In the past we have discussed(sort of) the type of ship we do not need(aircraft carriers) instead of the type we do. Given the current mission that is being undertaken by L.E. Niamh, I think it is time for a rethink on the policy of an 8 ship Naval Service as outlined by the white paper.
At the time, the world was going through a period of relative peace,with no apparent risk to the world. Sept 11 has changed all that,and though we may not be directly affected by it,the states that usually carried the can of logistic support,the US and UK are now under pressure with commitments worldwide in the so called "war against terror".
In the past when ireland went on resupply missions, it could do so safe in the knowledge that it would neither be a target for attack,and would be protected en route by other navies. It is time to realise that we no longer have that advantage. At sea we are at the moment(unless there is a change of foreign policy) on our own.
Therefor what is needed is a re evaluation of our vessels self defence capability,though to be fair, what our vessels have always been armed with have recently been added to the deck armament of major US and RN warships,such as the HMG and GPMG. The current RIBs on all but the newer vessels should be replaced with larger types,more suitable for operating great distances from the "mother ship" i.e. beyond the horizon,as the P50s boats are.
Secondly, the need for a vessel capable of carrying stores,equipment,vehicles and troops to overseas missions,and providing a C3 capability on arrival is now obvious. We can no longer assume that on arrival the mission will be set up,secure and awaiting our arrival. A "tactical advance to base camp" must be assumed in all future missions,and as few of these will be within walking distance of our fair isle,and airborne C3 is still a pipe dream for all but the Larger states and NATO a vessel cabable of this role is required.
The vessel above would be what I would have in mind,or even the soon to be retired RFA "sirs" which proved their worth during the Falklands,(where one was destroyed in an Argentine attack,caused in some part to bad planning and lack of useful AA defence),have been resupplying UK forces in NI and Germany for the last 30 odd years and recently demonstrated their usefulness in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Basra in the closing stages of the "liberation" of Iraq.