Navy puts €48m 'Star Wars' ship to the test
By air, by sea and by land, Ireland's Defence Forces now boast the most hi-tech equipment in their history.
The Naval Service proudly put their newest ship, LE Samuel Beckett, through its paces as part of a major exercise off the Cork coast with sister ships LE Aoife and LE Roisin.
The €48m LE Samuel Beckett is not only the fastest ship in the Irish fleet but also boasts 'Star Wars' capabilities for Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROV drones) as well as robotic submersibles.
The ability to operate drone surveillance aircraft will more than quadruple the patrol capabilities of the new vessel.
The exercise off the south Cork coast also focused on inter-service co-operation with the Army and Air Corps supporting key Navy operations. However, the challenge facing the naval service has risen dramatically.
Since 2008, the Navy has intercepted €1.7bn worth of drug shipments in Irish waters. This year alone, the Navy has carried out 407 vessel boardings and arrested four fishing trawlers.
Commodore Hugh Tully said the investment in the Navy fleet has been absolutely crucial.
"The men and women in the Naval Service operate in some of the most hostile seas in the world throughout the year," he said.
The exercise featured a host of realistic scenarios that face Navy crews, ranging from the armed boarding of a vessel, live fire training and vessel surveillance to the medical evacuation of a ship-board casualty.
The latter exercise featured the involvement of an Air Corps Agusta-Bell AW139 helicopter.
The eight-vessel Navy fleet now has five vessels which are 30 years old and over.
A second new vessel, LE James Joyce, will be delivered from UK shipyard Appledore next year while the Government confirmed an order for a third vessel has been placed at what it called an advantageous price.
The new ships are the first commissioned by the Navy since 2001.