Navy to get two new ships as firm signs €100m deal
THE largest vessels ever built for the Irish Naval Service are to be constructed at a Devon shipyard in a €100m order.
The two new patrol ships, a development of the Roisin/ Niamh class already in service, are to be built at the Appledore Shipyard after one of the biggest ever Irish defence contracts was signed recently.
After years of negotiation and drawing up specifications, while securing the funding from Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, the first ship will be delivered in early 2014 and the second will follow a year later.
Delays and the downturn have meant that ships which would normally retire after 30 years' service will have to soldier on including: the LE Emer (commissioned in 1978); LE Aoife, (1979); and LE Aisling, (1980).
The new ships have almost 2,000 tonnes displacement, a range of 6,000 miles, a speed of 23 knots, and are nearly 90 metres in length.
They will be armed with an Oto Melara 76mm gun, two heavy machine guns and four general purpose machine guns. In the future they will be able to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or robot planes .
Appledore said the contract was fantastic news. Shipbuilding director Andrew Hamilton said he met the whole workforce to announce the contract and "everyone was delighted".
A Department of Defence spokeswoman said the ships have a commonality of layout, equipment and systems with Roisin and Niamh which meant the training burden would be reduced, along with maintenance and spares.
Six of the current fleet of eight Naval Service vessels will be at least 30 years old by 2015.
Plans for an even larger vessel, an Extended Patrol Vessel (EPV) costing up to €100m and able to carry armoured vehicles and troops, have been put on hold.
The new ships are expected to continue the tradition of naming Irish Naval vessels after famous women from Irish and Celtic mythology.