Juan Carlos I (L61) serves the modern Spanish Navy as an amphibious assault ship / helicopter carrier. The vessel was ordered on September 5th, 2003 saw construction by shipbuilder Navanta. The keel was laid down in May of 2005 and the warship went to sea on September 22nd, 2009. It was formally commissioned on September 30th, 2010 and currently makes homeport out of Naval Station Rota in Rota, Spain. With the decommissioning of Principe de Asturias (detailed elsewhere on this site), a 17,000 ton STOVL carrier vessel in February of 2013, the value of Juab Carlos I has increased significantly in the scope of the Spanish Navy.
As built, Juan Carlos I showcases a length of 757 feet, a beam of 105 feet and a draught of 23 feet. Displacement is 26,000 tonnes. Power is through a conventional (diesel-electric with azimuth thrusters) propulsion scheme which allows the vessel to make headway at 21 knots in ideal conditions and range out to 9,000 nautical miles.
As an amphibious assault ship the vessel is called upon to support amphibious operations by assisting in the transportation of infantry, vehicles, watercraft and helicopters from ship-to-shore. As such, the ship's hold can support up to 913 combat-equipped infantry, 46 Main Battle Tank (MBT) class vehicles, 4 oversized landing craft and 25 medium-lift transport helicopters (or 11 SVTOL jet aircraft with 12 helicopters when using a mixed air wing). The air wing consists of 172 personnel to go along with the ship's standard operating team numbering 261. Over 1,200 total personnel can be carried on the ship under wartime conditions.
The carrier is outfitted with the LANZA-N air-search radar fit, the ARIES surface-search radar fit, and the EID ICCS ("Integrated Communications Control System"). Onboard armament is purely self-defensive in nature, led by 4 x 20mm Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs), 2 x Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers, 1 x Vertical Launch System (VLS) missile bank and 4 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns.
Juan Carlos I holds a traditional profile silhouette with the island superstructure set to the starboard side of the hull. The bow sports a ski-jump type ramp for aiding fixed-wing aircraft during take-off and six deck spots can be used for launching and retrieving helicopters simultaneously. As speed is of the essence in amphibious operations, this quality is a tactically useful one.
The Spanish helicopter carrier design also forms the basis for the pair of new Australian Navy Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships - HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, both detailed elsewhere on this site.