The Spanish Army Weaponry
By Julio A. Montes

Small Arms

The “fritz” style Marte 04-ST-98 Kevlar helmet is now the standard issued combat headgear, while black berets are worn by most troops, with green ones reserved for special forces. For desert operations, the Army had adopted the 6- color “chocolate chip” battle dress uniform (BDU) while the woodland camouflaged model is used in the European Theatre. A new combat vest is being introduced to replace the Spanish version of the US ALICE infantry gear.

The main combat pistol is the Llama M82 model. This was introduced in 1980 in 9mm caliber. The weapon operates in the short recoil, semiautomatic manner. It has a large capacity magazine of 15- rounds.

Spanish Air Army sentries are still equipped with the Model Z-70/B Star submachine gun. The weapon was designed and produced by Star-Bonifacio Echeverria, Eibar Company starting in 1971. The Z70 replaced both, the Star Z- 45 and the Z-62 models. The Z-70 uses a conventional blowback trigger mechanism, and is fed by 20, 30 and 40-round magazines. The Z-70 was supposed to have been replaced with the Z-84 model in 1985. The Z-84 fires from an open telescoped bolt, using the blowback system. Its exterior design resembles somewhat that of the Uzi. However, no Z-84s were observed on a recent visit. Special Forces operators use the HK MP-5 submachine gun in all variants.

The Army used the 7.62mm CETME C until 1985, when it was replaced by the FUSA 5.56mm CETME L and the LC Carbine. The Model 58/C is actually a close cousin of the German G-3, having the same origins in the Mauser designed Sturmgewehr 45. The M58 was as rugged and reliable as the G3, and was extremely popular with the troops. Its mechanism was the typical delayed blowback system intended for the 7.92mm cartridge.

The CETME M-A prototype evolved in the MB variant and later in the MC. The M-C was adopted in 7.62mm NATO cartridge in the early 1970s. The CETME Model-L and the shorter Model-LC were introduced in 1985. The L model is made with a pressedsteel receiver, a 400mm barrel of 6 grooves, right hand twist, and a fixed plastic stock. The mechanism is the traditional roller-locked delayed blowback. Although similar to the German HK-33, the Model L/LC was never as reliable. In fact, some trace the problems with the rifle to a total lack of testing in the field before adopting the weapon, and a lack of quality control in its production. The Model LC uses the same mechanism as the L, but matched to a 320mm barrel and a retractable stock.

In February 1999, the government decided to replace the disappointing CETME L/LC rifles with the HK G36E and HK G36EK. The Army has also taken delivery of HK 40mm single shot grenade launchers, Accuracy International (AI) 7.62mm precision rifles, and Barrett 12.7mm M95 models. The Army is considering the adoption of the Barret M82.

Special Forces appear to prefer German small arms, including the mentioned MP-5, HK P-9S pistols, PSG- 1 sniper rifles, Mauser SP-66 precision rifles, HK512 shot guns, and HK-33 assault rifles. The arsenal also includes SIG-Sauer SSG2000 rifles, Franchi 12-gauge SAPS-12 shotguns, and Remington 870 models.

For communications, the Army list Thompson PR4G, BCC- 349, AN/PRC-74B and UK/PRC-320 radios, and MEROD PSV-1642-M digital terminal. They also use the ENOSA VNP-201 and GVN-401 night goggles manufactured by Indra EW from Aranjuez, Madrid.

The CETME Ameli light machine gun is the standard squad automatic support weapon, and it has a very interesting design. Externally, it resembles the MG42 model, and uses the CETME delayed blowback operation. The Ameli is built by the Santa Barbara National Arsenal in 5.56mm caliber. Although the weapon has proved extremely reliable and durable, it did not do well in the international market due to the limitations placed on the feeding mechanism. The weapon is belt fed, and does not accept the standard box magazines. The rate of fire has a selector for either 900 or 1,250 rpm. Equipped with a bipod, the standard model weighs 7.24kg. There is also a lightweight variant known as the Ameli- L, weighting 5.2kg.

The standard multipurpose machine gun is the MG42 chambered to 7.62mm NATO cartridge. The Spanish do not refer to this weapon as the MG3, preferring the original designation instead. The MG-42/MG3 uses the roller-locked breech mechanism, with a barrel of 531mm in length with 6 grooves. The rate of fire is 1,100 rounds per minute.

