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Defence | Defence Forces equipment and technology development

To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which modern equipment continues to be readily available to the Army; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which military equipment including aircraft and modern technology continue to feature prominently in the upgrading the of the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Defence if he remains satisfied that the Air Corps, in terms of strength, equipment and capacity is in keeping with the standards throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

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 primary function of training and education in the Defence Forces is to develop and maintain the necessary capabilities. The Defence Forces deliver in-house military training programmes and modules meeting national, EU and international standards. They also engage with external educational institutions and international educational institutions, military and civilian.  All training, internal and external, is provided to ensure that the Air Corps, and indeed the Defence Forces as a whole, are in line with best international practice and that they avail of all relevant modern training methods.

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.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them which is in line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

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