Defence & security sector in Spain

Defence & security sector in Spain

Spain remains committed to the development of joint, deployable, expeditionary armed forces, able to contribute to the full range of Alliance missions. Paradoxically, budget constraints may uncover new business opportunities as the MoD considers PPP schemes to maintain operability levels

Market overview


The Spanish defence budget has seen a sharp decrease over the last few years, yet not all the defence related expenditure falls under other government departments. Spain is the 7th highest contributor to NATO.

The so-called “special acquisition programmes” which led to the MoD current massive level of debt started back in 1997 with the government’s approval to buying F-100 frigates (for a value of €2.8 billion) and Eurofighter aircraft (for over €9.2 billion). As of today, the joint value of the largest 19 programmes amounts to c.€26.7 billion, with the payment instalments lasting until 2025. The accumulated debt stands at c. €31 billion, half of which is with the industry and the other half with other government departments (and may be fully or partially written off).

The Air Force (SAF, 25,000 personnel) has reduced in size and invested hugely in modernising its forces, in particular its national C2 system. The SAF currently has around 470 aircraft, ranging from Eurofighter Typhoon to Canadair C215 fire fighting aircraft. Their strategic capabilities include C2/AEW; ISTAR; electronic and acoustic warfare; precision combat air (to include UCAVs in the future); in-flight refuelling; air deployment and support capability; and survival and self-protection systems.

The Navy’s strategic capabilities as set up by the strategic defence review of 2003 include Projection (defined as the ability to transport naval action, and includes C2 platforms, amphibious ships, carrier, missile firing units and strategic projection ships); Protection (escort ships); Freedom of Action (notably in the littoral environment, provided by submarines and mine countermeasure forces); Operational Logistic Support (through logistic ships); Maritime Action (policing, combating contamination, scientific research and SAR capabilities); and Early Warning (intelligence gathering equipment and dedicated platforms).

The Army is one of the world’s oldest in active service and its current strength is 68,000. It has two main fighting forces, namely the Manoeuvre Force and the Land Force.

Public Security

The Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional are the two police forces with national deployment in Spain (sharing duties on CT, drug trafficking and smuggling, illegal immigration, etc). In addition, some autonomous regions (Basque country, Navarre, Catalonia) have developed their own forces or are aiming to do so, with varying degrees of devolution. Both GC and PN have significant air and maritime capabilities, mainly delivered through platforms manufactured locally by EADS-CASA and Navantia.

The Policía Nacional is responsible for the security of citizens within main cities and urban areas, whereas the Guardia Civil (70,000) exercises control over the remainder of national territory and territorial waters. Its remit includes responsibility for the control of arms and explosives, security of critical infrastructures and borders, environmental protection and international peacekeeping missions.

The Mossos d’Esquadra, with some 12,000 officers deployed across the Catalan Principality, have every law enforcement responsibility except for firearms licensing, issue of ID cards and passports, and patrolling of ports and airports.

The Basque Ertzaintza (8,000) has almost the same degree of responsibility than their Catalan counterparts –except for control of the penitentiary system. Both forces account amongst the best-equipped police bodies in Europe.

Key opportunities

  • The Navy’s new flagship carrier Juan Carlos I (LHD) built by Navantia entered service in 2011, and its submarine capability will be enhanced significantly with the delivery of 4x diesel-electric S80 SSK submarines due from 2013. Through the Navy’s modernisation programme Navantia greatly increased its own technical capability and became a successful international player. Two additional LHD platforms are currently being built for the Australian Navy.

  • There is a strategic industry element in most of the platforms operated by the SAF, not least Eurofighter, A400M (FAL located in Seville) and C295 transport aircraft, which has successfully sold overseas by EADS-CASA. Generally, the Spanish aerospace industry is capable to deliver a new aircraft from design to final assembly, including powerplant, and accounts for the fifth largest market in Europe.

  • Over recent years the Army has undergone a significant modernisation process, which has yet to finish. So far, deliveries of the new Leopard battle tank fleet built by GDSBS in Seville have started, as have those of the Pizarro combat vehicle –which is the basic design of the ASCOD platform chosen by the British Army. The UK industry contributed to this process by delivering the core RG31 armoured vehicle despite the contract being primed again by GDSBS.

Latest export opportunities – Defence

Latest export opportunities – Security

Latest export opportunities – Spain

Getting into the market

Despite the fact that defence procurement is commonly subject to public tenders, the Spanish Public Procurement legislation (LCAP) sets up requirements that are often difficult to comply with by UK suppliers. Thus, tender bids should usually include statements issued by a Notary Public to certify the company’s technical and financial soundness, or its ability to formally enter contracts with Spanish government bodies.

In order to familiarise with these often stringent tender requirements we strongly recommend obtaining specialist legal advice or partnering with a local player. In addition, and though offsets are no longer officially required, a local industrial component is often key to winning bids.

More about doing business in Spain


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists based overseas – or contact your local international trade team.

  • Fernando Pons, Senior Trade & Investment Adviser.

British Embassy, Madrid. Tel. +34 917 146 338 or email:

Contact your local international trade team

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events – Defence & Security

Major Events

SICUR, International Security, Safety & Fire exhibition, Madrid.

25 – 28 February 2014

Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Export Control

Sectors: Defence & Security
Countries: Spain
Export Action Plan