo-Pacific region.

All in all, nothing can match the capacity of the US in this field, because beyond individual performance, the fleet it enlists is truly impressive, with 190 C17s and 60 C5s between the Air Force and the National Guard.

The impressive bulk of an RAF C17 on final approach, the British Ministry of Defense has decided to keep the unrivaled capabilities of the Boeing product alongside its A400Ms. Source – UK Ministry of Defense.

The Boeing C-17 is an extraordinary aircraft that has achieved important export successes, being the model chosen to reinforce NATO transport capabilities, with a multinational unit, the SAC (Strategic Airlift Capability) located at the Pápa base (Hungary). and currently operates six aircraft. The giant also serves with the Canadian RCAF, which has 5 aircraft (local designation CC177) based in Trenton, Ontario. Likewise, the United Kingdom and Germany leased C-17 aircraft pending receipt of the definitive European A400M; however, the capabilities of the Boeing aircraft are so superior that the RAF decided to combine both, going on to make a firm acquisition of 8 C17A.

It should also be mentioned, and it is a significant fact, that all the majority partners of the A400M except Spain (that is, the United Kingdom, France and Germany), have ended up acquiring the C130J Hercules, which does not belong to the same category but whose purchase has been necessary to complement the first, given that the use of the A400M is uneconomical for short-range or low payload flights.

A project is currently being defined that can replace both the C295 (which is the bet that Spain made, very successful at the time) and the C130, and which will surprisingly be led by Airbus Germany. This is the verification that the bet of the A400M, which has not been exported, was wrong and that a model with higher military performance had to be sought, similar to the C17 and powered by jet engines [3], where the European manufacturer has great experience . In fact, these “specialists” are complemented in most of the air forces by freighters of commercial origin, but intended to carry military personnel, palletized cargo or perform in-flight refueling of other aircraft.

To cite a significant example, the A400 has a wide fuselage closer to that of the C17 than to that of an A321F, a civil freighter of the Airbus family capable of carrying 28 to 3.500 km (the A400 carries 30 to 4.500 km). This allows the military aircraft to carry cargo that the latter could not accommodate, such as helicopters or machinery, but to move palletized cargo to destinations with airport facilities, an A321F offers much higher performance, understood as a capacity/operation cost ratio.

This is because they improve flight conditions (cruising speed, altitude and relative consumption) thanks to their aerodynamic and motor performance, with a very different wing profile (low wing); conditions that are ideal for, among others, the refueling of fighter-bombers. The most used models are the Airbus A330 MRTT and the Boeing KC76, in addition to smaller fleets of other devices, always referring to countries in the NATO sphere.

In this regard, it should be clarified that the resupply function is of great importance in the strategic deployment of air forces from their starting bases to others close to the theaters of operations -not to be confused with tactical resupply of combat formations on the way to their objectives-. This difference has generated quite a bit of confusion when assessing the need to have specialized aircraft such as the MRTT when C130s or A400Ms are available for refueling.

Basically the Thoughts tactical is valid to establish a forward refueling point that will be used by fighter-bombers on their way to their objectives. On the contrary, an aircraft intended to support the deployment of long-distance combat forces (with several refueling) is required to make the journey alongside the supported aircraft, flying at the same speed and altitude as those, in addition to a Much greater amount of fuel to be transferred. All in such a way that it does not interfere with the flight profile of the planes it accompanies; Otherwise, the transferred fuel does not compensate for the excess consumption of a fighter-bomber that transits outside its optimal altitude and cruise speed.

It is only in the case of supplying aircraft with similar or inferior characteristics that turboprops such as the C130J may be suitable (in fact, an MRTT would be unable to fly at the cruising speed of a helicopter), but they will always be complementary to large aircraft. strategic resupply, never a substitute for these.

The performance of the main models can be seen in the diagram that you can find at the end of this section, which shows the load that the aircraft supports and the range that it is capable of achieving in each configuration. The MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight) of the aircraft, variable according to the take-off conditions (altitude, temperature and runway length) but presented at its maximum theoretical value, is the fundamental parameter; since it indicates the maximum admissible weight combining cargo and fuel.

