Helicopter Carrier Atlântico Receives Festive Welcome in Brazil

Helicopter Carrier Atlântico Receives Festive Welcome in Brazil

By Nelza Oliveira/Diálogo
September 19, 2018

The Multipurpose Helicopter Carrier Atlântico can transport up to 800 service members and simultaneously operate up to seven aircraft on the flight deck.

Brazil welcomed the Multipurpose Helicopter Carrier (PHM, in Portuguese) Atlântico, the largest warship in Latin America, with a naval parade and a 21-gun salute in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) purchased the ship from the British government.

The transfer of the PHM Atlântico to the Brazilian crew included experience and technical know how about the ship, as well as courses from the United Kingdom Royal Navy and manufacturers of the onboard equipment. The Brazilian crew also took part in operational exercises conducted by the Flag Officer Sea Training, which ensures vessel operability, at the Royal Navy Training Center.

“We had the opportunity to do a hot handover, which is the transfer of knowledge and experience by the British crew, acquired in the last 20 years of operating the ship, to the Brazilian crew. In the process, we steered the ship and reviewed different equipment to ensure the Brazilian Navy would receive a fully operational ship,” said MB Captain Giovani Corrêa, commander of PHM Atlântico.

Chance purchase

The British-built, formerly named HMS Ocean, is 203 meters long and weighs 21,578 tons. The ship can simultaneously operate seven aircraft on the flight deck, and transport up to 12 in its hangar. Up to 800 service members, who can deploy with helicopters or four landing crafts, can travel aboard. Brazil purchased PHM Atlântico for $109 million. The British government had already invested $92 million to refurbish the ship between 2013 and 2014.

“It was a chance purchase. The Royal Navy was parting with it because they had built two aircraft carriers and needed the personnel who operated this ship to join the crew of the new vessels. It once was the British squadron’s fleet flagship; it’s in great condition and proved to be an excellent acquisition for the Navy,” Capt. Giovani said.

Family and friends waited for the return of the 303 service members who spent up to six months in England, learning to operate the ship. Brazil welcomed them with pride on August 25th.

“The most difficult part was the time away from family. Although the vessel is large and comfortable, we spent many days unable to contact family because of the limitations and difficulties with signal, communication and security,” said MB Lieutenant Commander Márcia Freitas, head of the health department and the only female aboard PHM Atlântico.

Training and missions

The ship can fulfill many missions, including maritime area control, in support of the Navy in war and strategic logistics operations, as well as to transport service members, munitions, supplies, drinking water, and equipment. With medical facilities on board, the ship is also ideal for humanitarian missions, natural disaster relief, personnel evacuations, and peacekeeping operations.

“It’s a deterring force in the South Atlantic to maintain security, cooperation and peace, all of which are essential to the Brazilian economy. The ship can also assist in peacekeeping operations, as we do with our fleets in Lebanon,” said Capt. Giovani.

Under the Royal Navy fleet, the ship participated in several humanitarian aid operations: in the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, and in Honduras and Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998. In 2003, the vessel provided support to the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

PHM Atlântico will be the Brazilian fleet’s main ship, a position NAe São Paulo aircraft carrier held previously. “[With PHM Atlântico] our pilots will be able to maintain training and be qualified in several types of missions, with a platform that operates all Navy aircraft, night and day,” said Capt. Giovani.

In Brazil, the ship will add 129 crew-members to the 303 who returned from England. According to the officer, the Atlântico will incentivize the country’s naval industry.

“The complexity level of a helicopter carrier is very high. This ship stimulates the naval industry, as maintenance of its equipment will require industrial and engineering capacities from our Navy Arsenal, but it will also represent an opportunity for defense industries to develop skills and keep their workforce qualified,” Capt. Giovani concluded.