Navies from 17 Atlantic Alliance countries are testing state-of-the-art technology in unmanned vehicles in Portuguese waters, with missions ranging from mine warfare to the analysis of water samples.
The REPMUS 21 exercise, which runs until September 24 in Tróia, is “the largest operational experimentation exercise in NATO” and it tests “unmanned autonomous vehicles” that travel underwater, on the surface or by air, he told the agency Lusa the head of the Navy’s General Staff Innovation Division, Commander João Lourenço Piedade.
In addition to this technology, which is similar to the ‘drones’ that are already used, for example, in air missions, “there is an invisible part that tests the interoperability of these vehicles”, that is, “putting the vehicles to ‘talk’ to each other and for other systems onboard ships or on land, another panoply of artificial intelligence tools”.
João Lourenço Piedade noted that most of the missions that these robots can perform are “surveillance or protection of certain places”.
“We are not testing vehicles with weapons, but effectively, some of them can have a more military application if we put the weapons on board. So, we test tactics and procedures”, he said.
In REPMUS, which began on September 10, 12 ships are participating, seven of which are from the Portuguese Navy, including the submarine Tridente, the frigate Álvares Cabral and the oceanographic vessel D. Carlos I, and ships from the US and Italian navies.
“Some of the ships are used as launching platforms for underwater vehicles, for placing certain sensors on the seabed and also as targets to be detected by the systems we are testing”, he elaborated.
This exercise, the largest of its kind carried out by NATO, is a “serial exercise”, in which “there is no global scenario, but small series of exercises that test these technologies in very specific scenarios, from background mapping, which is a scenario that can be completely civil, even missions that have a military application, such as supporting an amphibious landing on a beach”.
With around 1,200 participants, the exercise brings together armed forces, academic researchers, and industry representatives, a meeting that serves to “accelerate the development of new technologies”.
João Lourenço Piedade indicated that, depending on the type of mission, there are technologies that “do not yet have sufficient maturity to have strong use on the military side”, so that the majority of those involved belong to universities and companies, which are able to better understand what they want. the “end users”, in this case, the military.
In certain specific scenarios, such as mine warfare, “the technology is more mature” and the vast majority of those involved are from the armed forces.
“Basically, they all end up being able to connect with this aspect of getting to know the ocean and being able to understand and model it, for which it is necessary to collect data and have scientific models. They end up having a great use in the civilian world, not just in the military world”, he stressed.
Between air, surface, or submarine vehicles, more than 30 technologies will be tested in an area of 1,400 nautical miles.
15 companies, the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto, and eight other entities of the Atlantic Alliance are participating.
Source: with agencies