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This Is Insane

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Gonna file this under “too crazy to be true”:

Angola is in the process of acquiring the recently-decommissioned Spanish aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias, according to one news report. The entire Angolan navy has just 1,000 sailors. The 643-foot-long Principe de Asturias needs 830 sailors to fully function….

Spain will reportedly sell Principe de Asturias to Angola along with four decommissioned patrol ships. The Angolan navy currently possesses only a handful of Russian-made attack craft each weighing in at just a few hundred tons displacement. The Spanish acquisitions, if they are truly more than rumors, will expand the Angolan fleet by an order of magnitude and compel the navy to add thousands of new sailors.

Whether Angola can recruit and train the required personnel is far from certain. It’s equally unclear whether the African state can afford to operate Principe de Asturias on more than a token basis. In 1997, Thailand commissioned a small flattop based on Principe de Asturias’ design but has found it nearly impossible to keep the carrier and her Harriers in front-line service.

I find this very unlikely, but I kinda want it to be true, if only for the social science value. Watching Angola build not only a navy but also a naval aviation branch from scratch would be remarkably interesting. They would almost certainly need to partner with a more experienced nation, but assuming that they’re interested in using the carrier mainly as a helicopter platform there are several choices, including the various European states, China, and Russia. And, as the article implies, this purchase would immediately put Angola at the head of the first rank of African states in terms of maritime capability.

Still, best thought of as “too good to check.”

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  • wjts

    Lusophone carrier fight in the South Atlantic!

  • This reminds me of the Polish joke where the Poles had bought 1,000 septic tanks, and were going to invade Russia just as soon as they learned how to drive ’em.

  • Todd

    Unless I’m reading the Wikipedia page incorrectly, this would give Angola exactly as many aircraft carriers as…..Spain!

    • Oh it’s ON, baby!

    • ajay

      And more than the Royal Navy.

  • If they need someone to fly an SU-30 I’m available on a part-time basis.

    • ChrisTS

      Part time? What is wrong with you?

      • I don’t want to quit my airline gig but I’d serve in the Angolan Air National Guard.

        • oldster

          Why not? George Bush did.

          • Warren Terra

            Does that explain his missing year or two of service?

            Or maybe he was in prison in Lousiana?

        • Ground control to Major Kong!

  • Some Guy

    Shit, don’t we have some mothballed battleships we could offload on these chumps? I mean, sure, there’s history and pride and junk; but on the other hand, there’s a cool $100B in cash.

    • Warren Terra

      Sure, we’ve got to find some way to tap those deep, deep Angolan pockets.

  • Ken

    Nearly as insane: Somewhere deep in the Pentagon, a whole set of contingency plans just went active.

  • redrob64

    this purchase would immediately put Angola at the head of the first rank of African states in terms of maritime capability.

    I can’t wait til Faux News and the GOP begin braying about this as the result of Obama’s weakness, while grimly reminding us that Cuba sent soldiers to help Angola’s Marxist ruling party.

    • Scott P.

      Sure, Obama was born in Kenya, but did you know that he was baptized into Islam by a Marxist brahmin shaman in Angola?

      • redrob64

        Ha! That explains why he’s not taking a hard line against this sort of expansion of Cuban influence — because this whole “Prince of Asturias” thing must be some kind of deception operation — you can tell because Cubans speak Spanish, you know.

        • witless chum

          I’m gonna need this in blackboard form to be sure, but this guy’s makin’ sense!

      • oldster

        Was that by any chance the brahmin shaman Ram a Lama Ding Dong?

  • Onkel Fritze

    Not so funny if this is true. Angola is flush with oil money; but the money goes everywhere but to help the people. The corruption is just staggering while most of the population remains dirt poor. Luanda supposedly is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Another tremendous waste.
    It’s way too easy to write this off as just another African insanity; the enablers of this crap are sitting in governments and boardrooms in America and Europe.

    • Yes, but the LGM people are not smart enough to realize that the Angolan government is extremely rich. They see Africa and they think poor. But, the governments of places like Angola, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea are not poor. Just the people living under those regimes are poor. According to a brief Google search Angola exports 10 Billion dollars worth of oil a year. That is more than enough to fund building a navy.

  • The prophet Nostradumbass

    I demand my Second Amendment-mandated free Aircraft Carrier, RIGHT NOW.

    • Warren Terra

      Sorry, you’ve a right to bear arms – but (1) this doesn’t mean you’ve got a right to own them, let alone for free; and (2) I’d like to see you lift an aircraft carrier.

      • The prophet Nostradumbass

        Are you a Communist or something?

      • Ian

        Is the government constitutionally required to start a crash research program in xenografting? How else am I supposed to get bear arms?

        • BigHank53

          You wouldn’t like them anyway. Operating a magazine release without thumbs is really hard.

          • oldster

            You have a magazine release that came with thumbs on it?

            Do arms even have the *right* to bear thumbs?

            • rea

              Do arms even have the *right* to bear thumbs?

              It’s all implied by the penumbra of the 2nd Amendment.

            • Warren Terra

              I thought we’d established that bears don’t have thumbs.

              • oldster

                Sure, but it bears repeating.

