Naval service capability ‘significantly reduced’ with purchase of NZ warships

Ireland is “accepting a significant reduction in capability” by buying two former New Zealand warships, which are not only smaller than the existing fleet but could be confined to port in bad weather, a former second-in-command of the Naval Service has said .

The Government recently announced a € 26m deal with New Zealand to purchase two of its former Lake-class inshore patrol vessels, HMNZS Rotoiti and HMNZS Pukaki, which are expected to be delivered to the Naval Service next year.

The 55m-long ships are much smaller than the likes of LÉ George Bernard Shaw and LÉ James Joyce and will be used to patrol the Irish Sea.

Their purchase has been questioned by retired Captain David Barry, who served for more than 40 years in the Naval Service, during which time he served as an officer in Commanding Naval Operations Command, and second-in-command of the entire service.

Writing in Signalthe official magazine for Raco (Representative Association of Commissioned Officers), Mr Barry said “pivoting towards smaller ships and crews may initially seem attractive, particularly on cost grounds and they are immediately available on the market”.

He said while any new ships are welcome, replacing current ships with others that can only deploy in more limited areas for more limited times and only if the weather is reasonable “is accepting a significant reduction in capability”.

“A ship confined to harbor by weather provides virtually zero capability, but significant liability in cost and staffing,” he wrote.

Data cable threats

Meanwhile, it is still unclear if the government is going to provide the Naval Service with urgently needed multi-beam echo sonar to enable it to detect sub-surface threats to data cables which carry millions of financial transactions between North America and Europe each day.

There is also a need to protect the underseas Celtic Interconnector, which is being built between France and Ireland to secure our supply of electricity.

In August 2021 the Russian spy vessel The Yantar anchored over the data cables off the west coast and more recently the Russian navy held an exercise over them off the south-west coast. The Yantar is equipped with submersibles.

Naval Service sources fear the Russians may have “pre-positioned charges” close to the cables which could be activated from the sky by their Tupolov Tu-142 ‘Bear’ bombers, which frequently fly exercises off the Irish coast.

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