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Aims and objectives

The concepts of security and defence are closely related to a State's obligation to guarantee its citizens the full exercise of the civil rights and freedoms enshrined in the Spanish Constitution and the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, all within the framework of international law.

The task of national defence falls on society as a whole, which, together with the public authorities, makes up the existential basis thereof. In this regard, the Spanish Constitution states that Spanish citizens have the right and the duty to defend Spain.

The Spanish Constitution and Constitutional Law 5/2005 on National Defence establish the institutional framework in this regard and define the guidelines on military organisation. The Spanish Constitution highlights the importance of the Armed Forces by tasking them with the mission of upholding Spain's sovereignty and independence, and defending its territorial integrity and constitutional order.

SM el Rey en la entrega de los Reales Despachos en Zaragoza (Antonio Romero, Ministerio de Defensa)Besides acting as Head of State, King Felipe VI of Spain also exercises supreme command over the Armed Forces and, following parliamentary approval, has the authority to declare war and peace. In turn, the Government of Spain controls military administration and the defence of the State.

The President of the Government is responsible for directing defence policy and determining the main strategic objectives, for managing crisis situations that affect national defence and for the strategic management of military operations in the event of the use of force. He is also granted the authority to organise, coordinate and direct the actions of the Armed Forces.​

Within the government, the Minister for Defence develops and implements defence policy, the objectives of which are to guarantee the defence of society as a whole and the values and principles of the rule of law laid down in the Spanish Constitution, as well as to contribute to global peace and stability within the framework of international law. He assists the President of the Government in the strategic management of military operations and directs the actions of the Armed Forces under the authority of the President of the Government.

The Chief of the Defence Staff is responsible for providing military advice to the President of the Government and the Minister for Defence, and helping them with the strategic management of military operations. He commands the operational structure of the Armed Forces, and the strategic management of military operations.

Furthermore, the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force exercise the command of their respective forces under the authority of the Minister for Defence.​

Finally, Parliament has the power to discuss all matters related to the general lines of defence policy and modernisation plans, as well as to grant authorisation to sign international treaties or conventions of a military nature. Furthermore, the government has an obligation to consult the Lower House of Parliament and obtain prior consent before undertaking overseas operations that are not directly related to the defence of Spain or the national interest.

At any event, such operations must comply with international law and must be expressly requested by the government holding authority in the territory where they are to be undertaken, as well as be legally endorsed by a resolution of the United Nations, NATO or an EU agreement. Prior authorisation from Parliament is not required for a legitimate defensive response to acts of aggression against Spain or its national interests, nor for undertaking a mission directly related to the protection of the legitimate interests of our country.

Strategic framework of Spanish defence policy

One of the roles of the president of the government referred to above is to decide on the wording of the National Defence Directive, which sets out the broad lines of defence policy and guidelines for its implementation. The current National Defence Directive was adopted on 31 July 2012. This directive establishes and prescribes the present strategic framework, Spain's relevant interests, and key issues and guidelines.

It sets a number of aims that can be summarized as follows:

  • Ensure operational Armed Forces capable of exerting the necessary influence on the international stage, contributing to global stability (especially in our region of direct focus) and protecting our national interests in the rest of the world.
  • Implement full consistency and coordination across all instruments managed by the various central government departments in order to achieve utmost effectiveness.
  • Maintain a credible and sufficient level of national deterrence to prevent the risk scenarios of our geographical environment from materializing as threats, and keep up response capabilities to guarantee Spain's defence.
  • Upgrade the Armed Forces as necessary to rise to the increasing strategic challenges facing Spain at a time of limited resources.
  • Foster and promote a defence culture shared by Spanish citizens.

El buque Contramaestre Casado participa en el ejercicio 'Seaborder 2014' (Ministerio de Defensa)As a consequence of the national Defence directive, Spain's Defence Minister signed the Defence Policy Directive on 21 October 2012, which sets out the guidelines required so as to successfully fulfil the government's aims within the purview of the Ministry of Defence. Key points addressed by this document are the rationalization of national security structures, the preservation of deterrence capabilities, maintenance of international defence-related relations in the multilateral and bilateral spheres, adaptation of the structures of the Armed Forces, and support for the international presence of the Spanish defence industry.

Subsequent to this directive, in 2013, the Council of Ministers approved the National Security Strategy, which sets out the risks and threats that need to be addressed in a continuously changing global situation. 

The most striking feature of this strategy is its broad scope, since it covers all areas of security, from armed conflict, terrorism, cyber threats, energy vulnerability and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to espionage. In it, the priority lines of action are set out for the protection of the State in general and of citizens in particular. It also provides for the creation of an institutional system based on the National Security Council, a collegiate body set up on 11 July 2013 and presided over by His Majesty the King to assist the president of the government with issues concerning National Security Policy, inter alia.

The armed forces

The Armed Forces, which come within the purview of the Minister for Defence, constitute a single entity intended to act as an integrated unit incorporating the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The completion of missions by the Armed Forces and the development of their complementary or subsidiary contribution of public interest require various types of operations to be undertaken, both within national territory and overseas, which may lead to conflict prevention or dissuasive actions, peacekeeping actions, actions in crisis situations and, where necessary, actions in response to aggression.