Generally (in airplanes with so much internal volume) the maximum load is so high that it is necessary to limit the fuel, reaching MTOW before filling the tanks; in this maximum performance configuration the range is limited [segment A]. Reducing the load thus allows to increase the internal fuel and therefore the range [represented by segment B]. Finally, it shows the increase in range that is achieved with full tanks and a progressive reduction in the total weight of the aircraft (below MTOW), and which, as we can see, is usually quite small [segment C], until reaching the maximum value car transfer (ferry). It is significant that some aircraft do not represent this segment, reaching MTOW exclusively by fueling (usually with auxiliary tanks).

We must also consider, when planning a mission, the effect that weight has on the structure of the aircraft, that is, the load factor or load factor (ratio between lift and weight) which is measured in Gs. Military cargo aircraft usually measure their performance (maximum) for an authorized load factor of 2,25 G in a logistics mission, that is, they do not need to carry out combat maneuvers or extreme approach/takedown maneuvers, otherwise the FC must rise and the payload must be reduced so as not to structurally damage the appliance.

Another factor to take into account is the volumetric weight, that is; the volume available in the holds or cargo compartments to amortize the maximum admissible weight, especially with low-density goods. This data, and not so much the ro-ro unloading capacity (or without assistance of elevators) is what gives value to military freighters with respect to those of civil origin, together with the possible design requirements to withstand hard landings (high wing and consistency landing gear) and short braking runs (with thrust reversers).

Strategic Transportation within the European Union

As we say, the strategic transport capacity of the US, like many others, is far above that of any other country or conglomerate of NATO countries, which is why the European Union, with the desire to be a political actor with weight own in the international sphere and a credible defense capacity apart from the American friend, launched in 2010 an initiative called EATC (European Air Transport Command) which basically consists of the transport planes of the different Armed Forces being able to be “rented” by another operator for specific missions, thus covering capacities that it may lack. The organization is structured as an operational command, that is,

The compensation system for the participating nations is that of “equivalent hours”, in such a way that each country receives the same service that it provides in exchange; According to the cost per flight hour of each aircraft, a technical equivalence table is established that is fair and proportionate to the capabilities of the aircraft or the mission performed (range, payload, time spent, etc.).

In the same way, the MMF (Multinational MRTT Force), a multinational initiative led by Germany, represents an unbeatable possibility for nations with limited resources to improve the capacity of strategic transport and aerial refueling without the need to acquire and maintain a fleet of A330 MRTT own. Today, in addition to the aforementioned Germany, it is also formed by Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway and the Czech Republic.

Managed by the NSPA (NATO procurement agency) and the OCCAR (joint arms cooperation agency), it is an organization based on time-share, by contracting fleet services according to a stipulated scale of annual hours, but which does not imply no political or temporal control of use. This means that each MMF country can spend “its hours” distributed as it wishes, as long as there is availability of aircraft and crews, which are the only ones that respond to their chain of command (transfer of sovereignty) so that if they are their own , any restriction on the use of the devices is avoided. A) Yes,

In this regard, MMF is dimensioned at the rate of one aircraft for every 1,200 contracted hours, a value that contrasts notably with the cost of maintaining, in the Spanish case, three MRTTs for a total of hours flown that in no case will exceed 900 per year. In terms of autonomy and availability, with 2,000 contracted hours, the client nation has the right to a FOB (Forward Operating Base) in its territory, with an aircraft ready to fly permanently.

Compared with these solutions, the one chosen by the United Kingdom – renting its refueling planes to a private company (Air Tanker) – seems like an excessive risk in terms of strategic autonomy.

An A330 of the Air and Space Army in function of strategic transport, still pending its conversion to MRTT. Source – Air Force.

Maritime transport and amphibious operations

Amphibious operations are the maximum expression of the combination of a tactical function, the assault on a coast controlled by the enemy, with the logistical function represented by strategic transport and supply of the force, as long as the operation is carried out at a point far across the open sea. 

Whether transporting land troops or operating as floating bases , the need for fleets to transport troops and their consumables (particularly fuel and ammunition) or relieve them when operations are prolonged over time, forces the powers with strategic capacity to have large auxiliary fleets that, unlike the assault force itself, do not justify their existence in peacetime or to carry out minor operations, so they resort to reserve fleets or requisitioned merchants (militarized ) for the occasion .

Whenever an amphibious landing is organized properly speaking, that is to say that there is no availability of a port to unload troops and supplies, the procedure will be similar; counting on attack transports, landing craft, helicopters and even air superiority aircraft on board in their case aircraft carriers or authentic attack aircraft carriers.

