The Cantabria is reportedly being funded by Australian taxpayers. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied
AUSTRALIA is paying to keep cash-strapped Spain's navy afloat.
Australian taxpayers will fork out millions more to subsidise a Spanish combat supply ship Cantabria that will spend next year with the Royal Australian Navy, providing support for training exercises.
Spanish newspapers are reporting that Australia will cover the ship's fuel, maintenance, and transportation costs, as well as living expenses for the 180 Spanish crew.
Spain will keep paying the sailors' salaries. Major Spanish newspaper El Pa aacs said the operation, which would run from February to November next year, was the Spanish navy testing "an unusual formula to maintain the operation of their vessels and crews, while reducing costs".
The report said the arrangement, which was signed off in Madrid this week, was good for the Spanish navy because it would keep the ship fully active.
Otherwise, it might not operate for more than 40 days next year. The report also said, if the ship impressed the Australian navy it might replace two old logistic support vessels with similar Spanish ships from shipbuilder Navantia.
The Department of Defence would not disclose the cost, but confirmed "Australia will be contributing to the operating costs of the deployment".
"Provision of a broad range of training opportunities means this will be a value-for-money proposition for the RAN," a spokeswoman said.
"The Royal Australian Navy and the Spanish Armada are working together to finalise the details of the deployment, and will continue to do so over the next few weeks."
The spokeswoman responded to the Spanish newspaper's speculation about a commercial opportunity, saying: "Cantabria's deployment will provide a unique opportunity for Defence to undertake an assessment of the capability offered by Cantabria as Defence considers the replacement for the ageing HMAS Success and Sirius at the end of this decade."
She said that Fleet Base East in Sydney would "become Cantabria's adopted home port".
Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced last week that Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, was travelling to Spain this week to "pursue with his Spanish counterpart the arrangement we are proposing to enter into with Spain".
"This reinforces and underlines the growing navy-to-navy relationship that we have with Spain," Mr Smith said.
"We see Spain very much involved in the design and the construction of our air warfare destroyers, which we will see come on stream effectively in the middle of this decade, our landing helicopter docks, and now practical and co-operative work that we'll do next year in and around Australia with the Spanish Armada ship, the Cantabria.
"This is a very good thing for Australia. It's also a very good thing for Spain because it enables Spain to engage in exercises and deployment a long way away from home."
According to Jane's Defense, Armada chief of staff Admiral Manuel Rebollo Garcia called it a "clear example of pooling and sharing" of resources in the present financial crisis.