​Personnel serving the Ministry of Defence ​
​Civil servants 4,767
​Workers 13,876
​Statutory 1,601
​Total civilian personnel 20,244
​Military personnel 121,607
​Reservists 4,770

Source: Ministry of Defence (31 December 2015)

Since 2002, when compulsory military service was abolished, all men and women in the Armed Forces have been professionals and are, without a doubt, their best asset. Of the 121,607 active military personnel at 31 December 2015, 77,343 are in the Army, 20,838 are in the Navy, 20,244 are in the Air Force and 2,991 are attached to Common Corps of the Ar​med Forces. There are also 20,244 civilian personnel, of which 4,767 are civil servants, 13,876 are workers and 1,601 are statutory personnel. Our Armed Forces are supported by 4,770 Voluntary Reservists; people who voluntarily serve for certain periods each year.

​Armed Forces Personnel ​
​Common Corps 2,991​​
​Army 77,343
​Navy 20,838
​Air Force  20,244

Source: Ministry of Defence (31 December 2015)

The basic legislation governing personnel is Law 39/2007, of 19 November, on the military career, which defines, among other key aspects of the model, the Armed Forces personnel, the duties that such personnel are called upon to fulfil in the various forces and categories, and the rules governing their entry, training and professional career. The new features of this law include a reform of the military training system and access to career paths besides the military. This law was amended by Law 46/2015, of 14 October, and its most important aspects are related to the conditions to become a reservist or rise within the ranks, to personnel retired due to incapacity, and to postings in exceptional circumstances due to the reconciliation of professional, personal and family life.​

Furthermore, Law 15/2014, of 16 September, on streamlining the Public Sector, and other administrative reform measures amended Article 107 of the Military Career Act to create a new administrative status for military personnel, "Service in the Civil Administration".

In addition, Constitutional Law 9/2011, of 27 July, on the rights and obligations of members of the Armed Forces, the most relevant new features of which include regulations governing the right of association, the creation of the Armed Forces Personnel Council and the Military Life Watchdog, has led to the following important developments: the publication of Constitutional Law 8/2014, of 4 December, on the Disciplinary Regime of the Armed Forces; and the Constitutional Law 14/2015, of 14 October, governing the Military Criminal Code.

Furthermore, approval was provided for the Royal Decree governing the procedure for processing initiatives and complaints relating to the personnel regime and the living conditions that may arise in the military.

In turn, the reform of the current military training system focuses on education in military values and training in professional techniques, while also offering the possibility of obtaining a university degree for officers and a higher vocational training qualification for non-commissioned officers. The review of the model also seeks to ensure that privates and seamen obtain an intermediate vocational training qualification.

Hence, under the new model of officer training, the first promotion of officers graduated from the main academies in July 2015. The training model of non-commissioned officers is fully implemented and the first promotion graduated in July 2014. In the case of the common corps of the Armed Forces, it is important to highlight the integration of all the training schools in the Central Defence Academy, where, in addition to training students with qualifications from the Legal, Intervention, Healthcare and Music corps, a training model has been set up in medicine, similar to the main academies, in cooperation with the University of Alcalá de Henares, which will foreseeably witness the graduation of its first promotion of military doctors (unqualified entry) in July 2018. Military education now provides the main foundations on which the capabilities and aspirations of defence professionals are based, meaning that the image and development of the education system in the medium and long term are of vital importance.

Under the Constitutional Law on the rights and duties of members of the Armed Forces, within the framework of the policy to support personnel, a system to harness the professional skills of military personnel (SAPROMIL) was set up in order to promote voluntary access by military personnel to other work areas outside of the scope of the Ministry of Defence to thus benefit from the skills of military personnel who opt to leave the Armed Forces. As a result of this law, military personnel have been given enhanced mobility to join other public authorities as reflected in the amendments introduced into the aforesaid Law 15/2014 and the Military Career Act.

Furthermore, improvements to social protection and support for the families of military personnel represent another of the general lines of action followed by the Ministry of Defence to which the greatest level of attention is being paid. The most noteworthy aspects of the social policy for supporting military personnel and their families include issues related to aid for social action, assistance to military personnel, support for military personnel deployed on international missions and their families, work-life balance and equal opportunities for access and ongoing presence by women in the Armed Forces.

Additionally, the workforces regularly approved by the government specify the size of our Armed Forces in accordance with our defence needs. The 2016 General State Budget Act has set a ceiling on military personnel in service as at 31 December 2016 of 79,000 troops and seamen.

Personnel by category​ ​
​Officers 16,350 (14%)​
​Non-commissioned officers ​28,105 (23%)
​Troops ​77,152 (63%)

Source: Ministry of Defence (31 December 2015)

It should be noted that 15,144 of the total number of active military personnel are women, accounting for more than 12.5% of the total. The Armed Forces partially began to recruit women in 1988. Nowadays, they take up and develop their careers within a framework of equal opportunities, able to access all forces and ranks, as well as all posts - including the most highly active - that exist within the Armed Forces.

