THE Naval Service's new €50m 'Star Wars' patrol vessel will be delivered in six weeks after undergoing sea trials in the UK.
The LE Samuel Beckett will replace the 35-year-old LE Emer which was sold at auction last October to an African consortium.
The new ship will bring Ireland's fleet back to full capacity with a second new vessel, LE James Joyce, due for delivery in 2015.
The new ships, built by Babcock Marine in the UK, are developments of the design chosen for the LE Roisin/LE Niamh in 1997. However, the LE Samuel Beckett boasts so-called 'Star Wars' technology and is capable of operating remotely controlled drones or aerial vehicles.
Naval Service officials confirmed that the new ship will dramatically increase the technological capacity of the navy both in terms of surveillance and incident response times.
The ability to operate drones, which are already used by the Defence Forces, will also dramatically increase the navy's patrol and surveillance capabilities.
The ship can similarly operate remotely controlled mini-submarines. With a top speed of 23 knots, the new ships are faster than the vessels they replace.
Ireland has an option for a third vessel from the UK yard but the order can be stalled until 2015.
The Government has insisted the deal represents value for money and warned that Ireland cannot afford to revert to the "bad old days" of the 40s and 50s, when the Naval Service was totally reliant on a fleet of ageing and obsolete former Royal Navy corvettes.
The new ships are the first commissioned for the Naval Service in a decade.