As economies across the globe continue to contract, navies, armies, and air forces are being told, if not, “do more with less” to at least “do the same with less.” Proceedings thus asked sea-service commanders around the world: What innovative efficiencies and economies are you implementing, or considering implementing, to improve force readiness?
Admiral Jaime Muaoz-Delgado y Daaz del Rao
The current geopolitical context is characterized by increased demand on naval forces to provide a wider variety of maritime capabilities. Ongoing global-scale low-intensity operations, such as maritime security or capacity building, coexist with medium-intensity contingency operations, such as Libya, and the need to maintain appropriate readiness for less-probable high-intensity conflicts.
Achieving the force readiness required to meet those complex demands in belt-tightening times becomes an extremely difficult challenge. New approaches are needed, both in procuring more versatile platforms and in increasing readiness-cycles efficiency (maintenance, training, and sustainability while deployed).
Our procurement, maintenance, and training policies are focused on improving force readiness, while keeping as top priority the successful fulfillment of the operational tasks assigned. Some of the main measures taken are:
• Decommissioning up to 20 legacy hulls that had reduced efficiency in terms of low operational output and high maintenance costs.
• Introducing new versatile, flexible, and reduced crew platforms, such as the Meteoro-class offshore patrol vessels. They already are being operationally employed for minesweeping in the Indian Ocean, successfully substituting for frigates at much-reduced costs.
• Implementing predictive maintenance techniques to reduce costs and increase availability. Deployed ships have their main equipment data constantly monitored via satellite, thus reducing failures, increasing equipment life and optimizing maintenance planning.
• Taking part in the NATO and EU “Smart Defence” and “Pooling and Sharing” initiatives to share costs and capabilities. Moreover, specific bilateral technical agreements have been developed with countries such as France, Italy, and Portugal to share efforts in minesweeping. Agreements with the U.S. Navy—to share training and maintenance facilities—also are being implemented.
• Cooperating with Australia in a new effort whereby the replenishment oiler Cantabria has been deployed to Australia for a ten-month period to improve common training and interoperability, and to demonstrate the ability of the ship to provide logistic support to the Australian navy. Under the agreement Australia bears the activity costs for this deployment.
• Redesigning the readiness cycles of different platforms to optimize collective training, taking the most benefit from every period at sea. Units are held at different readiness levels for different types of missions, prioritizing training and certification on a mission-oriented basis. Use of modern combat system synthetic training programs is being maximized to compensate for reduced periods at sea.
• Increasing the duration of ships’ operational tours while rotating crews is another efficiency measure currently under study.
All these actions, in times of budget constraints, are helping to keep the Spanish Navy operationally committed, balanced, expeditionary, and interoperable, with the requisite force readiness.