​ ​Armed forces personnel by gender
​Men ​106,463 (87.5%)
​Women ​15,144 (12.5%)

Source: Ministry of Defence (31 December 2015)

It can be said that formal equality is guaranteed within our Armed Forces and that the goal now is to consolidate effective equality between men and women in this field. Spain has one of the highest proportions of women in its Armed Forces of all the countries in our peer group. The highest ranks held by women in military categories are lieutenant colonel (70), second lieutenant (1) and senior corporal (4).

Female personnel by categories​ ​
​Officers ​1,225 (8%)
​Non-commissioned officers ​1,182 (7%)
​Troops ​12,737 (85%)

Source: Ministry of Defence (31 December 2015)

Foreign nationals of countries with which Spain has important historic ties are eligible for recruitment to our Armed Forces as troops and seamen, and as warrant officers of the Military Medical Corps. The number of foreign nationals serving with Spain's Armed Forces, which are limited to a quota of 9% of total troops and seamen, stands at 315 or 0.26% of the total.

​Foreign personnel in the Armed Forces ​
​Spanish nationality 121,292 (99.74%)​
​Foreign nationality ​315 (0.26%)

 Source: Ministry of Defence (31 December​ 2015)

Modernisation and innovation


Modernisation is essential to provide the Armed Forces with the necessary resources at an optimum level of operability and security. To achieve this, a major effort is called for along with a balance between investment and needs.

The policy in this area is aimed at ensuring satisfactory cover for the capabilities defined in the Military Capability Objectives for the performance of missions and undertakings of the Armed Forces. In this regard, the Ministry of Defence established various measures to boost and support the development of capabilities on defence issues with a dual objective: to provide the Armed Forces with the most modern and appropriate systems and to boost the industrial and technological base of national defence.

To that end, on 29 May, the Council of Ministers approved a raft of industrial capabilities and areas of knowledge that affect the essential interests of defence and national security, tied in to the protection of capabilities to design, develop, integrate, evaluate and maintain key military systems and sub-systems. This measure allows the Ministry of Defence to better calibrate the industrial and military criteria applicable in future procurement processes for the Armed Forces. Despite this existing in other European countries, it is the first time this has been done in Spain, and its first application is the implementation of the technological projects for the 8x8 Armoured Car and the F-110 Frigate.

With that goal in mind,  work has also been done on optimising and improving the management of joint programmes to obtain, modernise and sustain the systems of the Armed Forces. Procurement structures have been streamlined and the system has been reformed by centralising the Programme Offices of the Ministry of Defence into one single management body. By doing so, the task of management is professionalised while the planning, transparency and technical and financial visibility of the programmes is improved. Furthermore, efforts have been made to reduce the number of contracting bodies of the Ministry of Defence. These bodies were once highly diverse, posing an obstacle to control, synergy and efficiency. 

Furthermore, new streamlining measures have been put in place such as the centralised procurement of insurance contracts, electricity and operational fuel for the Ministry of Defence.

(Ministerio de Defensa)As regards the main programmes, a major effort has been made in terms of investment, in collaboration with other ministerial departments, which has led to the implementation of new programmes and the continuity of those previously implemented. Worthy of mention is the EC-135 training helicopter for the Army, the new Maritime Action Vessels for the Navy and the implementation of technological projects associated with the future F-110 Frigate and 8x8 Armoured Car programmes, which will lead to a new industrial cycle in the defence sector, with a high technological component to continue offering the Armed Forces the resources they require in order to carry out their missions.

Along these lines, the acquisition of a system of drones of a strategic nature has been initiated, and various master plans have been implemented that establish the global framework for the acquisition of capabilities for the Armed Forces.

Other modernisation projects are conducted through international programmes in which Spain participates with its partners and allies. This is the case of the Eurofighter, the A-400 military transport aircraft, the Tiger attack helicopter and the NH-90 multi-purpose helicopter, units of which are already being received by the Army.

Furthermore, information is a strategic resource in relation to the Ministry of Defence which is based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), considered as the driver of transformation and a critical element for the development of missions and undertakings of the Armed Forces. Within this framework, the Ministry of Defence has initiated a revision of the Policy on the Systems and Information and Communication Technologies throughout the department to adapt to the current needs of national defence.

The Institute of Aerospace Technology (Spanish acronym: INTA) is the benchmark centre in defence innovation, specialising in aerospace technology, certification and consultancy. This centre was recently integrated into the rest of the research organisations of the Armed Forces, such as the La Marañosa Technology Institute, which specialises in weaponry, materials and equipment research, the El Pardo Hydrodynamics Experiment Channel, which specialises in hydrodynamic experimentation and research for the shipbuilding industry, and the Army Engineers Laboratory. This has led to the creation of a single management body that will boost synergies.

Finally, efforts have continued on cleaning up the financial situation of the Defence Department through annual payments to suppliers. This is helping build a climate of stability, trust and credibility with public and private stakeholders involved in the defence modernisation and innovation processes.

Spain in the international arena

Spain shares the view of its partners and allies insofar as that the threats and challenges it faces should be resolved from an inclusive perspective with support from both multi-lateral initiatives through the alliance to which Spain belongs and a network of bilateral relations. Consequently, international activity has been increased in two distinct areas: defence diplomacy, intended to strengthen bilateral cooperation; and participation in international security and defence organisations.

