US aircraft lands on British carrier… and British helo lands on US carrier.
Naval Station Rota (NAVSTA Rota) is a Spanish naval base opened in 1955, commanded by a Spanish Admiral, called Base Naval de Rota in Spanish, and yet fully-funded by the United States of America. Often described by the US Navy as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean,” Rota is headquarters for Commander US Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACTSPAIN). Under the mutual defense agreement signed by the US and Spain during the Franco regime (Convenio de Defensa y Ayuda Económica Mutua), the US is responsible for maintaining the station’s infrastructure, including a 670-acre (2.7 km2) airfield, three active piers, 426 facilities and 806 family housing units.
Rota is home to the Spanish Navy’s Grupo de Acción Naval 2, comprising the aircraft carrier Príncipe de Asturias (R-11), the LPDs Galicia (L-51) and Castilla (L-52), and the LST Pizarro (L-42). On its transfer to a state of “restrictive standby” (or what the rest of the world calls “decommissioning”), the Príncipe de Asturias will be replaced by the LHD Juan Carlos I (L61).
Rota is also home to the 41ª Escuadrilla de Escoltas, comprising the Santa Maria-class frigates Santa Maria (F-81), Victoria (F-82), Numancia (F-83), Reina Sofía (F-84), Navarra (F-85) and Canarias (F-86). The Spanish vessels are based on the US Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.
US tenant units based at Rota include Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company Europe (FAST Co. Europe), US Naval Hospital Rota, Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 and 725th Air Mobility Squadron.
The strategic location of the base allows it to provide excellent support to US Sixth Fleet units in the Mediterranean and to US Air Force Air Mobility Command units. It is the only base in the Mediterranean which supports amphibious readiness group (ARG) post-deployment wash-downs. The naval station also offers pier-side maintenance and backload facilities. The base complements the ARG unit transfers, and accommodates the sailors and marines of visiting ships.
During the Cold War, Rota was home port to Submarine Squadron 16 (SUBRON 16) and the depot ship USS Proteus (AS-19), later USS Holland (AS-32). Submarines assigned to the squadron included the USS Lafayette (SSBN-616) and USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657).