The C-90 is the Spanish standard Light Anti-Armor Weapon, and this will be replaced with the Alcotan-100 in the coming years. The C-90 is a disposable glass-fiber container launcher with a preloaded 90mm anti-tank rocket, with an effective range of 200m. The maximum range is rated to 800m, with a concrete penetration of 1,200mm and an armor penetration of 500mm. The shell has a 10- year storage life. The launcher comes with a simple percussion/ pyrotechnic firing mechanism. The weight of the system is 4.2kg.

Spain produces the LAG-40 MGL chambered to the 40x53mm high velocity grenade. The weapon operates in the long recoil principle, has a rate of fire of 215 rpm, and a range of 1,500m. The LAG-40 can feed from either side, allowing for easy mounting on boats, vehicles or ground pedestals.

Although no longer in first line use in Spain, the local Santa Barbara National Arsenal produced large quantities of the M40A1 recoilless rifle (RCL). In Spanish Army service, the anti-tank RCLs have been replaced with Milan and TOW missiles. However, the M40A1 remains as the main anti-armor weapon in most of Latin America, and several Central American countries adopted the Spanish manufactured-variant. The M40A1 is rated to 106mm but in fact fires a 105mm caliber warhead, capable of penetrating 150mm of armor at 60º angle of impact. The weight of the system in firing position is 209.5kg, and has an effective range of some 1,000 meters and a maximum range of 7,700 meters.

Esperanza & Co. produced the ECIA 60mm Model-L mortar for the Spanish Army. The mortar has a weight of 12kg and is capable of launching a 2.05kg high explosive bomb to a maximum range of 3,800 meters. The Model-L is complemented with the ECIA Commando, which is one of the lightest and simplest mortars in service with any army. The Commando consists of a short steel barrel with capacity of launching the same 60mm 2.05kg high explosive grenade of the Model-L to a maximum range of 1,290 meters. The weapon weighs 6.5kg. Spain also produces the 81mm and 120mm ECIA mortars, which have also proved very successful and reliable.

Mechanized and Armored Infantry

Most of the Spanish armored assets are concentrated within the Maneuvering Force (FMA), of which the Brunete I Mechanized Infantry Division is its main element.

The Brunete I Mechanized Infantry Division (DIMZ), is the most powerful unit of the Army, and comprises the Guzman el Bueno X (Cordoba), and the Extremadura XI (Badajoz) mechanized infantry brigades (BRIMZ) and the Guadarrama XII (El Goloson) Armored Infantry Brigade (BRIAC).

The X BRIMZ has its origins in 1984, as part of the then-Guzman el Bueno Mechanized Division. The unit was reorganized into the present brigade size and designation in 1996, and assigned to the Brunete 1 Armored Division (DAC). The Brigade includes La Reina 2nd Mechanized Infantry Regiment (RIMZ) with the Princesa Mechanized Infantry Battalion (BIMZ), and Lepanto BIMZ; and the Cordoba 10th RIMZ, with the Almansa BIMZ and Malaga BIMZ. The brigade’s order of battle includes the 10th self-propelled Combat Artillery Group (GACA).

The XI BRIMZ was established in 1965 as part of the DAC. The Brigade comprises today the Saboya 6th RIMZ, with the Cantabria BIMZ, and the Las Navas BIMZ. The Castilla 16th RIMZ deploys the Alcántara BIMZ and Mérida BIMZ. The brigade fire support comes from the 11th GACA SP.

Colonel Pedro del Pozo Llorente, commander of the Alcazar de Toledo 61st Armored Infantry Regiment (RIAC), welcomed Dionisio Garcia Flores and this author to El Goloso Barracks. His officers explain to us that the Regiment comprises the Uad Ras Armored Infantry Battalion (BIAC) and the León BIAC. The 61st RIAC is one of the two regiments forming the XII BRIAC. The second regiment is the Asturias 31st RIMZ, with the Covadonga BIMZ. Artillery support to the brigade comes from the 12th GACA SP.