Defence Diplomacy

The National Defence Directive sets out the need to strengthen bilateral relations with actors that have interests and threats in common with Spain and that can also bring stability to our environment or improve Spain's position in strategic relations. Consequently, Spanish defence policy includes a Defence Diplomacy Plan that sets out the principles, purposes, priorities and goals for efforts in this area. A biennial Defence Diplomacy Programme, which guides the activities to be carried out for the next two years, is drawn up on an annual basis as part of this plan.

To achieve its goals, defence diplomacy uses a combination of various instruments, the importance of which varies according to the aims and area of action. These instruments include partnership agreements, bilateral meetings, exchanges, the security sector reform, the strengthening of capabilities, education and training, exercises, and industrial and technological cooperation.

Spain's position on the international stage steers its action towards geo-strategic areas considered a priority for geographic, historic, cultural, economic and other reasons. Of all the relevant international actors in the struggle against global threats and risks, the United States plays a fundamental role. Hence, Spain continues to make efforts to maintain sound bilateral relations with the US, which are considered to be of a strategic nature and also help strengthen trans-Atlantic ties.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

Spain, a member of NATO since 1982, has contributed to the transformation of this organisation in its process of adapting to the new risks and threats to global security. The NATO Summit held in Lisbon in November 2010 was a milestone in this regard as a new Strategic Concept was adopted, defining a renewed NATO that is better prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century.

El hospital ROLE 2 en Herat, Afganistán (Ministerio de Defensa)2014 was characterised by a significant change in the Euro-Atlantic security situation. The instability on the eastern border caused by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine was joined by a considerable aggravation of the risks coming from the allied southern border. The summit held in Wales in September 2014 confirmed the validity of the 2010 Strategic Concept but revealed that NATO needs to adapt its military component to this new security situation. Hence, a Allied Preparation Action Plan was approved that aims to increase the response capacity and level of readiness to any potential threat.

The most important measure in this plan is a review of the NATO Response Force (NRF) by creating a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) that is currently being implemented on an interim basis in 2015 and will become definitive in 2016. For Spain, this will mean a commitment to lead the first "operational" VJTF brigade in 2016, based on the already scheduled contribution to the NRF 16.

Furthermore, Spain supported the measures aimed at strengthening allied security by increasing its contribution to the permanent NATO naval forces in 2014 and, in 2015, deploying  four aircraft to the Baltic Air Policing Mission and one PATRIOT anti-air and anti-missile defence unit in Turkish territory for 2015. Spain also maintained its contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Spain is also involved in the NATO Anti-missile Defence programme under an agreement with the United States of America for the permanent deployment at Naval Station Rota of four US NAVY destroyers fitted with the AEGIS combat system.

EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

Spain, as a member of the European Union (EU), is one of the nations that most actively contributes to helping Europe become an increasingly important player on the international stage through the instruments of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This contribution has been performed through through its presence on international missions and operations undertaken by the EU, in the development of joint research capabilities and projects, and in the development of defence weapons and technologies, as well as through their commercialisation in the European defence market.

Particularly noteworthy is Spain's presence in the development of concepts and instruments, which is driving the progress of the European Security and Defence Policy, thus allowing the European Union to become a genuine global player at a level of security and defence.

Within this framework, Spain is firmly committed to the European Defence Agency and actively participates in the work of this body (mainly in the fields of developing capabilities, weapons, research and technology, and industry- and market-related affairs). This year, a Spanish Ambassador has been appointed as the Executive Director of the agency and Zaragoza Air Base has been designated as the permanent headquarters of the European Tactical Airlift Center (ETAC) of the European Tactical Airlift Program (ETAP), with the Spanish Air Force heading up its activities under the initiative of the European Air Transport Fleet (EATF). 

As evidence of Spain's commitment to the development of initiatives within this body, Spain chaired the meeting of the Capabilities Directors in the month of March, and is also due to chair the next meeting.

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE constitutes a fundamental factor in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict redevelopment. It operates in three areas: political-military; economic and environmental; and human.

As a Member State of the organisation since it was set up in 1973, Spain maintains its commitment to building a global and cooperative security system through participation in activities related to security, arms control, preventive diplomacy, and measures aimed at boosting confidence and security.

Three particular initiatives stand out from among these measures: the "Vienna Document", a forum of trust for the exchange of information; the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, aimed at limiting the arms held by signatory States; and the Treaty on Open Skies that allows for observation flights to be made without restriction by a party State over another signatory State.

These confidence and security boosting tools are precisely those which have gained special importance on the agendas of the recent meetings held by the OSCE. The need to update and adapt them to the changing international strategic scenario means they have become the focus for the majority of initiatives being discussed in recent months.

However, the crisis in Ukraine continues to be the axis around which most activity is revolving so far in 2015, with diplomatic and military efforts firmly focused on resolving this situation.

Spain plays an important role in the initiatives developed within the OSCE framework in support of non-Member States in the Mediterranean identified as OSCE Partners for Cooperation thanks to its strategic position, which brings added value to relations with said States - key factors for stability and security in the Mediterranean and, consequently, in Europe.

