In an interesting twist of the international arms trade, the retired Irish Emer-class offshore patrol ship Aisling has been acquired by the Libyan National Army. The 1,000-ton warship was decommissioned from Irish naval service in 2016 and sold at auction to a Dutch firm for only 110,000 euros in 2017. The vessel was then reportedly flipped back for sale months later with an asking price of 685,000 euros. In May 2018 the ex-Aisling turned up in Benghazi, where she has taken on the role of flagship for the Libyan National Army and has been renamed Al-Karama. The 214-foot vessel had previously been armed with a mix of antiaircraft guns and small arms (as pictured here) while still in Irish ser-vice. She is powered to a top speed of 18.5 knots by two diesel engines enabling a range of 6,750 nautical miles while cruising at 12 knots. In Libyan service, the Al-Karama is expected to fulfill a variety of patrol missions, including counterterrorism and counter human-trafficking operations.
Australia has selected the British Type 26 global combat ship design for its new Hunter class of nine antisubmarine warfare frigates to replace the eight ANZAC-class (MEKO 200 ANZ) vessels now in service. The new Type 26 frigates will be built in Australia and are scheduled to start production in 2020, with deliveries set to begin in the mid-2020s. The British Royal Navy has also ordered eight of the new Type 26 frigates. While the British variants will be fitted with the Type 997 Artisan 3D search radar and Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missiles, the Australian Type 26 variants will incorporate an advanced air-defense suite that integrates elements of the U.S. Aegis air-defense system and the Australian CEAFAR2 active phased-array radar along with SM-2 SAMs carried in a vertical launching system. The new Australian Hunter-class frigates, a computer rendering of which is shown here, are expected to displace 8,800 tons and operate with a crew of 180 personnel.
Australia has also announced the order for the first of six MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial systems from the United States. The first of these new Tritons is expected for delivery during 2023, with all six units planned by late 2025. The long-range MQ-4C UAS has a flight endurance exceeding 24 hours and an unrefueled range of more than 8,000 nautical miles. The MQ-4C airframe, which is 47.6 feet long and has a 130.9-foot wingspan, is based on the U.S. Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawk. The first Tritons entered U.S. Naval service in 2018 and are expected to deploy to Guam by the end of this year, with initial operational capability scheduled by the U.S. Navy in 2021. The U.S. and Australian Tritons will work in cooperation with manned P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, also being acquired by both countries, to help boost real-time persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
Eric Wertheim, a defense consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, is the author of the 16th edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, available from the Naval Institute Press (www.usni.org).