The REPMUS 21 exercise, which runs until 24 September in Tróia, is "the largest exercise of operational experimentation in NATO" and is testing "unmanned autonomous vehicles" that travel under water, on the surface or in the air, the Navy's Commander João Lourenço Piedade, told Lusa.

João Lourenço Piedade noted that most of the missions that these robots 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. We are testing tactics and procedures”, he said.

The REPMUS exercise began on 10 September, with 12 ships 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 said.

This exercise, the largest of its kind carried out by NATO, is a “serial exercise”, in which “there is no global scenario, but a 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 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”.

Between air, surface or submarine vehicles, more than 30 technologies will be tested across an area of ​​1,400 nautical miles.

15 companies, the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto and eight other entities of NATO are participating.