Disarmament and non-proliferation

On the matter of disarmament and non-proliferation, Spain's Defence Policy (in accordance with government guidelines) is aimed at participating in international agencies and multilateral and bilateral initiatives by fostering the adoption of legally-binding measures in various fields of action.

Over the last two years, collaboration has been offered in humanitarian demining courses with various other countries, both in Latin America and in North Africa. Participation has also taken place in various initiatives to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their weapons delivery systems. Similarly, work has been done at various forums to combat the illegal trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and the recent entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty is a noteworthy development.

All this underlines the Defence Department's commitment to a safer world, particularly in regions of special interest to Spain or of relevance to global security, where Spain plays an important role as an outstanding actor in the non-proliferation and disarmament processes that complement the essential action by the Armed Forces in international peacekeeping and security.

Spanish participation in international missions

The Spanish Armed Forces maintain a presence overseas through permanent participation in surveillance and security missions at sea and in the air, as well as on various international missions. The following should be highlighted in particular:

Afghanistan - ISAF - Resolute Support Mission (RSM)

Between 2002 and late 2014, Spain participated in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that was set up to support the Afghan Interim Government. The deployment of Spanish troops followed the Council of Ministers Agreement of 27 December 2001 for a force comprising approximately 350 military personnel. This was subsequently expanded in 2004 to a figure of approximately 550 in response to a change in ISAF tasks and its expansion throughout Afghan territory.

Submarino S-74 Tramontana (Ministerio de Defensa)This contribution was further increased to over 1,500 personnel in 2011, to accommodate the new tasks assigned by ISAF.

The Atlantic Council approved, at the Chicago Summit, the decision to commence a new NATO mission in post-2014 Afghanistan - 'Resolute Support- which seeks to train and support local forces. The plan of operations was approved by NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers at the end of June 2014.

Within the framework of the NATO mission Resolute Support, the main contribution will come from military instructors and advisers, supported by certain trainers.

On 1 January 2015, this new NATO monitoring and training mission officially got under way, in which some 12,000 personnel, both direct members of NATO and servicemen from another 14 troop-contributing nations are to be deployed in support of the mission.

The mission is due to continue until the end of 2016, scaling down from the current structure of four operations centres to end up with only one in Kabul. This adaptation, which has been scheduled to begin on 1 January 2016, has been delayed until a new decision is taken.

Within the current framework, during 2015, Spain has maintained command of Train, Advise and Assist Command West (TAAC-W), having handed over command of the Forward Support Base to Italy, with which it shared the management of Herat International Airport.

Spain, in coordination with NATO and the Afghan authorities, withdrew its contingent from Herat in October 2015, leaving only the personnel assigned to the General Headquarters of the mission in Kabul, resulting in the country's definitive withdrawal from the western region of Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of material and equipment took place in a multimodal manner:

  • ​By air via the United Arab Emirates, to which end an air bridge was established between Heart and Al-Maktoum (United Arab Emirates) through flights chartered by the Ministry of Defence.
  • By sea via the port of Karachi (Pakistan).
  • As regards personnel, they withdrew from the base in Herat by plane, on two flights, in October 2015.

Lebanon - UNIFIL

The United Nations Mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) dates back to 1978 although its current structure was established in the summer of 2006 following the so-called Israel-Lebanon crisis when the United Nations Security Council, under Resolution 1701, increased the size of UNIFIL to 15,000 personnel and also expanded the mandate for the mission. At present, the mission involves approximately 10,000 personnel from 37 countries.

Spain's commitment to this latest mandate was realised from the outset through its contribution of troops under the UNIFIL-Libre Hidalgo Mission. Furthermore, this mission has led to the first Spanish general being appointed as Head of Mission and Force Commander within the scope of operations by the United Nations. As a result of this commitment, Spain also expressed its interest in once again taking on the command of UNIFIL in 2016.

At present, approximately 600 personnel comprise the Spanish forces and Spain is leading the Multinational Sector East, which comprises forces from India, Indonesia, Nepal and Malaysia, as well as those from Spain. Furthermore, the contingent comprising the Multinational Brigade set up by Spain includes personnel from El Salvador, Serbia and Brasil under bilateral agreements with these nations.

Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2236 (2015), dated 19 August 2015, the UNIFIL mandate has been extended until 31 August 2016.

Mali - EUTM Mali and Mali Support Air Detachment (A/M)

In early 2012, a series of events took place in northern Mali that converted the region into a hub of instability and a serious threat to the entire Sahel region and Europe. As a result, the interim President of Mali made official requests for support to the UN Secretary-General, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the EU, the latter including a request for assistance to restructure and train the Malian Army.

In response to this request, the Council of the European Union agreed to a military training mission - EUTM Mali - in the south of the country. This operation does not perform combat missions and coordinates its activities with the other missions on the ground.

Spain has been involved in this mission from the outset through the provision of training equipment, as well as the second Head of Mission. Subsequently, on 18 June 2013, the Lower House of Parliament gave approval for Spanish involvement to be increased to approximately 120 personnel, thus converting Spain into the country making the largest contribution and also in command of the mission.