The Farmesio XII Regiment (RCLAC) is charged with combat reconnaissance and security for the Infantry Mechanized Division (DIMZ). The regiment counts with three Light Armored Squadrons equipped with M60A3 MBTs, M113 APCs, and VEC IFVs. The unit is completed with the 11th Combat Artillery Regiment (RACA), the 82nd Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiment (RAAA), the 1st Engineer Regiment (RING), the 1st Transportation Regiment (RTRANS) and the Logistical Division Group (AGLD).

The Castillejos I Cavalry Brigade, from Zaragosa, is a smaller armored formation of the FAM, comprising a HQ Battalion, the 20th Artillery Brigade, 22nd Zapper Group, 22nd Logistical Group, Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) Numancia 9, ACR España 11, and ACR Pavia 4.


The Spanish Army officially accepted in service the new Leopard 2E MBT at the General Dynamics Santa Barbara Systems, at La Canteras (Alcalá de Guadaira, Sevilla) on June 17, 2004. With the arrival of the Leopard 2E, the Army will be equipped with one of the most advanced main battle tanks in the world. The Army has requested 320 MBTs and 23 recovery units. The 108 Leopard 2A4 received earlier will be brought up to 2A6 standards, and the remaining units will be newly built models. The Leopard 2E is basically the 2A6 variant, equipped with a 120/55mm L55 main gun, and two MG- 3 machine guns. It sports the 2S armor package (similar to the Swedish model), a SAPA emergency generator, Indra night vision devises, and Amper C2 Lince and PR4G communication equipment. The engine is an Izar/MTU model, matched to SAPA/Diehl/ZF transmissions, tracks and other components.

Commander Bastarreche took the time to show us the base, and took us to the training fields well inside El Goloso. Here we found M60A3 MBTs, and a battery of M109s going through the passes of shoot and move. The M60 remains as the main battle tank until the arrival of the Leopard 2A6 (or 2E as it is known). The two M113 scouts sped by us, took positions, and radioed to the self-propelled units to show themselves and take positions in the field. In the meantime, a pair of M60A3 entertained us with tactical maneuvers. Later we moved to the main installations where we observed the Leopard 2A4, and the simulator developed for it by Indra.

Air defense of armored formations was entrusted until recently to 18 Roland firing posts. The Army had acquired the AMX-30 MBT and along came nine dayonly Roland AMX units, and nine all weather variants. The Roland AMX consists of a battery of 18 short range SAMs accommodated into an AMX-30 tank chassis. It is unknown - at least to me - what will be the destination of these Roland AMX mobile missile systems with the arrival of the Leopard 2E.

The Army has also been taking delivery of the very advanced Pizarro Combat Infantry Vehicle (CIV). The Pizarro mounts a MTU 8V-183-TE22 diesel engine, developing 600hp at 2,400 rpm, and coupled to a Renk hydrodynamic HSWL- 106 automatic transmission. The Pizarro sports a two-man turret equipped with a Mauser F 30/173mm, and a coaxial 7.62mm MG3 machine gun. The vehicle weights 28 tons, and carries a squad of 7 infantrymen.

The backbone of the mechanized infantry is the M113 APCs, which will be partially replaced by the Pizarro. For artillery support, the Army depends on a fleet of M109 A1 SPs modernized to the M109 A5 standards while the field artillery depends on M118 light guns and Oto-Melara M56 howitzers, both of 105mm.

The Blindado Medio sobre Ruedas (BMR) is a 6x6 armored transport equipped with a T-10 turret. The turret is operated by remote control from the safety interior of the vehicle, and it is armed with a single 12.7mm machine gun. The VEC - for Vehículo de Exploración de Caballería or Cavalry Scout Vehicle, is the reconnaissance variant of the BMR. The main external difference consists in the Otobreda T-25 turret, mounting a 25mm M242 cannon, or a GIAT H90 gun turret.

More recently, some cavalry units have been equipped with the Italian made Centaur. This is a wheeled armored vehicle equipped with a 105mm gun turret.

The VAMTAC (Vehículo de Alta Movilidad Táctico) is built by UROVESA (Vehículos Especiales S.A.), and it is clearly inspired by the US Hummer. The VAMTAC T5 variant now comes with a more powerful 200hp diesel engine, and a new armored or protected model is now entering service.

The Army has adopted the Anibal PS-10 from Santana Motors to replace the old Nissan CL-6 and Land Rovers still in use. The Anibal resembles the British Land Rover. For tactical movement the Army depends of a fleet of 4x4 and 6x6 URO-Pegazo trucks.