                I mean: what’s the point of a magazine if it’s not a repeating arm?

              • CD

                ‘cept pandas. dangerous mofos.

    • Jaime Oria

      I’ll just leave this here. The bill was defeated, BTW.

  • e.a.f.

    perhaps they want to duplicate Somalia and get into the pirate business?

    Why one country would sell another, which can’t even provide medical and educational services to its citizens, its beyond me. Lets hope we aren’t sending the government of Anglo any foreign aid.

  • Colin Escherich

    Nobody expects the Spanish acquisitions!

  • The Angolan government has lots of money from oil revenues. It is fact now pouring money into its former colonial master, Portugal. The Angolan government could easily afford to build a navy even if they want. Here is an article from the Guardian in Angolan state investment in Portugal.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/18/angola-boom-debt-riddled-portugal

  • Here is an article from the Economists on the booming oil wealth of the Angolan economy. Exports are now $10 Billion a year second only to Nigeria in all of Africa. So the government has plenty of money to build a navy.

    http://www.economist.com/node/21557811

  • Here is an article from the Telegraph on the Angolan government’s investment of $5 Billion into a Sovereign Wealth Fund. So the Government has plenty of spare money to buy ships or whatever it wants.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/9615849/Angola-to-pump-5bn-of-oil-money-into-sovereign-wealth-fund.html

    • oldster

      “The government has plenty of spare money-”

      doesn’t “spare” mean, “not needed for essential purposes”?

      Because I would say that, while they may have a lot of money, they do not have any *spare* money, so long as their people have needs for food, health care, education, etc.

      • “Spare” in as not being spent elsewhere. The MPLA used to be Marxist-Leninist, but now Dos Santos is an arch-capitalist. The Cubans won the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, but completely lost the war to bring socialism to Africa. The MPLA, FRELIMO, SWAPO, the ANC, and even the SACP have all gone over to the side of capitalism. In fact the old apartheid and colonial governments were in many ways more socialistic than the current ones run by the national liberation movements. Strange thing to see former communists like Dos Santos embrace capitalism so strongly.

      • witless chum

        Yup, as I thought Otto was pointing out above, this isn’t really that funny because it involves a government wasting a bunch of money that could be used to improve the lives of its citizens. Maybe a 1000 percent naval expansion will be useful as a jobs program, but this seems like a very extreme illustration of that Eisenhower quote about how every warship, gun, etc. is a theft from those who hunger.

        Or to put it a better way, it’s a much poorer country trying to have a military budget like the United States does and it sharply exposes the folly therein.

        • Anna in PDX

          It is a sad waste. This is also true of other countries, that have oil and spend too much money on bloated militaries they don’t need – like Egypt. And I believe our own country would be happier if we didn’t have such a huge military and put more money in social programs and the safety net.

  • Jaime Oria

    “But why?” questions and operational experience aside, Angola’s helicopters wouldn’t have to be especially naval-ized, particularly if they’re not putting out to sea on extended cruises. The Italian army operated their Mangustas off ships during the Somali intervention, and the US Army’s ‘Night Stalkers’ flew ops in the Persian Gulf for Operation Prime Chance.

  • Cardinal Nimitz

    I’m hoping to be given command of the first Vatican city carrier task force. If it goes to “Papal Bull” Halsey I’ll eat my mitre.

  • LFC

    One point seems fairly obvious but has not yet been mentioned in this thread: fancy and/or expensive weapons remain significant status symbols. Until that changes, and governments are praised and honored more for their social accomplishments (e.g. meeting basic needs of their citizens) than their military power, this sort of thing will continue. Of course, it is also a matter of personal proclivities, and apparently Dos Santos has not only ‘gone over to capitalism’, as J. Otto Pohl says above, but is also one of those rulers with little concern for the welfare of the population. Not all African governments fall into this (depressing) category by any means, but some (Equatorial Guinea for another example) do.

    This story also fits the narrative, to some extent, of ‘the resource curse’, but that’s a whole other topic.

  • LFC

    For reasons already suggested, this acquisition (if the story is accurate) is not as insane or unlikely as R. Farley suggests in the OP. Rulers and govts care about status, and weapons — even if operated on a somewhat token basis due to shortage of trained personnel etc. — continue to confer status.

    Thus R Farley, despite being an IR professor, seems to have missed in the OP a key aspect of this story from an IR (or IR-theory) standpoint.

  • Someone over at Information Dissemination suggested they’re thinking about their offshore oil installations and want a base for helicopters, perhaps UAVs, and marines with small craft, rather like the AFSB concept or the way the RN uses an amphibian or a big RFA as the flagship for a mines countermeasures group. She would provide a big deck, ample workshop and stores space, a home to go to, and a command-and-control node, whether next to the quay or moving semirandomly around the area of interest.

    She doesn’t have a dock or big davits, nor was she designed as an LPH, and she does have a lot of air defence and air traffic radars, which are beside the point. I think they might do better to acquire a few reasonably sized oil industry platform support vessels and put a hangar on the big working deck aft – that would give similar helo/UAV support across the group and better support for small boats, USVs, and potentially MCM or pollution cleanup gear.

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