Following the initial success obtained and as a result of the Strategic Mission Review approved in November 2013, the mandate was extended for another 24 months to May 2016.

There are two aspects to this mission: consultancy (for establishing an efficient chain of command and control over personnel, intelligence, operations and logistics functions); and basic training for Tactical Inter-force Group units.

To date, seven Tactical Groups from the Malian Armed Forces have received training, with plant to start with the eight group before the end of the mandate. Furthermore, the "trainer training" process is being carried out within the framework of this second mandate, which will enable Malian personnel to provide training and instruction to their own personnel in the future.

A strategic review of the mission is currently taking place. A new mandate could be extended until 2019 and gradually developed towards decentralised training and advice with the aim of creating a command and control structure, with training and teaching coming under Malian control. Possible support from the mission is expected to facilitate compliance with the Algiers Accord signed between the Government of Mali and the main opposition groups.

Spain has been involved in this mission from the outset through the provision of training equipment. At the present time, the mission has 535 troops from 25 countries (22 EU countries as well as Albania, Serbia and Montenegro), of which 117 are Spanish. This means that Spain is the country contributing the most forces to the mission and, since 24 October 2014, a brigadier general from the Spanish Army has been leading the mission. He stepped down at the end of July 2015 and Germany assumed command of the mission. 

Besides the above, Spain has been carrying out the Support to Mali (A/M) operation since the start of 2013 - in support of the French operation in the Mali crisis and the EU mission (EUTM Mali) - with the deployment of the Ivory Air Detachment in Dakar (Senegal) that comprises one T-10 aircraft (C-130 Hercules) and the contingent necessary for its operation and maintenance. Support is being provided to the French operation in response to the crisis in Mali (Operation Barkhane). Collaboration is also being provided to the European Union mission (EUTM Mali) and the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

It should be noted that the Spanish contribution is being very highly valued by the French authorities, as well as by representatives from Mali and various countries taking part in both EUTM Mali and MINUSMA.

Horn of Africa - EUNAVFOR Atalanta, Ocean Shield, EUTM Somalia and EUCAP Nestor

Spain is taking part in four simultaneous missions in the Horn of Africa with the common goal of bringing peace and stability to the region.

In early 2009, Spain and France promoted the launch of the EU Operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta in waters of the Indian Ocean near Somalia to protect World Food Programme ships and fishing vessels from attacks by pirates operating in the area. The mission led to a significant reduction in kidnapping attempts by pirates.

One or two vessels and the "Orion" Air Force detachment are involved in the operation on permanent duty, equipped with one Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) deployed in Djibouti. Spain has already held command of the Naval Force five times since the start of operations.

It is noteworthy that we are the only country that permanently maintains land forces through the "Orión" detachment, and that we have stepped up our contribution in periods outside of the monsoon season with an additional vessel and a special operations team, to thus become the leading contributor to the operation.

Eurofighters que participan en la misión de Policía Aérea del Báltico en Amari, Estonia (Ministerio de Defensa)In November 2014, the EU approved a new mandate that extends the operation until December 2016 and provides instructions for drawing up a Transition Strategy in 2015

The NATO Ocean Shield mission was carried out in waters of the Horn of Africa alongside the above-mentioned mission and with the same objectives as part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG 2), in which Spain took part with a type F-100 frigate between December 2013 and June 2014.

Within the same framework of the fight against piracy, Spain promoted the Somalian security force training mission - EUTM-Somalia - aimed at providing the Government of Somalia with the ability to combat pirates from the ground, as well as to develop the security sector.

The mission was launched in May 2010 and the first Head of Operation and Commander of the force deployed on the ground was a Spanish army colonel. Subsequently, the Council of the European Union decided to extend the mission with two mandates in 2011 and 2013. Most recently, in October 2014, the EU approved a new extension until December 2016.

At present, 12 countries are involved in this mission (eleven EU member states plus Serbia) with an approximate total of 177 personnel, of which some 12 are from Spain, mainly deployed at the General Headquarters in Mogadishu.

Finally, the EU European Political and Security Committee approved a civilian mission in 2011 entitled EUCAP Nestor aimed at Building Regional Maritime Capabilities in the States of the Western Indian Ocean (Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and the Seychelles), fostering the development of national capabilities to increase maritime security, including the fight against piracy and maritime governance. Approximately five of the 76 personnel deployed in the region are from Spain, of which three are military personnel from the Navy. The deployment began in September 2012.

Spain supports the creation of genuine regional maritime capabilities in said region aimed at improving maritime security and believes this mission should be a necessary accessory to Operation Atalanta and EUTM-Somalia as part of the global approach required in the region.

The Strategic Revision of the two missions - EUTM Somalia and EUCAP Nestor - is currently being drafted, together with Operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta which the European Union has deployed in the Horn of Africa and which must be approved during the course of 2016. This revision provides for an increase in the EU's commitment until the end of 2018.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - EUFOR Althea

Operation EUFOR Althea by the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina is aimed at improving security conditions in the region by monitoring and supporting local authorities in the efforts stemming from the Dayton Agreements. This mission continued the work of earlier operations led by the UN (UNPROFOR) and later by NATO (IFOR, SFOR), launched in the 1990s.