This deployment not only involves the forces that have been entrusted with the mission, but also, and by virtue of its duration, the supplies necessary to sustain operations. The concept of amphibious force tends to consider these supplies as an integral part of a landing operation, carrying with it all the necessary consumables and services (sanitary, maintenance, etc.), which are calculated and organized by days of supply or DOS (Days of Supply). ). This is because the operation must be done quickly and cannot rely on a long sea lane slowing down operations. If the amphibious action has a certain duration, re-embarking at the end of it, the concept of attack force and logistics fleet will be one.

If it does not take place in this way, the mission will need support in the form of continuous strategic transport between the starting bases and the area where the military forces must be unloaded and/or supplied. To minimize these journeys, some countries design ships capable of accompanying combat units, remaining in the Theater of Operations (TO) as “floating bases” to provide this service until their reserves are exhausted, at which time they must be relieved by another ship in zone and withdraw to reload; this is the case of hospital ships, repair ships or fleet oil tankers (they supply fuel to other ships).

At the other extreme are the ships that go to a Zone of Operations (ZO) to supply the consumables needed by the outposted forces and, once transferred, withdraw to make way for other similar means, carrying out regular routes or supply convoys ( duly escorted if necessary).

These units, unlike the previous ones, can act relatively far from the combat zones (operational scope), supplying the cargo to distribution centers that, later, will take it to where it is required. In this way we will be talking about a pure strategic transport, which does not establish force landing operations or assume risks in the transfer of cargo. Another issue is that the enemy tries to prevent the transit of these ships through the sea or their access to the coasts and/or inland waters, as happened during the Battle of the Atlantic, vital for both contenders and a fundamental factor for the defeat of Germany. Nazi [4].

The USS Lewis B. Puller , first in a new series of Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs) in service with the US Navy. Source – US Navy.

The Auxiliary Fleets

Although civilian means can be contracted or requisitioned and used by military personnel without complex technical adaptations, we must be aware of the risks, as the British were able to see when they lost the freighter SS Atlantic conveyor in the Malvinas, although this ship was operating in an area of combat (100 miles north of the Falkland Islands) and not at a secure logistics point, which for the British forces represented Ascension Island. In any case, and returning to the simile of the Second World War, the Japanese attack on Hawaii in 1941 has already shown that in the environment of air-naval warfare (or aircraft carrier warfare) there are no safe rearguards, at least when dealing with powers of equivalent capabilities.

However, all the military operations that the West has undertaken in the last thirty years have been exempt from this type of global threat to shipping. This entails a significant change in the military character of the ships or aircraft used, both by the personnel operating them and by the defensive equipment and even by the use of military communications.

Likewise, state-of-the-art supply distribution centers have changed the rules of the modern strategic transportation game; at least for the American giant, with an extensive network of forward bases around the world (thanks to its great diplomatic influence).

Even without them, and resorting to large ships permanently loaded with prepositioned material, the ability of the US to intervene quickly anywhere in the world (solving the great problem of naval transport, its slowness) is remarkable. And it is that the US Navy – rightly so the most powerful navy in the world – has had a new impetus unknown since the times of the Cold War, with the expansion of the Chinese fleet and the threat in the Pacific, where the aforementioned advanced bases, such as Guam and Okinawa, with an unparalleled transport fleet, made up of more than 100 ships.

As an organizational curiosity, we will say that according to their type they belong to the front line forces (amphibious ships), the naval reserve or the auxiliary fleet, made up of ships owned by the US Navy and other temporarily commissioned [5], which are controlled by the Military Sealift Command (MSC) to meet the naval transportation needs of the US Armed Forces; this means that it is the sole responsible for maritime transport (non-combatant) of the Department of Defense. Similarly, although on a smaller scale, the British Royal Navy also has an auxiliary fleet that operates in the same way, called the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) .

The ships most in demand for military tasks are oil tankers and RO-RO or RO-RO cargo carriers, as well as clear decks such as container ships or, preferably, for helicopter stowage. The Royal Navy has, for example, the ships of the “Bay” series, cataloged as Landing Ship or LSD, while the Royal Netherlands Navy, which had previously built a twin of our LPD “Galicia” (the Rotterdam), has opted for a novel concept of multipurpose logistics ship, or JSS (Joint Support Ship) called Karel Doorman, which apart from the dock and platform, has large fuel tanks and transfer systems to other ships to act as an oil tanker. She also has the capacity to provide humanitarian aid (hospital) and embark a general staff (command ship).

Without being amphibious ships, the technical and structural solutions of many of these ships are very similar to the classic LPDs, varying mainly in the ability to accommodate troops, at least for a long time. Thus, while the Dutch has 165 seats and the British reaches 360, the Spanish Galicia transports 600 people with a slightly smaller displacement. Likewise, the facilities to operate aircraft, with their personnel and spare parts for maintenance and other combat functions, raise the crews from 70 of a “Bay” class to more than 180 of our LPD.

This factor is especially important when assessing the costs of chartering ships for long voyages, with stopovers in different ports and per diems for personnel, which is why ships with large military capacity (amphibious) may not be the ideal ones. to carry out administrative transport, resorting instead to civil ferries.

Likewise, the capacity of certain hulls to carry out different missions, such as that reported for the JSS, allows them to be amortized more easily, since they can alternate the transport of contingents when required with routine tasks within a fleet, such as fuel supply, or carrying out military operations in the so-called asymmetric environments or in operations that require a long stay in the ZO, such as the mission against piracy in the waters of Somalia (Operation Atalanta) , carrying out maritime control and intervention missions in favor of navigation (MIO or Maritime Interdiction Operations ) as a floating base.

The Dutch JSS Karel Doorman , a successful multifunction logistics vessel concept.

Strategic transportation by road and rail

We said at the beginning of this work that the majority of armed conflicts occur between neighboring nations and/or with common borders, in this case the need for strategic transport being much more limited and where the use of ships or aircraft is usually operational, carrying supplies and personnel from the rear to the front. In this area, it is very common to use road transport and, if the railway infrastructure allows it, to resort to freight trains.

Although in the civil sphere road transport is of a strategic nature, especially in countries as large as the USA or through the European continent and its policy of borders open to transit, in the military world these movements are hampered precisely by the difficulty of traveling through neutral countries to link the conflict zone with the metropolitan territory. Only in a major continental conflict does this type of transport become relevant, and it is in Eastern Europe, from the Second World War to the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, where the vast expanses of the Eurasian plain and the remoteness of the coasts and its ports make it necessary to resort to land transport. In this specific case, the railway network is the protagonist of the great movements,

Currently, rail transport is having a great influence on the war in Ukraine, to such an extent that railway junctions have once again become a military target for both sides, even seeing something unusual from other times, such as armored trains/ gunships.

Similarly, in the NATO sphere, it is a widely used means of moving military contingents without causing serious disruption to the civil road network. The distances between the bases where the bulk of the US Army is stationed in Europe (Germany) and the large maneuver fields, as well as the recent Forward Presence (EFP) missions, close to the borders with Russia such as the one in Latvia, have involved a systematic use of the railway to move heavy material such as battle tanks or artillery.

In Spain it is the preferred means for, for example, moving large units from their bases to the only training center (CENAD) capable of hosting large-scale maneuvers, in our case San Gregorio (with the last remaining military station in Spain) . Not only that, but the railway was the means used to partially repatriate the material from Kosovo [6] at the end of that mission in 2006.

Russian trains loaded with armored vehicles at the Rostov station on their way to Ukraine.

Spain and Strategic Transport

Currently and since Spain’s strategy focused on the projection of forces within the international commitments assumed by the nation, strategic transport receives special attention, reaching very high levels compared to past times. However, it still has serious shortcomings, especially in coordination between services, which forces us to double our resources and even hire airlines and civil shipping companies to carry out many transfers.

This is because many of the plans made long ago have not come to fruition due to a combination of factors that can be summarized as:

  • Excessive zeal among the branches of the FAS.
  • The lack of truly specialized means.

The most notorious case is that of naval platforms, where the main means of strategic projection, built, financed and named as such (BPE program or Strategic Projection Ship) has ended up being the flagship of the Navy and a fundamental platform for its operations. combat, both for its air component (relief of the aircraft carrier Prince of Asturias ) and the amphibious; being very limited the occasions in which it yields it so that the Army of land projects its contingents.

This has forced the Army to renew its old transport ships (their mere existence shows that the problem goes back a long way) for a large RORO ship that meets their growing needs (the A06 Ysabel ), although these ships are always operated by personnel from the army. It is also notorious that the origin of all of them is from the second-hand market, neither the EMAD nor the DIGAM (responsible for the acquisitions policy) paying enough attention to this problem.