At the Cuatro Vientos Air Base, I came across one of the BLR - Blindado Ligero sobre Ruedas designed for internal security and similar tasks. It sports a boxy 4x4 body; the sides are slopped for better ballistic protection and there is a single MG-3 mounted on the roof.

The author acknowledges the assistance of Dionisio Garcia Flores, Director of Fuerzas Militares del Mundo magazine, and the command and members of El Goloson garrison for this report.

Spanish Armored Museum - El Goloso, Colmenar Viejo

The main Army Museum is located in Madrid, but it is in the process of relocation to other installations. However, the Armored Division (DAC), now officially known as Mechanized Infantry Division, maintains its own small museum. We were welcomed here by Submay (Spanish Army SGT Major) Manuel Castilla Fernandez, who escorted us making sure that we understood the importance of armor in the modern Spanish history.

The Museum shares its location with the 31st Asturias and 61st Alcazar de Toledo Regiments at El Goloso Barracks, Colmenar Viejo, some 18 kms from Madrid.

Here we see the Verdeja-1 tank destroyer built in Spain to an original design in 1945. Two prototypes of the vehicle were built originally in 1939 as light tanks, but the project was cancelled. In 1945 it was decided to transform one of the models in a self-propelled unit by mounting a 75mm anti-tank gun. However, only one prototype was completed before the whole thing was forgotten.

Historia Militar No. 5 magazine indicates that at the end of WWII the Spanish Army counted with 20 Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf H, 10 Stug-III Ausf G, 116 PT- 26 B, 93 Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A/B, 60 Fiat-Ansaldo CV-33-35, and 80 Chevrolet BA-6 and UNL. After the war came the American influence, with hundreds of M24s, M41s, M47s, and M48 MBTs, and half-tracks. The museum has examples of most of this equipment

The Museum is divided in 4 areas, or gardens. The Southern Garden holds the oldest pieces, such as the Schneider 75mm gun received in 1921. There is also a Renault FT 1917 tank that arrived to Spain in 1922. Here we found the Arellano 40mm gun entirely designed and built in Spain around 1927. There is an elderly Oerlikon 20mm, and at least two Pzkpfw Is that arrived as part of the Condor Legion back in the early 1930s. My favorite is the very tiny CV-33 - 35 because this is basically the same model received by El Salvador and Nicaragua in the mid-1930s. In Spain they were organized in 4 companies, and later were issued to the Dragoon Cavalry Regiments. There are at least two T-26 tanks, of the 450 received by the Republican Forces from Russia in 1936.

The Central Garden holds mostly equipment of American origins, although we saw M48 and M47 MBTS along with WWII German Stug III.

The Eastern Garden holds mostly equipment of French origins, such as an AMX- 30 MBT. The Army attempted to purchase the Leopard 1 in the 1960s, but the British objected and vetoed the sale of the Royal Ordnance 105mm cannon due to the conflict between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar. Therefore, the Spanish turned to the French, and took delivery of several hundreds of AMX-30s. The tanks are now retiring.

In this garden there is also one example of one AML-60, and a GIAT H90 turret. It is of interest that the Legion received numbers of French AML-H90 and AML-60 armored cars for operations in the desert. The AML had its origins with the French requirements for fighting in Northern Africa. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, the main builder of armored vehicles in Spain, Santa Barbara Systems, developed a repowering package for the AMLs, and replacing the turrets for a Santa Barbara model with a 12.7mm and a coaxial 7.62mm model. However, the military chose to replace the vehicles with the BMR-600 armored vehicle family built in Spain. During this period of time, the Spanish government had allowed sales of infantry equipment, mortars and M40A1 recoilless rifles to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, as well as jeeps and trucks to the Somoza government in Nicaragua. Spain could have gained closer ties with these countries if it had allowed the transfer of several of these re-powered AMLs - even without turrets - to their armies; instead the vehicles were disposed of. The Legion now uses BMR armored transports and VEC armored reconnaissance vehicles. Some 70 VECs were equipped with the H90 turrets, but it is reported that all the turrets have now been exchanged with Otobreda types equipped with 25mm guns.

Finally, the Northern Garden has a series of anti-tank guns and utility vehicles.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V10N7 (April 2007)
and was posted online on December 7, 2012


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