First thing in the morning and under a cloak of secrecy “for security reasons”, according to comments from the Ministry of Defense. This is how the frigate has set course for its destiny Blas de Lezo from quay number four of the Ferrol Military Arsenal. The star ship of the Spanish Navy will be integrated into one of the NATO groups, the SNMG-2, in the Mediterranean Sea, of which other naval units from the different allied countries are also part. Her departure was scheduled for three weeks, but the conflict unleashed in Ukraine has pushed her to set sail much earlier than expected. In the midst of some preparations and some covid tests for the crew that were rushed (and then delayed) at the last moment, the departure time was unknown even in the ministry, which was following statements by the minister, Margarita Robles, on Thursday in Corral de Calatrava (Ciudad Real), when he announced that the departure was scheduled for Friday.
Yesterday it was expected to weigh anchor at 10 p.m., but finally (after receiving the results of the crew screening), the Navy’s most modern vessel has been seen leaving the mouth of the Ferrol estuary before nine a.m. this Saturday morning. From Defense no details are given and it is warned that “for the moment” there will be no more information, “as happens in the rest of military operations”. On his mission to the Black Sea in the midst of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, aboard the Blas de Lezo about 220 soldiers travel, that is based in Arsenal de Ferrol
The function of this SMNG-2 group is to provide immediate reaction capacity to NATO in hot zones. As the ministry recalled in previous days, the Navy has maintained a presence in these groups for more than 30 years and the conflict scenario has advanced the departure this time about three weeks, given the possibility that Russia invades Ukraine.
In this mission, the crew is made up of 190 troops plus those belonging to an operational security team from the Northern Tercio. All of them are based in Ferrol. In addition, the frigate will stop at the Rota base in Cadiz for the embarkation of an air unit made up of a SH-60 Bravo naval helicopter, 18 soldiers and a medical officer. From there it will continue its journey to the Mediterranean.
two month mission
The Blas de Lezo It was built at the Navantia shipyard in Ferrol and launched in the spring of 2003. It is the fifth ship in the history of Spain to bear the name of Lieutenant General Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta, considered the hero of the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. “Undoubtedly one of the most illustrious sailors in Spanish history, particularly in the 18th century,” points out the official website of the Navy. The ship’s emblem repeats the lieutenant general’s coat of arms and bears the motto “Ornatus mei arma sunt requies mea pugnare” (My trappings are weapons, my rest is fighting”).
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It is also known as the F-103 (third of the F-100 series frigates), and is considered one of the most capable of aerial defense and detection due to its Aegis combat system and the SPY-1D multifunction radar. As announced in Ferrol this week by Gonzalo Leira, commander of the 31st Surface Squadron, the plan is for the Blas de Lezo join the NATO fleet between Tuesday and Wednesday to serve for at least two months.