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The long road to a Spanish carrier


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During WWII, the Italian cruiser Trieste was bombed in port by B-24 Liberators and capsized. Five years after WWII, Italy raised the wreck. While the upperworks were destroyed, it was found that Trieste‘s fuel oil had flooded the machinery spaces, acting as a rust inhibitor. Thus in 1950, the hull and propulsion systems were in decent shape.
Italy had no desire to repair the cruiser and put the hulk on the disposal list at La Spezia. After consultations with shipwrights at Ferrol, Vice-Admiral Luis Carerro Blanco obtained Franco’s blessing to acquire the hull for conversion into an aircraft carrier.
The carrier would have been 646’ long and displaced somewhere around 12,000 tons, with a capacity for about three dozen warplanes. By coincidence, it probably would have been similar in many respects to USS Cabot during WWII.
On 7 June 1951 a front company purchased the ex-Trieste as “scrap metal” and it was towed to Cartagena on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. There, a detailed inspection showed the hulk’s condition to be not as great as first thought. In 1952 the hulk was towed through the Straits of Gibraltar to Ferrol, where the conversion was supposed to happen.  Now the plan started to really unravel.
Additional problems were found with the hulk but more importantly, the Bazán shipyard at Ferrol had grossly underestimated the complexity of an aircraft carrier.
After four years of failed work, the effort was abandoned and the ex-Trieste hulk was scrapped. The fiasco cost Ps75,807,000 ($1,263,450 or $13.3 million in 2020 dollars). In most navies this would have spelled the end of the carrier project along with the end of the career of the admiral pushing it, but Carerro Blanco’s importance in Spain was such that both continued.
==============================002=========================    Canaris

Posted on March 29, 2023 by laststandonzombieisland Leave a comment. There was even a plan afoot to convert her to a light aircraft carrier. The old light carrier USS Cabot (CVL-28) was purchased instead in 1972 after a five year loan, and was commissoned Delado.
==============================003-004=====================        Dedalo

transfer of the ex-USS Cabot

In 1960 Spain explored the possibility of getting a WWII-era aircraft carrier from the USA. This would push the extremities of the Madrid Pact, requiring significant American financial aid for the ship, and technical assistance to get it up and running.

There was also an intangible obstacle. The USA had provided a pair of CVLs (two of USS Cabot‘s sister-ships, as it were) and one small CVE to France under 5-year loans. But this was an exception to the norm. After WWII, the USA considered aircraft carriers a thing unto themselves, quite different then selling a heavy cruiser or a fighter squadron, even if the price tag was the same. A comparison might be the way cruise missile exports are considered today in the 2020s.

One aspect was that even in 1960, Franco’s regime was still viewed as an aberration which might be overthrown in three days, three years, or three decades. An aircraft carrier transferred to Spain had every possibility of outliving Franco, and there was no knowing what would follow.  Spain’s best chance came in 1963. President Eisenhower’s pact was at its 10-year review point. This coincided with a massive expansion of the Soviet navy’s submarine arm; leaving the USA with the possibility of having to fight trans-Atlantic convoy battles for a third time in the century.

Adm. Carerro Blanco laid out an idea for a Spanish ASW hunter-killer flotilla, comprised of American-made anti-submarine destroyers and frigates, all centered around a surplus WWII aircraft carrier for ASW aircraft. While outside of NATO, the clear implication was that in the event of an east-west war in Europe, Spain would defend convoys against Soviet submarines.

Carerro Blanco had been “in the game” long enough to know the Americans would focus on financial aspects as well. The proposal would be for a no-cost loan on the mothballed ship itself, but Spain to apply military aid credits (or its own money) to reactivate the ship in an American shipyard generating American jobs, and equip it with American aircraft. The carrier’s escorts, be they new-build hulls or WWII-veteran ex-US Navy ships, would also carry American systems. But the whole proposal swung on getting the carrier.

This was successful and the USA agreed to a 5-year loan, thereafter either renewable or convertible to direct sale (Spain did end up buying it outright for a nominal cost when the loan ended). The loan was “cold”, meaning the USA’s responsibility ended at the pier. Spain was responsible for the whole cost of the carrier’s reactivation and delivery to Europe.  selection of the ship.  The first choice of Spain was USS Thetis Bay, a former WWII escort carrier (CVE). In 1957, this ship was extensively changed into the prototype “vertical assault ship”, being renumbered from CVE-90 to LPH-6.

Although USS Thetis Bay was slow, the LPH conversion completely reoriented the ship into a helicopter-specialist vessel, which is what the Spanish wanted. The ship also had current radios and, as it was in operation, would have next to nothing for transfer costs. However the US Marine Corps notified the US Navy that it still had need for USS Thetis Bay and vetoed the transfer.Spain frowned on a regular CVE. During WWII their top speeds had been 19 kts and now with the passage of time, probably less. A task force is only as fast as its slowest member and a carrier that slow would be as much a hindrance as a help to the tactics the Spanish envisioned. Of the CVEs not already scrapped or converted into airplane transporters, many had not received refits since the Korean War and in some cases since WWII, so reactivation expenses would be huge.

Both the USA and Spain were intrigued by the idea of reactivating a CVL. Spain noted that the French had obtained good use of their two for five years. Of the 11 CVLs converted during WWII, the two Saipan class had since been reconverted to other uses, one of the Independence class had been sunk during WWII and two others worn out from their French use, but six others Independences remained.The ex-USS Cabot was mothballed at Philadelphia which was also the shipyard Spain had picked for the reactivation. As part of USS Cabot‘s 1951 upgrade, the ship had been made suitable for helicopters and also had the flight deck supports strengthened for the weight of future aircraft. The electronics fit was reasonably up-to-date, and light years ahead of a mothballed CVE.

With this, the ex-USS Cabot was selected in 1965 and an in-service date of 1967 set. The name Dédalo was revived.
=======================================005===============Príncipe de Asturias
Príncipe de Asturias, originally named Almirante Carrero Blanco, was a light aircraft carrier and former flagship of the Spanish Navy. She was built in Bazán's Shipyards and delivered to the Spanish Navy on 30 May 1988.  Spain has operated aircraft carriers since the 1920s, initially with the seaplane tender Dédalo and later the multi-role light carrier Dédalo, which was formerly the US Navy's World War II light carrier USS Cabot. Dédalo was replaced as the navy's fleet flagship by Príncipe de Asturias.

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