The A06 Ysabel , a former RORO of the Suardiaz shipping company, is currently the only logistics ship of the Army, although it is operated by the Navy.

The solution would go through an auxiliary fleet that, dependent on a strategic projection headquarters (of the EMAD), can attend to the needs of the Navy, Army, Air Force or UME indistinctly. Although this reminds us of the other problem mentioned, that the current means are not specific for this function, or that they must also fulfill others such as the aforementioned amphibious assault (both BPE and LPDs). In this work we have already addressed the differences between the two and how onerous it is in costs and allowances to move amphibious warfare ships for mere administrative transport.

The alternative, represented by the requisition of civil ships, collides in our country with regulatory problems, little awareness on the part of those affected (and civil society in general) and a serious lack of merchant ships to resort to, due to the fact that the shipping companies nationals use them under other flags for tax purposes.

Regarding air transport, the firm commitment to the A400 is added to the recent acquisition of three A330s, which must be transformed to the MRTT standard (in-flight refueling capacity), thus recovering capacities lost with the deregistration of the B707 years ago.

This acquisition has not been without controversy, since we previously acquired a commitment for other aircraft (A400M) that can perform this function and for which an uncertain fate awaits [7] despite the fact that, as we have explained in these lines, this is not quite correct.

Likewise, the existence of smaller aircraft in Europe, such as the C27 Spartan or C130J Super Hercules , and thanks to mechanisms such as the aforementioned EATC, casts doubt on the need to replace the C295 with a similar aircraft, such as the planned Airbus A200 [ 8]; it being preferable that Spain, in the field of European cooperation, reduce the variety of the fleet and maintain its commitment to the A400M in favor of its own, European and transatlantic interests (where aircraft of a lower category make no sense) by reconsidering the decision to sell part of the fleet.

It is also necessary to mention the Air Mobility Headquarters (JMOVA) which, dependent on MACOM, manages the resources of the Air Force, and in this case it does not seem necessary for the Army to consider having aircraft for its own needs (such as launching of paratroopers), with a fluid and successful collaboration between both services. Not only logic points in this direction, but also the experience of most of the reference countries [9], but it serves as a contrast again with the Navy, which even has its own transport planes for logistical assistance to the Fleet.


Strategic transportation is a fundamental tool for nations with global interests to project and sustain their armies far from their bases. Part of this effort does not respond to permanent capabilities, but is put at the service of military action from other state or private institutions.

The difficulty of doing this when the nation is not at war forces it to be replaced by commercial agreements, so that many military transports that are carried out in peacetime would not be available in the event of a conflict.

Therefore, it is urgent to become more aware, especially among European nations, that strategic transport must be guaranteed at all times and conditions, such as air defense or communications; because if necessary, it cannot be improvised, not even with such forceful tools as mobilization.

Although many initiatives have been taken in air transport, there are still serious shortcomings in maritime transport, to the point that powers as important as Germany have agreements to operate military ships from other much more modest countries, such as the Netherlands. In fact, the departure of the United Kingdom, the continent’s most capable auxiliary fleet, from the EU has only aggravated the problem.


[1] Having such a vast territory and fearing NATO amphibious landings, Soviet doctrine opted to move reinforcement contingents by air wherever needed. His nature was, compared to the West, quite powerful and heavy.

[2] The aircraft had to satisfy the needs of several customers, while justifying itself as a program with a large number of orders, so it was intended to cover several operational niches.

[3] The turboprop and counter-rotating configuration of its engines has proven to be the most problematic and flawed aspect of the A400M.

[4] This view of the use of the sea was successfully exploited by the Royal Navy for three centuries, later being spurned by influential Anglo-Saxon naval thinkers such as Alfred T. Mahan.

[5] The procedure consists of renting civil ships for a determined period, starting to be operated by military personnel.

[6] The merchandise traveled by rail from Kosovo to the Greek port of Thessaloniki, to finish the journey to Spain by sea.

[7] Spain requested 27 devices, later reducing its needs to 14 for budgetary reasons, although it is obliged to fulfill the production commitment, without having yet clarified what it will do with the remaining 13, to be manufactured from 2025.

[8] Even more so when the company has granted the program to its German division, despite the fact that the Spanish division is responsible for military air transport, an unprecedented political grievance.

[9] The most notable exception is the USMC, with its own transports and tankers, although it also has a full non-US Navy/USAF combat air force.


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