Submarine Flotilla

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Video Flotilla
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Submarine Flotilla Coat of Arms
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‘Galerna’-class submarines
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The first submarine (‘Isaac Peral’)
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The latest submarine (‘Tramontana’ S-74)

The Submarine Branch was set up by a Royal Decree of King Alfonso XIII on February 17th 1915. It consists of personnel, ships and facilities structured under a sole command within a modern organization, and ready to fulfil all different missions assigned by the National Defence Guidelines.

Its future is promising thanks to the new S-80 submarines, a technological landmark of the Spanish industry. They have intelligent security systems, weapons, sensors, satellite communications and an air independent propulsion system (AIP) for new challenges and missions, such as integration into surface or air forces, special operations, intelligence gathering and surveillance of conflict areas, much in line with our motto:

"AD UTRUMQUE PARATUS" (Ready for everything).

Submarine Flotilla
DISPLACEMENT Surface: 1,490 tons/ Underwater: 1,750 tons
LENGTH 67.9 metres
DRAUGHT 5,4 mts.
ENGINES 2 Diesel (3,600 HP) 1 Electric (3,500 HP) 1 propeller
SPEED Max. 12 knots (surface) Max. 20.5 knots (underwater)
RANGE 9,000 nm at 9 knots (underwater) or 45 days
WEAPONS 4 torpedo tubes 16 torpedoes
DEPTH 300 m

Submarines are units of great offensive capabilities while operating stealthily during prolonged periods of time.

Main missions:

  • Freedom of action for Surface Forces (surface and submarine threats).
  • Intelligence gathering.
  • Reconnaissance and information missions in support of a Naval Force.
  • Infiltration of special operation commandos.

The Submarine Base of the Spanish Navy is in Cartagena (Murcia).

The current flotilla consists of four AGOSTA-class submarines:

  • Galerna (S-71)
  • Mistral (S-73)
  • Tramontana (S-74)

Since its establishment in February 1915 (“Miranda Law”) up to now, the Submarine Branch has operated 43 units.

The “Squadron Law” of 1908 promoted by Maura and Ferrándiz was the beginning of our naval shipbuilding industry after the disaster of the Fleet in our last colonies in 1898, but submarines were not even considered. Only large navies had experimental submarines.

The programme considered building new battleships and destroyers, but the outbreak of World War I delayed all plans.

Given the success of the German “U” submarines in the North Sea theatre, the Navy Minister, Admiral Miranda, passed a bill in 1915 ordering the construction of 28 submarines and several surface combatants.

This was the beginning of the Submarine Branch. Four submarines were to be procured abroad, and the remaining 24 built in Spain. The first Chief of the Submarine Branch was Lieutenant-Commander Mateo García de los Reyes.

King Alfonso XIII endorsed the “Miranda Law” on February 17th 1915. Among other things, the text said:

“In order to provide the Nation with adequate assets to maintain the independence and integrity of its territories, authorization is hereby granted to set up a submarine service, with the procurement of four units, as well as the necessary materiel for personnel training and instruction”

King Alfonso XIII

Lt-Cdr García de los Reyes was appointed Chief of the Submarine Branch and commanding officer of the first Holland-type submarine procured in the U.S.: the “Isaac Peral”, named after the renowned inventor.

The other three submarines – “Laurenti”-type – were bought in Italy and built in La Spezia. At the same time, the new Submarine Station and School was set up in Cartagena making use of older buildings of the Arsenal.

After World War I, and given the success of German units in the conflict, the Spanish Government ordered the construction of 6 “B”-type submarines to the Naval Shipbuilding Society in its Cartagena Shipyards.

In 1920 the submarine rescue ship “Kanguro”, built in Holland, entered service, and other submarine flotilla facilities and accommodation areas were inaugurated.

In 1922 the first indigenous submarine was commissioned: the “B-1”. The remaining units were delivered on a yearly basis until 1926.

In May 1922 the Naval Station in Mahón (Menorca) and in La Graña (Ferrol) were set up in support of submarine operations.

During the war against Morocco, submarines took part in the dispute, supplying provisions and evacuating civilian personnel from Velez de la Gomera.

In 1927 a new “C”-type series was commissioned with enhanced displacement and endurance.

Between July 1927 and 1929, six “C”-type units were delivered to the Spanish Navy and the number of submarines amounted to 16, a number never surpassed ever since.

Between 1930 and 1931, the “Isaac Peral” and the 3 “A”-type submarines were decommissioned. Next year a contract was signed for the shipbuilding of a further six units of the “D”-type. The project was entrusted to the Spanish engineer Áureo Fernández Ávila.

