Humanitarian operations in Haiti


On January 19 the Minister of Defence announced the dispatch of Naval units to this Caribbean country. Following an intense period of preparation, the amphibious assault ship Castilla set sail from the Rota Naval Base (Cadiz) on course for Haiti to provide assistance to the victims of the earthquake that devastated the country on January 12. In principle, the mission will have a duration of between two and three months.

The force provided by the Navy is made up of a total of 423 Marines. These personnel include 192 who belong to the "Castilla" ship’s own crew, 37 belonging to a helicopter unit, a Tactical Subgroup of Marine Infantry with a total of 165 members, 22 for the movement of ship to beach amphibious craft and 7 coastal reconnaissance divers. In addition, the "Castilla" is carrying a medical unit made up of 27 doctors and paramedics belonging to Military Healthcare.

The Marine Infantry Force aboard belong to the Naval Corps based in San Fernando and is made up of:

* Staff Officers.

* A company with protection and escort capacity.

* A sapper unit to provide rubble clearance and the opening up of roadways, equipped to do so with wheeled loading shovels, bulldozer excavators and tipper lorries, among other plant.

* A Marine Infantry logistics support unit capable of producing and distributing drinking water thanks to two transportable water purifiers with a capacity of 500 L per hour (24 metric tons per day), a 10,000 L tank and three flexible tanks each of 5000 L.

* This contingent also includes a military coordination team for relations with civilian groups in the operational area.

* Marine Infantry paramedics with ambulances.

Aboard the "Castilla" there will also be an Embarked Air Unit made up of a Sikorsky SH-3D  and three Augusta Bell AB-212 from the Navy Airborne Fleet based at the Rota Naval Base. This unit will provide the operation with the necessary logistical deployment capacity of both personnel as well as of material with emphasis on the support that they will provide in Healthcare operations through the airborne evacuation of the injured. Along with these capacities they will be able to carry out aerial reconnaissance, security and surveillance tasks.

Faced with the foreseeable difficulties of docking the ship in port, the enlisted unit can count on the capacity to disembark heavy material thanks to the craft provided by the Naval Beach Group, a special unit of the Navy equipped with LCM landing craft as well as other necessary material.

To provide safety to this movement of craft between the ship and dry land the force includes a team of divers specialising in hydrographic reconnaissance of the coast.

The amphibious assault ship "Castilla" is designed for the coastal deployment of troops, material and vehicles, using amphibious LCM craft from the internal well dock and with helicopters from the flight deck. Her main mission is to carry out amphibious operations and to support peacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations in cases of natural disaster. The ship has a ROLE 2 healthcare capacity: rooms for examining the injured, 8 ICU’s, X-Ray facilities, two operating theatres, a dental surgery as well as 70 beds for primary healthcare.

The ship will be able to coordinate her actions thanks to an extensive communications capacity that enables her to link up with the forces of other countries and international institutions deployed in the area as well as to carry out telemedicine consulting by video conferencing with the Gómez Ulla Defence General Hospital (Madrid).


Xhead = L-52 Castilla

The Amphibious Assault Ship "Castilla" (L-52) is the second ship in the "Galicia" class and was built in Ferrol by the state-owned shipbuilder, NAVANTIA (formerly Bazán). Building work commenced in the month of May in 1997 and she was launched on 14 June 1999 and delivered to the Spanish Navy on 26 June 2000.

Xhead = Missions

Designed to transport troops and vehicles and to operate with amphibious craft in the dock well and with helicopters on her flight deck, the main mission of "Galicia" class ships is to carry out amphibious operations and to support peacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations in cases of natural disaster.

The "Castilla" has an improved Command and Control capacity to serve as a command ship and to act as an alternative command ship for the General Headquarters of the Naval Command Component in NATO maritime operations.

She habitually serves as command platform of the SP HRF (M) HQ (Maritime Headquarters of the Spanish High Readiness Force).

Among the most notable missions in which the ship has taken part are those of Operation "Romeo Sierra" to clear Parsley Island  (17 July 2002), cooperation in transferring material belonging to the Legion to the port of Ash Shuahyabah (United Arab Emirates) within the framework of the "IF" Operation (July 2 are 003-September 2003), and the humanitarian aid mission in Haiti within the framework of the "Mar Caribe" Operation (October 2004-December 2004).

Xhead = Healthcare Capacity

The healthcare facilities aboard the ship "Castilla" are very comprehensive and have shown their usefulness and capacity in the numerous humanitarian aid missions that have been carried out.

These facilities are found on the same deck as the hangar and the flight deck, hence enabling rapid transfer of the injured from the helicopters to the hospital and vice versa for evacuations.

The ship has a ROLE 2 healthcare capacity: a 40 m² resuscitation and injury classification zone equipped with six beds, a 35 m² pre-op area and two complete operating theatres. She has a 55 m² Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with eight beds, a dental surgery, pharmacy, refrigerated blood bank, and laboratories for haematology, biochemistry, cultures and water analysis.

The medical facilities are completed with a sterilisation room, an X-ray room with radiological and ecography equipment and quarantine wards.

Xhead = General Characteristics

* Dimensions:

– Length overall: 160 m.

– Beam: 25 m.

– Depth to main deck: 16.8 m.