In October 2010, the Council of the European Union reaffirmed its commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina by setting up a component to advise and train the country's armed forces, co-existing with the security maintenance mission EUFOR Althea. In November 2015, the United Nations Security Council extended Operation EUFOR Althea authorisation for a further 12 months.

Currently, the mission involves a total of 805 members from 21 countries (16 EU and 5 non-EU contributors: Albania, Chile, Switzerland, FYROM and Turkey).

Subsequently and in view of the progress made, a gradual reduction to the current contribution began in March 2015. Spanish involvement is now composed of three posts (two at the mission's General Headquarters in Sarajevo and one at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons).

Central African Republic - EUFOR RCA and Air Support Detachment to Operation Sangaris (Mamba Detachment)

As a result of the crisis in the Central African Republic, approval was given in March 2014 for the deployment of Spanish military units on the EUFOR RCA mission. In October 2014, as a result of delays and a lack of military capabilities by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the EU Security Policy Committee approved a three-month extension for Operation EUFOR RCA. The operation concluded on 15 March 2015.

During the course of the mission, Spain contributed approximately 100 personnel to Operation EUFOR RCA, making it the second-largest contributor to the mission.

Following a request from the Head of State of the Transition of the Central African Republic, the Council of the European Union decided in January 2015 to launch a military advisor mission for the management of available resources, the future reform of its Armed Forces and the establishment of appropriate conditions from the security force training programme - the so-called EU Military Advisor Mission in the Central African Republic EUMAM - RCA - to complement the actions by MINUSCA.

Lanzador de misiles PATRIOT en el aeropuerto de Adana, Turquía (Ministerio de Defensa)

Non-operational training of the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic has recently been authorised.

The mission is scheduled for termination on 16 July 2016, although a strategic revision is currently being worked on that could lead to the implementation of a mission that would include operational training as well as advice.

As a member of the European Union, Spain is taking responsibility for continuing to support the Central African Republic and has decided to participate in this mission with an entity appropriate to Spain's specific weight within this organisation. The Spanish contribution consists of approximately 25 personnel, including military advisors, security personnel and one national support cell.

The Central African Republic Support Operation was approved by the Government of Spain in December 2013 to contribute to the deployment and maintenance of French forces on Operation Sangaris. To that end, the "Mamba" Air Force detachment was created in Libreville (Gabon), comprising one transport aircraft and 49 personnel from various units of the Air Force responsible for operating and maintaining the aircraft, as well as for providing the necessary support.

One T-21 (C-295) aircraft is currently deployed because this platform is capable of operating from smaller aerodromes and is being used to strengthen the deployment and improve the support being provided to forces in the area, including those of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the recently-launched EUMAM RCA operation.

Operation Active Endeavour

This maritime mission was launched in 2001 to counteract terrorist activities in the Mediterranean and monitor maritime activity in the field of operations. In 2014, Spain contributed with frigates, submarines, patrol boats and maritime patrol aircraft both directly (in periods for which they are exclusively engaged in the operation) and indirectly (making use of opportunities that arise as Spanish units pass through the field of operations). This contribution continued during 2015.

Operation to Support Iraq - Inherent Resolve

Spain, attending to the call from the United Nations, decided to join up to the International Coalition against DAESH. In this regard, the Minister for Defence appeared before the Lower House of Parliament on 22 October 2014 to obtain authorisation to send trainers to support the Iraqi Armed Forces.

Following a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers on 26 December 2014, the Spanish Armed Forces were authorised to take part in activities to train the Iraqi Armed Forces with personnel integrated into the General Headquarters of the coalition, focusing on training a Brigade of the Iraqi Armed Forces and units to support and protect this force, with a maximum complement of 300 servicemen.

​The coalition, led by the United States and made up of over 60 countries with varying contributions, was established under the legitimacy provided by Resolutions 2169 and 2170 of the United Nations Security Council.

The first Spanish contingent was relieved of duty between the months of June and July 2015, and the second contingent was relieved of duty in the month of December 2015, with the deployment situation currently standing as follows:

  • The main force is located at the "Gran Capitán" Base, 60 km from Baghdad within the training camp of the Iraqi Base of Besmayah. 242 servicemen are deployed there to provide training to the 92nd Iraqi Brigade.
  • A special operations force is deployed at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Centre (BDSC), comprised of 30 servicemen on a mission to train Iraqi special operations groups.
  • The training of special operations has also been stepped up with the deployment of a new team consisting of 35 servicemen, who have been stationed at Tadji Air Base to the north of Baghdad.
  • There are 14 servicemen deployed among the different General Headquarters of the Coalition, seven in Kuwait and seven between the two General Headquarters in Baghdad.

The mission of the teams deployed is based on training a brigade-style unit of infantrymen of the Iraqi Army, at the base in Beshmaya. Furthermore, Spanish special operations personnel are commissioned with offering training through various courses deigned to train Iraqi military personnel in this specialised field that make up the Special Operations Tactical Groups in Baghdad and Taji.

