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Portugal to build multi-purpose unmanned carrier

The X-2601 survey USV developed by the Portuguese Navy's Unmanned Vehicles Operational Experimentation Cell. (Victor Barreira)

The Portuguese Navy announced on 27 May that it is planning to design and build an offshore multi-purpose surface ship dedicated to deploying unmanned surface vessels (USVs), unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The local development and construction of the ‘Plataforma Naval Multifuncional' (multifunctional naval platform) was formally approved by the Council of Ministers on 24 May for a maximum amount of EUR94.5 million (USD101 million) between 2023 and 2025, with funding from the Recovery and Resilience Plan of the European Union.

The Portuguese Navy will be responsible for defining the concept of employment and requirements, the technical specifications, as well as having overall responsibility for the contract and construction of the ship.

The future ship will carry out a wide range of roles, including surveillance, search-and-rescue (SAR), underwater survey, scientific research, and disaster relief.

According to the first computer-generated images unveiled by the navy, the flight deck extends for a significant length of the hull, with dedicated space for a medium-sized helicopter, and the remaining space for the take-off and landing of fixed-wing short take-off and landing (STOL) and rotary-wing UAVs. A rear ramp system and large handling crane will be available to deploy and recover USVs, and side-mounted davits will deploy and recover USVs and UUVs. An island superstructure accommodates the bridge, aviation operations centre, and other facilities. The hull includes a hangar to accommodate and service several unmanned vehicles simultaneously.

Several unmanned systems efforts have previously been implemented by the Portuguese Navy, including the Unmanned Vehicles Operational Experimentation Cell (CEOV), launched in 2017, which has since developed unmanned vehicles for different applications, including the X-2601 hydrographic survey USV.

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