– Max. height: 62 m.

– Max. draft: 6.2 m.

    DISPLACEMENT: 13,000 T. at full load.


– Maximum sustained speed: 15/17 kn.

– Range: 6,500 miles (at 12 kn).


* Command and Control Systems:

– Closed-circuit TV (CCTV) to control key external and internal spaces.

– Fleet Control System to provide link between LCM’s and the ship.

– Link-11/Link-16 tactical data link.

* Weapon System: TRITAN V.

* Communications System:


– Message handling system (MHS).

* Energy and Propulsion System:

– 2 plants, each with 2 Caterpillar-BAZAN Bravo (22,000 hp approx.) and an electrical engine (1,500 hp), all of them attached to a reducer gear that moves a shaft line.

– 2 variable pitch propellers with 5 blades and a diameter of 4 m.

– 1 thrust prow propeller of approx. 1,800 hp (transversal thrust).

– 7 MW electrical plant with four diesel generators of 1,520 kW and one standby plant of 715 kW.


* Surface and navigation radar (F band) KH 1007.

* Helicopter control radar (F band) KH 1007.

* Navigation radar LPI PILOT Mk 2 MODIFICATIONS 7 (band I).

* Aerial exploration radar 3D TRS/3D-16

* IFF AN/TPX-54 (V) Mk-XII (mode 4 include.).

* REGULUS Mk-9500 ESM communications system.

* ALDEBARAN Mk-3400 ESM/ECM system.

* AN/SRN-15A TACAN system.


* 2 OERLIKON 20 mm cannons (possibility of 4)

* 6 Chaff launchers (SRBOC MK-36)


    Personnel transport:

577 persons (Medical Teams/Embarked Air Unit/Landing Craft/Health: 198,

   Landing Forces: 379).



    Material cargo and transport:

* Landing Craft: 4 LCM1-E.

* Helicopters: 6 AB212 or 4 SH3D.

* Vehicles: 90-170 depending on their type, in 1,010 m² parking area (capacity for 170 M-113, 130 Pizarro or 33 M60A3).

* Material and munitions: 700 tn.

* 4 cargo lifts.

* 3 material access ramps.

* 2 cargo cranes (25 and 2.5 tn.).

A total cargo surface area of more than 3,500 m² including stores, flight deck and hangar.


* Hangar for 4 heavy or 6 medium helicopters.

* Day and night operations, visual and instrumental flight, VERTREP and HIFR.

   G.S.I. and artificial horizontal.

* Maintenance workshops.

* Flight control post.

For this operation use will be made of three Agusta Bell 212 helicopters and a

   Sikorsky SH-3D.


Xhead = Other facilities

– Quarantine ward (4 beds).

– Surgery/Office.

– Pharmacy.

– Stores.

– Oxygen and gases control centre.

Xhead = The humanitarian aid mission

The ships L-51 Galicia and L-52 Castilla have taken part in numerous humanitarian missions bringing much-needed aid to devastated regions. From aid work following the floods caused by hurricane "Mitch" in Central-America in Operation "Solidarity Response" (January 2005-April 2005) to humanitarian assistance in Banda Aceh and the Northwest coast of Sumatra through to the humanitarian aid mission in Haiti within the framework of Operation "Caribbean Sea".

Xhead = Mitch

Following the devastation caused in Central America by hurricane "Mitch", the Spanish government decided to send a naval ship to the area with humanitarian aid in an operation known as "Alfa Charlie". The ship set sail on 22 November 1998 and headed for the area with 14 containers and 1,113 pallets with all kinds of aid. There were three AB-212 helicopters on board that distributed a total of 32 tonnes of aid, whilst another 15 tons were distributed using Marine Infantry Hummer vehicles. A total of 4,848 health interventions were made, as were 27 surgical operations aboard the ship as well as 13 evacuation operations. She provided assistance in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and passed through the Panama Canal twice (on 12 December 1998 and 1 January 1999). The ship’s mission lasted a total of 57 days and returned to Spain on 17 January 1999.

Xhead = Tsunami in Indonesia

On 26 December 2004 a tsunami caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the Indian Ocean. The Spanish government set the "Solidarity Response" operation in motion to send urgently needed aid to the area. On 15 January 2005 the "Galicia" set sail from the port of Alicante with 530 men and women on board and 140 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including a healthcare unit and another of engineers from the Spanish Army to carry out tasks involving the reconstruction of infrastructure and buildings and to provide medical assistance to victims of the disaster in the city of Banda Aceh.

The ship also had three AB-212 helicopters on board, a team of divers to carry out reconnaissance of coastal areas, a naval beach group with two LCM amphibious craft for the transfer from ship to coast of vehicles and personnel, and a Marine Infantry unit as a protection force. On 8 February 2005 the "Galicia" reached the Indonesian port of Lhokseumawe on the island of Sumatra after a voyage lasting 24 days and remained in the area close to where work was carried out and provided assistance and sustenance so that the unit of engineers were able to work with maximum efficiency. The ship enabled coordination of transport and the movement of material and personnel within the assigned operational area and provided medical support and healthcare to the whole of the contingent and to the local population. On 23 March 2005 the "Galicia" left the port of Lhokseumawe and returned to Spain.