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Defence | Defence Forces modernisation plans

To ask the Minister for Defence the degree to which the Air Corps is in course of being modernised and upgraded in line with other defence forces throughout the European Union in order to combat any imminent threat; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which action is imminent to ensure the upgrading of the Naval Service in line with requirements and potential threats from whatever quarter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps are being modernised and upgraded to ensure the best possible response in the event of an incursion from whatever quarter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained and developed. This is to enable the Defence Forces to carry out the roles assigned by Government, as set out in the White Paper on Defence. 

In this context, the principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements at home and overseas.

Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered as part of the capability development and Equipment Development Planning (EDP) process. A five year Equipment Development Plan for continued re-equipment was developed on a civil military basis and was published in June 2020.  The Equipment Planning process recognises the need to maintain and upgrade military capabilities having regard to emerging priorities, operational requirements and changes in technology. This is an ongoing iterative process.

There are a number of defensive equipment acquisition and upgrade projects for which there will be capital expenditure in the coming years. These include the midlife upgrade of the Army’s fleet of 80 Mowag Piranha III Armoured Personnel Carrier vehicles which is well underway as well as the completion of the delivery of an additional 30 Armoured Utility Vehicles. The Army’s non-armoured fleet continues to be updated also with over 220 vehicles due for delivery in 2022.    

In relation to air-based capability, the programme for the supply of two C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft is well underway with delivery of the aircraft expected in 2023. Alongside the recently acquired PC-12 aircraft some €276 million, including VAT, has been committed to the acquisition of all of these enhanced capabilities.  

The Naval Service Vessel Renewal and Replacement Programme is ongoing and the programme includes radar and other equipment upgrades along with the replacement of Naval Service Reserve motor launches. The programme of works for the midlife refit and upgrade of LÉ Róisín has been completed, while works are ongoing on LÉ Niamh. Marine Advisors have been appointed to support the procurement of multi-role vessel to replace the flagship, LÉ Eithne, with work underway that will inform a public tender competition in due course. Two Inshore Patrol Vessels have been purchased from the New Zealand Government to replace LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara, it is expected these vessels will be transported to Ireland in 2023 following the completion of a programme of works.

The Commission on the Defence Forces was established on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government, and I, as Minister for Defence, welcomed the publication of the report of the Commission on 9th February last.  The Commission has undertaken a significant body of work, encompassing wide-ranging terms of reference.  It recommends significant changes for the Defence Forces and Defence provision in Ireland. It covers high level Defence Forces structures, defence capabilities, organisation, culture and human resources, the Reserve Defence Force and funding.
In July Government approval was given for a move to ‘Level of Ambition 2’ (LOA2), as set out in the capability framework devised by the Commission on the Defence Forces. This will result in the Defence budget rising from €1.1 billion to €1.5 billion, in 2022 prices, by 2028, the largest increase in Defence funding in the history of the State. This will allow for the required substantial transformation and investment in recruitment and equipment that were identified by the Commission.  The recent Budget for 2023 included an increase of €67m over the 2022 budget for Defence.  This includes an almost 25% increase in Capital funding and demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to support the transformation of the Defence Forces into a modern, agile military force, capable of responding to increasingly complex security threats.

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