LÉ Aisling (P23)
Aisling at Haulbowline, September 2007
|Namesake:||Aisling, a vision poem|
|Laid down:||31 January 1979|
|Launched:||3 October 1979|
|Commissioned:||21 May 1980|
|Homeport:||Haulbowline Naval Base|
|Identification:||Pennant number: P23|
|Status:||In active service|
|Class & type:||Emer class OPV|
|Type:||Offshore patrol vessel|
|Displacement:||1019.5 tonnes standard|
|Length:||65.2 m (214 ft) overall|
|Beam:||10.5 m (34 ft)|
|Draught:||4.4 m (14 ft)|
|Speed:||31.5 km/h (17.0 kn) maximum|
|Complement:||46 (5 officers and 41 ratings )|
LÉ Aisling is an offshore patrol vessel of the Irish Naval Service. The ship was named after the poem, Aisling, to commemorate the centenary of the birth of the poet and nationalist Patrick Pearse.
During her career, Aisling has participated in the Sonia and Marita Ann incidents, and was one of the first ships to arrive on the scene of the Air India Flight 182 disaster, and subsequently participated in recovery operations. It is the adopted ship of Galway.
There were three offshore patrol vessels built for the Irish Naval Service; Aisling was the last, built at Verolme Dockyard in Cork. Offshore patrol vessels were designed to patrol the Irish EEZ. Aisling's main weapon system is a Bofors 40mm Cannon capable of firing 240 2.5 kg shells a minute at a range of 1 km. Her secondary weapons system comprises two Rheinmetall 20mm Cannons capable of firing 1000 shells per minute at the range of 2 km.
In 1984 LÉ Aisling was involved an international incident with a 330 ton Spanish fishing trawler called Sonia, based in the Basque port of Ondarroa. Aisling came across Sonia illegally fishing in Irish waters south of the Saltee Islands near County Wexford. Sonia quickly retrieved its gear before Aisling could send a boarding party. When Sonia got underway she would have hit Aisling amidships had the patrol vessel's engines not been put full astern. As it was, Sonia missed Aisling by 10 feet, a small margin given the weather conditions. According to the captain, the heavy trawler's hull would have sliced Aisling's thin plating.
The episode continued with Aisling giving chase and firing 600 warning shots. Sonia turned towards Aisling numerous times causing the latter to take evasive action. After five hours pursuing the Sonia the captain of the Aisling was ordered to break off as she approached British waters.
When Aisling returned to its base in Haulbowline, Cobh that evening, news was fed back that Sonia sank due to sea conditions and both a German freighter and RAF Brawdy a sea king helicopter had rescued the 13 crewmen. The Spaniards denied that any attempt had been made to ram Aisling and accused the Naval Service of causing their ship to sink by riddling it with gunfire. The Irish Government denied this, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peter Barry, TD, reiterated this to the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, who happened to be in Luxembourg negotiating Spain's entry to the EEC.
Marita Ann incident
During September 1984, the naval service was involved in the arrest of the Marita Ann off the southwest coast of Ireland. It involved a large cargo of arms and ammunition consigned to the IRA. LÉ Emer, LÉ Aisling and LÉ Deirdre had to maintain a discreet distance until the arms entered Irish territorial waters. On this occasion, however the contraband came from the United States of America and was ferried across the Atlantic by a fishing trawler, the Valhalla. She did not approach the Irish coast, but transferred her illicit cargo to the Marita Ann well outside Irish waters. The perpetrators did not know that the intelligence services had got wind of the plot, that the Valhalla's voyage had been monitored by international agencies or that the naval service had begun to lay a trap as soon as the Marita Ann left Dingle to keep her appointment. Aisling (Lt Cdr J.Robinson) and Emer left Haulbowline in the company, with Gardaí onboard both vessels.
The Marita Ann's course was plotted and by midnight it was 1,800 yards into territorial waters. Emer made a full-speed intercept and when half a mile off the target called on her to stop. All the usual signals were ignored, and the vessel, which when illuminated by Emer's searchlights was revealed as Marita Ann, altered course. The Marita Ann had no chance of outrunning either of the other boats. Aisling had moved into a position to prevent a breakout. After four rounds of tracer had been put across her bows, Marita Ann gave up two miles inside the limit. The Naval Service/Garda boarding party met with no resistance, and found five men and a large quantity of ammunition and arms on board.
Two men, Martin Ferris and Gavin Mortimer were taken on board the Emer, John P. Crawley (a United States citizen) and John McCarthy were transferred to the Aisling, and Michael "Mike" Browne (aged 42) remained on the Marita Ann, which was towed by Aisling as the convoy, escorted by LE Deirdre made its way to Haulbowline, Cobh, where a large gathering of international media awaited its arrival.
Lieutenant Commander Roberta O'Brien, the state's first female commander of a Naval Service ship, took command of LÉ Aisling in 2008.
- "Irish Navy Service - LE Aisling". Irish Defense Services. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- Jiwa, Salim. (1986) The death of Air India Flight 182, London: Star; ISBN 0-352-31952-6, Chapter 5.
- "Irish Navy Service Weaponry". Irish Defense Services. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 1984
- Galway greets first female naval commander, Roberta O'Brien
- MacGinty, Tom. (1995) The Irish Navy - A story of courage and tenacity, 1st Irish Ed., Tralee: Kerryman; ISBN 0-946277-22-2, Chapter 18.
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