Detailing Spain’s military modernisation efforts in a first appearance before this legislature’s Senate Defense Committee, Minister of Defence Margarita Robles described the promotion of programmes that had been left “at a standstill”, including the F-110 frigates, the S-80 submarine or the 8×8 combat vehicle programmes, and European projects including the Future Air Combat System (FCAS), according to a release from the Ministry of Defence from 21 March.

“Above all, we have approved an Industrial Defense Strategy, which did not exist, in the same line as other European countries,” said Robles, adding that the investment in Defense aims to “increase the level of strategic autonomy and contribute to the Europe of Defense,” consolidating an industrial and technological base of the Armed Forces.

Spain’s defence budget amounts to 1.24% of its GDP, with plans announced in January to raise this to 1.30% in 2024

F-110 frigates

On 16 December 2023 Navantia cut steel for the first time on Spain’s second F-110 frigate, the F-112. The first cut is four months ahead of schedule, representing an acceleration of the programme, worth €4.33m ($4.65m), that has also seen work on the first frigate move forward.

The F-111, under construction since 2022, had completed 24 of 33 blocks by December 2024, ahead of the 18 that were originally slated for completion. 

The Spanish Navy’s F-110 frigates are multi-purpose escort vessels, with anti-aircraft, anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities that will enable them to perform their force protection and naval projection functions. These ships, which are intended to operate in combination with other units, make them versatile platforms that can perform maritime security-related functions.

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S-80 submarine

In October 2023, Spain saw the Isaac Pearl, an S-80 submarine, pass its final safety checkpoint before commissioning, after navigating at the maximum operational depth.

The S-80 is a class of vessels first planned in 1989 and  ordered into production in 2003, the S-80 program has had a difficult road to delivery, suffering from overweight issues that necessitated the introduction of General Dynamics into the design process in 2013. The extensive redesigns in the 2010’s and a Spanish government budget crisis lead to significant delays. 

The Isaac Peral was first expected to enter service in 2015, followed by the Narciso Monturiol in 2016, and two more boats in the class, the Cosme Garcia in 2018 and Mateo Garcia de los Reys in 2019 respectively. These are now expected for delivery in 2024, 2026, and 2028, respectively. The cost of the submarines has run to €977m ($1bn) per submarine.

8×8 combat vehicle

The Dragon vehicle is based on the GDELS 8×8 Piranha 5 combat wheeled vehicle. 

A programme was launched in 2007 to develop a new armoured vehicle capability. Seven companies were selected, and then narrowed down to three possible contenders after the first phase of the selection process. The competitors were the Boxer from Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann, the VBCI from Nexter, and the Freccia from an Italian consortium. 

However, the programme was cancelled in 2010 due to budget cuts.

In 2013 it was reactivated, but without purchasing any of the previous contenders. Instead and TESS Defence SA – a consortium of General Dynamics-Santa Bárbara Sistemas, Escribano, Indra and Sapa – were awarded a contract to develop an armoured vehicle based on the Piranha 5. 

In August 2020, the Spanish Ministry of Defence then awarded a €1.74bn ($2.06bn) contract to the General Dynamics European Land Systems-Santa Bárbara Sistemas (GDELS-SBS) joint venture, in August 2020, for 348 VCR 8×8 Dragon wheeled combat vehicles. There is also the option to extend the acquisition programme to include a total of 1,000 vehicles. The first production-grade units of the Dragon were ready for trials in August 2022.

In January 2024, Robles met with the Secretary of State for Defence Amparo Valcare and the CEOs of TESS Defence SA, to “convey their great concern about the lack of progress and the level of compliance with the 8×8 Vehicle program,” according to a Spanish MoD release


Spain joined the FCAS programme in June 2019, at the time the third member, alongside France and Germany. The FCAS was intended to include next-generation fighter (NGF) and unmanned systems such as remote carriers (RCs) that will fly alongside the manned fighter jets and cruise missiles.

All the manned and unmanned elements will be connected by a combat Cloud that will be powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The air forces will be able to operate the FCAS sixth-generation aircraft at a safe stand-off distance while deploying the remote carriers in dangerous areas to deal with threats.

Key capabilities of the aircraft will include improved survivability with active and passive stealth features, enhanced situational awareness through advanced avionics and sensor suite. The fighter jet will also provide greater manoeuvrability, speed, and range, thanks to powerful engine and advanced flight control system. The aircraft will be installed with novel effectors to ensure increased firepower, including stand-off kinetic loads, directed energy weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities.