In December, Ghana released an Argentine navy training ship, the Libertad , which it had seized under court order. The incident began in October when the sailing vessel was impounded at Terma, Ghana, while taking part in an African training cruise. The Libertad was held at the request of foreign creditors who claimed her as collateral for debts stemming from Argentina’s 2002 economic crisis. With all but a skeleton crew forced to evacuate the ship, the rhetoric became increasingly heated, and several senior Argentine naval officials were forced to resign. It was not until mid-December that the U.N. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea intervened, ruling unanimously in favor of Argentina and stating that “a warship enjoys immunity . . . any act which prevents by force a warship from discharging its mission and duties is a source of conflict.” The ship was released following the U.N. decision, and she immediately sailed for home. Built at Rio Santiago, Argentina, the Libertad was launched in 1956 and has been in service since 1962. The 338-foot vessel displaces 3,765 tons fully loaded, is fitted with extensive medical and dental facilities, and typically carries a crew of 26 officers, 192 enlisted personnel, and 150 cadets.
The shipbuilder DCNS delivered the first of 11 new Aquitaine -class frigates to the French navy in November. The Aquitaine , built under the Franco-Italian FREMM ( FRégates Européennes Multi-Mission ) program, was laid down in December 2007 and launched in April 2010. In French service this new class is intended to replace the Tourville - and Georges Leygues –class destroyers. Several versions are to be built using the same hull design, propulsion system, and combat-data system. The first nine French ships will have the antisubmarine-warfare-oriented FASM ( Frégate díAction Anti-Sous-Marin ) configuration, and the final two units are to be built in the so-called FREDA ( FRégates de Défense Aériennes ) air-defense configuration as replacements for the canceled third and fourth units of the Forbin -class air-defense destroyers. Up to ten near-sisters are planned for service in the Italian navy, where they are known as the Carlo Bergamini class. One additional unit is nearing completion for the Royal Navy of Morocco.
The Spanish government made the decision in late 2012 to retire its lone aircraft carrier, the Príncipe de Asturias , by mid-2013. The 17,000-ton ship, pictured here, was built to a modified U.S. Sea Control Ship design and commissioned in 1988. Capable of carrying an air group of eight EAV-8B Harrier vertical/short takeoff-and-landing fighters and around ten helicopters, the carrier proved too costly to maintain in the face of growing financial cuts. Spain’s naval aviation capabilities may yet remain alive, however, as the far larger 27,000-ton amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I was commissioned in September 2012. The Juan Carlos I is able to transport a similarly sized air group plus around 6,000 tons of cargo, including more than 1,000 troops and four landing craft launched via a floodable stern docking well. Additional budget cuts will likely continue to impact the Spanish navy and military for several years to come.