Príncipe de Asturias
European aircraft carrier cruisers
Mk 45 127-millimeter cannon
Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile
Mk 15 Vulcan Phalanx 20-millimeter cannon
During Reagan's presidency they were ordered seven ships of this class, of which the last one entered service in 2001. But one lustrum later would
be launched an eighth ship, which entered service in 2009.
The phylosophy of this project is very similar to that of the Tarawa class but with some
differences, being denominated LHD (Landing Helicopter Dock). The main differences are: a different location of the elevators (one at starboard side and
other at larboard side), being both of the same dimensions and power; a somewhat lesser capacity for carrying troops (1685 people); slight differences
in cargo capacity; possibility to embark up to three LCAC; different location of the CIC in a more protected place (deep in the hull, beneath the hangar
deck); twice capacity in the hospital (600 beds) and six operating theaters; and a lower isle which has one deck less.
The following image shows three LCAC stowed in the floodable dock. Each of these hovercraft take the whole width of the dock and is able to transport a good
number of vehicles, including light or medium tanks. Another alternative to deploy vehicles are the cargo lift helicopters CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion.
The air wing is slightly more numerous in these newer ships and fitted with similar types of helicopters and/or aircraft, and sometimes is carried as well the hybrid
Osprey V-22. In the deck of the USS Essex (topmost image) we can see thirteen CH-46 Sea Knight, six CH-53 Sea Stallion, four UH-1N Twin Huey (utility),
two SH-60 Seahawk (antisubmarine) and four AH-1 Super Cobra (attack). On the image of the USS Kearsarge we can see four STOVL aircraft AV-8B Harrier II parked
astern and some LCAC approaching the ship.
These ships have an overall length of 257 meters, a maximum beam of 40.2 meters, a draught of 8.1 meters and a full-load displacement of 40532 tonnes.
The propulsion plant is equivalent to that used in the Tarawa class: two boilers Combustion Engineering, two steam turbines Westinghouse and two shafts
for a total output of 70000 horsepower. However prestations resulted reduced: a top speed of 22 knots and an operational range of 9500 nautical miles
at 18 knots.
The armament - which is variable from ship to ship and also depends on mission - comprises two octuple missile launchers Sea Sparrow BPDMS,
two Mk 49 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) launchers, two/three Vulcan Phalanx CIWS mountings, three/four 25-millimeter chain cannons Bushmaster and four/eight
12.7-millimeter machine guns Browning.
To perform the role of amphibious command ship these ships must have a considerable capacity of communication, so a good number of sensors populate the isle,
neuralgic center of the ship which exhibits, among others, the air search radar SPS-52C atop the bridge and the electronic warfare device SQL-32(V)3 next to
it. In the aft mast, just below the upper platform, there is a circular device of 3.75 meters in diameter and 40 centimeters in height; this one is the IFF
interrogator Mk 12 AIMS UP X-29 formed by 64 RF emitters, a very important device which allows to know with enough anticipation if a certain contact is friendly