A Libyan dream, by way of Cork
The Libyan National Army (LNA) has taken delivery of the flagship Al-Karama (Dignity) offshore patrol vessel, the former Irish vessel LÉ Aisling.
The LNA released a video on May 17 showing the arrival of the vessel at Benghazi naval base. It was welcomed by the head of the Libyan navy, Commodore Faraj Al-Mahdawi Al-Tarhouni, military advisor Major General Abdullah Aoun and other dignitaries.
The Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, controls much of eastern Libya and named the new vessel after the operation to secure Benghazi in 2014.
“The arrival of this vessel is a qualitative leap for our fleet and another success of our armed forces added to the chain of successes locally and internationally,” the LNA said, adding the vessel would be used to protect Libya’s territorial waters and fight against terrorism, human trafficking and illegal immigration.
LÉ Aisling was built in Ireland in 1979 and from 1980 was in Irish Naval Service as a patrol vessel until decommissioned in June 2016. It was sold to Dutch broker Dick van der Kamp for 110,000 euros in March 2017 at auction and subsequently offered for resale for 685,000 euros. The vessel sailed over 625,000 nautical miles during its years of active service.
According to IHS Jane’s, the Aisling was re-registered by Universal Satcom Services FZE based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in April. It sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar at the beginning of May on its delivery voyage.
The Emer-class offshore patrol vessel is 214-feet long and displaces 1,020 tons. Top speed is 16kts and crew complement is 46. It appears she was delivered to Libya without weapons, although the latter have many at hand they could equip her with.
Named after a style of visionary dream poem, the former Irish Navy’s offshore patrol vessel was built at Verolme Cork Dockyard (and the last greyhull to leave that yard).
Armed with a single 40mm Bofors L70, a couple of 20mm GAMBO cannon and some 7.62mm GPMGs, Aisling made a name for herself in a running battle with the Spanish fishing trawler Sonia (330-tons) in 1984, firing 600~ rounds in warning shots while the Spanish vessel attempted repeatedly to ram. Sonia later sank after Aisling broke contact.
The same year she captured the trawler, Marita Ann, sailing with 160 guns (including some stolen M2 Brownings via National Guard armories) and 71,000 rounds of ammo aboard rumored to have been sent to the IRA by connections of Whitey Bulger.
She also responded to the Air India Flight 182 disaster and others lost at sea.
Class leader LÉ Emer (P21) commissioned into the Nigerian Navy as a training ship and renamed NNS Prosperity in 2015 after a Nigerian businessman’s scheme to use her as a personal yacht fell through. Sister LÉ Aoife (P22) was donated to Malta as P62 in 2015 to help that country pluck migrant refugees from the Med. The half-sister and prototype to the Emer-class, the one-off LÉ Deirdre (P20), was stricken in 2003 and, after a career as a yacht, was scrapped in Florida in 2014.