Defence | Defence Forces upgrades and communications
To ask the Minister for Defence the degree to which the Defence Forces in Ireland are equipped and upgrades sufficiently to protect such vital installations as communications networks over ground or under sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Naval Service and the Air Corps carry out surveillance of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and periodically patrol beyond these limits to protect specific fisheries. These patrols are carried out on a regular and frequent basis and are directed to all areas of Irish waters as necessary. Naval Service vessels are multi-tasked in that they undertake general surveillance, security and other duties while conducting their primary day-to-day tasking of providing a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union.
Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Patrol Squadron supports this role providing aerial assistance to the Naval Service in patrolling the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) using the two CASA CN 235 maritime patrol aircraft which are due to be replaced in 2023 with the expected delivery of two C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The Naval Service Vessel Renewal and Replacement Programme is ongoing, this programme includes equipment upgrades along with the mid-life refit and upgrade of the P50 class of vessels.
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 project to procure a Multi Role Vessel for the Naval Service is also being progressed.
The Naval Service retains certain capabilities that allow for underwater search and surveying. As part of the ongoing development of capabilities, further capabilities that will enhance the Naval Service’s under-sea situational awareness, such as multi-beam echo sounder systems are also being developed.
In relation to the development of sub-sea capabilities, the Commission on the Defence Forces report considered that a step up to Level of Ambition 2 (LOA2) should seek to deliver enhancement of sub-surface capabilities to monitor sub-sea cables. The report states that to achieve this would mean the Naval fleet should have enhanced air, surface and sub-surface search capabilities, with the latter allowing the Naval Service to monitor activity in the vicinity of sub-sea cables. In order to achieve these desired capability effects associated with a move to LOA2, specific recommendations made by the Commission, that were Accepted in Principle by Government when it published its High Level Action Plan, included an accelerated programme of Naval vessel replacement to ensure a balanced fleet of nine modern ships by early in the next decade.
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