The D-1, D-2 and D-3 were just laid down when the Spanish Civil War broke out and their construction came to a halt.

During the War the submarine flotilla was severely damaged: all “B” and “C” units were sunk except for the “C-2” and “C-4” which were repaired and put to sea again. Two new submarines had been purchased in Italy during the War: the “General Mola” (ex- “Torricelli”) and the “General Sanjurjo” (ex-“Archimede”).

In August 1939 a most ambitious plan established the construction of 50 submarines! But the outbreak of the Second World War, and the subsequent economic isolation of Spain, rendered the project null and void. Only three were built: the D-1 in 1947, the D-2 in 1951 and the D-3 in 1954.

In those years, the German submarine “U-487” was damaged and entered Cartagena for repairs. She was subsequently transferred to the Spanish Navy as the “G-7”. The idea was to build six similar submarines (G-1 to G-6) but the project was abandoned due to financial difficulties.

In the 50’s four assault submarines were built: 2 “Foca”-type (Sa-41 and Sa-42) with a crew of just two people; and 2 larger “Tiburón”-type (Sa-51 and Sa-52) with a crew of seven.

On October 24th 1959, the United States transferred the “USS Kraken”, now named “Almirante García de los Reyes” (S-31), a first step towards upgrading the submarine flotilla.

This “Balao”-type submarine took part in the Second World War and was updated before being transferred to the Spanish Navy. She was the first Spanish submarine with snorkel, a device which permits recharging batteries while sailing underwater.

In 1968, the “Daphne”-class submarine, the “Delfín S-61” of French design, was built as a first of a series of four.

In the meantime, between 1971 and 1974, and due to the lack of operational submarines, the Spanish Navy procured the following submarines in the US: “Isaac Peral S-32” (ex-USS Ronquil); “Narciso Monturiol S-33” (ex-USS Picuda); “Cosme García S-34” (ex-Bang) and the USS Jallao “S-35”.

Those submarines were similar to the “S-31” and in the 50’s had undergone an important upgrading plan with the GUPPY programme (Greater Underwater Propulsion Plant), and equipped with new acoustic and electronic sensors and weapons.

Simultaneously, the four “Daphne”-class submarines entered service: the “Delfín S-61”, the “Tonina S-62” in 1973 and the “Marsopa S-63” and “Narval S-64” in 1975.

Following French designs, a second naval programme commenced in 1974 for the shipbuilding of four “Agosta”-class submarines: the “Galerna S-71” and “Siroco S-72” in 1983 and the “Mistral S-73” and “Tramontana S-74” in 1985.

When the “Agosta”-class units entered service, the old American submarines were decommissioned; the last one, the “S-35”, in December 1984.

The official anthem of the Submarine Flotilla is the “Marcha-Himno al Submarinista”.

History of the current submarines in service

Galerna S-71

The “Galerna” (S-71) was the first of this series built by Bazán in Cartagena. She was delivered on January 21st 1983 in Cartagena.

In NATO missions, the “Galerna” was deployed on four occasions to take part in “Active Endeavour” operations with a total of 170 days at sea and 21,500 patrol miles.

The “Galerna” also participated in different NATO exercises (Sorbet Royal, Dogfish, Linked Seas, Dragon Hammer, Noble Marlin) and national exercises (TAPÓN, ALFEX, MINEX, etc.) and collaborated with Fleet surface combatants and Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Unit forces.

Mistral S-73

The “Mistral” (S-73) is the third unit. Her name comes from a wind that blows in Catalan coasts.

She was launched in November 1983 and accepted by the Spanish Navy on June 5th 1985. She has modern detection equipment and a good weapons system making her a valuable combat unit. Her crew consists of 66 men and women.

The “Mistral” has the honour of being the first submarine in which King Juan Carlos I embarked and sailed. That was on July 7th 1986.

This ship has participated in several national and international exercises integrated into naval task groups, both national and allied, and visited many ports in Europe and Africa.

Tramontana S-74

“Tramontana” (S-74) is the fourth and last unit built by Bazán in its Cartagena Shipyards. The ship was delivered to the Spanish Navy on December 30th 1985.

In October 1995, His Majesty the King embarked and sailed underwater reaching a depth of 200 metres. As anecdotes, the “Tramontana” participated in 1988 in the 50th Anniversary of the first Submarine Postal Service, and appeared in the film “NAVY S.E.A.L.” in November 1989.


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