NATO Operation to Support Turkey - Active Fence

During 2012, the civil war situation in Syria brought instability to NATO's southern border and the possible threat of uncontrolled use of ballistic missiles on the borders of Turkey. This led the Government of Turkey to ask NATO to take steps to strengthen its air defence, which led, at the end of the same year, to the deployment in early 2013 within the framework of the Active Fence Standing Air Defence Plan for allied territory of PATRIOT units from the US, Germany and the Netherlands in Turkish territory.

In this regard, in August 2014, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) asked Spain to assess the possibility of taking over some of the Patriot units deployed in Turkey in 2015 in order to maintain the allied forces in this undertaking.

After analysing the possibilities of Spain deploying these resources, it was decided to respond to the request from the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces in Europe (SHAPE) and contribute to this NATO mission through the deployment, in January 2015, of the PATRIOT Battery belonging to the 74th Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiment (RAAA 74).

Hence, by virtue of a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers on 26 December 2014, which extended the participation of military units and observers in operations beyond the scope of national territory, on 29 December 2014, the Spanish PATRIOT unit deployed to Adana Airport in Turkey to take over the command from the Dutch unit which had been deployed in Adana since January 2015

There are currently 152 Spanish servicemen deployed in Adana (Turkey).

On 14 August 2015, the United States announcement the withdrawal of its PATRIOT material deployed in Turkey upon the completion of its rotation in October 2015, citing technical needs relating to improving its material. Meanwhile, Germany announced the withdrawal of its unit at the end of its rotation which was due to end in January 2016. Spain announced its decision to maintain its deployment pursuant to the agreement which was recently extended until 31 December 2016.

The unit made up of a Patriot missile battery was provided by the Spanish Army as part of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment number 74, based in Dos Hermanas (Seville) and San ​Roque (Cadiz).

​Through its participation in this mission, Spain is making another contribution to international security and stability, thereby confirming its commitment to NATO operations at a time when regional stability on the southern border is being affected by a conflict on the NATO border. This national contribution also forms part of the standing air defence mission of NATO territory and populations, and is targeted at one of the scenarios in which NATO faces increased challenges and threats from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Operation Central Mediterranean - EUNAVFOR MED - SOPHIA

In light of the illegal immigration drama unfolding in the Central and Southern Mediterranean, fuelled by the instability in Libya, the European Union has decided to step up its presence at sea to combat people traffickers, prevent the flows of illegal migration and strengthen support and internal responsibility.

At the European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting held on 18 May, Decision (PESC) 2015/778 was approved that authorised the establishment of an EU military force in the Central Southern Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED). The launch of the mission was approved on 22 June.

The mission seeks to disrupt the business model of the illegal people trafficking networks in the Central and Southern Mediterranean through systematic efforts to identify, capture and eliminate the vessels and resources used or suspected of being used by the traffickers pursuant to international law. To achieve this, the operation was structured in various phases:

  • ​Phase one: support for the detection and surveillance of the migration networks through the gathering of information and patrols on the high sea.
  • Phase two: divided into two parts.
    • The detection, boarding, search and diversion on the high sea of vessels suspected of being used for illegal trafficking or smuggling of human beings pursuant to the applicable international law.
    • Pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council or the consent of the affected coastal State, detect, board, search and divert vessels suspected of being used for illegal trafficking or smuggling of human beings on the high sea, in the territorial waters or domestic waters of the aforesaid State in line with the conditions established in the resolution or the consent of the State.
  • Phase three: adopt all necessary measures against a suspicious vessel and related resources, including their disposal or disabling them, pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council or with the consent of the coastal State in question.

Given that the aim of the European Union is to provide lasting and stable long-term solutions, it has been established that EUNAVFOR MED will cooperate with the relevant Member States, establishing the appropriate mechanisms for coordination with other agencies and bodies, particularly FRONTEX, EUROPOL, EUROJUST, the European Asylum Support Office and the relevant CSDP missions.

As a responsible member of the EU, Spain has opted to take part in the operation by offering various military resources defined by the government in a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers on 24 July 2015.

On 7 October 2015, the Policy and Security Committee approved the instigation of Phase 2A, that is, to maintain its capacity to operate on the high seas. The operation similarly changed its name to EUNAVFOR MED OP. SOPHIA.

Security Council Resolution 2240 (2015), of 9 October 2015, authorised EUNAVFOR MED OP. SOPHIA to act at sea and off the coast of Libya to combat illegal people trafficking, as well as to capture vessels engaged in illegal immigration.

Spain, as a responsible member of the European Union and in light of the drama unfolding of the deaths of thousands of people at sea, and by a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers on 24 July 2015, authorised participation in the EUNAVFOR MED mission, which is currently comprised as follows:

  • Eight officers at the Operational General Headquarters in Rome, and three officers at the General Force Headquarters at sea.
  • One maritime patrol aircraft, part of the 'SIGONELLA' detachment at Sigonella Base in Italy.
  • The frigate 'Canarias' joined the operation at Augusta Base in Italy on 7 October 2015, with a crew of 201 personnel, including an Operational Security Team, a Role 1 with a doctor and a crewed helicopter.​