Defence | Naval Service capabilities
To ask the Minister for Defence if the number of sea-going vessels available to the Naval Service are sufficiently updated to meet modern requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which upgrading requirements are in hand throughout the Naval Service with a view to ensuring maximum capacity throughout the Service in line with recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Naval Service is being fully equipped in terms of personnel, seagoing hardware and other equipment sufficient to enhance the effectiveness and capability of the service; 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.
The Naval Service Vessel Renewal and Replacement Programme is ongoing. 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 by mid-2023 following the completion of a programme of works.
The Naval Service continues to carry out the roles assigned by Government, including fishery protection and maritime surveillance in the Irish EEZ and their ongoing capacity to do so is carefully monitored.
In 2021, I approved a comprehensive Naval Service Regeneration Plan which aims to address the issues facing the Naval Service in the context of Human Resources, Operational Capacity, and Infrastructure. The plan is being progressed and monitored by a high-level civil/military team. A number of the measures in the plan have been implemented such as the seagoing service commitment scheme, the revision of terms and conditions for certain specialists, and flexibility on the starting point of the pay scale for certain direct entry ranks.
Arising from recent civil-military discussions three Naval Service Regeneration priority action Working Groups have been established to make recommendations on:
- A revised Patrol Duty allowance model
- Consideration of future overseas missions/tasks/visits for the Naval Service.
- A concentrated recruitment campaign for general service naval recruits and specialist personnel
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, including the Naval Service 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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