Portugal has the oldest navy in the world, founded in the 12th century, and is a country with a long naval tradition.
The original design of this new ship
Despite its longstanding relationship with the sea, there is one type of ship that the Portuguese Navy has never had: an aircraft carrier (unlike the great Portuguese-speaking country, Brazil, which has already had three: the "Minas Gerais", the "São Paulo" and the "Atlântico"). That could change in the coming years if Portugal's plans prosper.
On May 27, 2022, the Portuguese Navy announced a new ship with "a completely revolutionary concept", which will be "a versatile and innovative ship, capable of operating at sea on the surface, under the surface and the air, launching drones and thus transforming the Defense of Portugal in and across the sea."
These images, published at the time, showed a ship with an island and a flight deck up to the bow, like a small aircraft carrier, and with a lower stern, like a launch platform for smaller boats.
The new design presented in June 2022
The surprise came a month later. On June 29, 2022, the Portuguese Navy published a different design of what it called a "multifunctional naval platform". This new design includes some very significant features.
First of all, the floor deck takes up almost the entire length of the ship, much more reminiscent of the appearance of typical aircraft carriers. The island maintains the shape shown in the initial design, but in the forward part of the flight deck there is a jump ramp, used by ships that board fixed-wing STOVL (take-off short and vertical landing), such as the Harrier II and the F-35.
Apparently, the jump ramp would be designed for the takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) , which would be the ones that would use the bow half of the flight deck, leaving the aft half as a staging area for helicopter landing and takeoff.
Below the flight deck, the ship would have an area for boats and containers, capable of taking off boats of various types. You can see below these lines a plan of the ship published in November by Chuck Hill's CG Blog. The plan shows that the forecast is to operate Lynx Mk95A, NH-90 and EH-101 helicopters. The back of the island would serve as a hangar for a single helicopter and the front would house the smaller drones.
Yesterday, the Portuguese blog Barco à Vista published this video of the Navy Portuguesa showing a recreation to order of this ship. Unfortunately, the video is posted in very low resolution:
Significantly, the video features General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones, a type of UAV not yet used by Portugal. Last year, Generalk Atomics presented the MQ-9B STOL version, designed to be able to take off and land on aircraft carriers.
An unarmed ship for scientific and surveillance purposes
About the uses that this ship will have, the Portuguese Navy has stated the following: "This ship, designed under a new operational concept, has not military requirements and is not armed. Its main functions are environmental surveillance, specifically in the fight against maritime pollution, fishing surveillance, conservation of resources, knowledge development and research in the hydrographic and scientific field. All its drones are unarmed and the sensors used are used to monitor, guard and control maritime spaces under national jurisdiction. Cumulatively, this vessel will serve for the eventual transport and evacuation of citizens, in case of need."
In other words, Portugal is going to have a small unarmed aircraft carrier for scientific and surveillance work. One wonders if this curious approach has been designed so as not to inconvenience the followers of the Socialist Party, which currently governs Portugal , but it is a somewhat strange concept for a ship of this type. Otherwise, its budget is 94.5 million euros, a very small amount: it is less than a quarter of what the first of the Spanish F-100 frigates cost. The start date was June 23, 2022 and it is expected to be completed on December 31, 2025.
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