Defence | Defensive and offensive military equipment available to the Defence Forces
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the degree to which military equipment of a defensive and offensive nature remains available to the Defence Forces; 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. In addition, the Army’s non-armoured fleet continues to be updated..
In relation to air-based capability, in December, a contract was awarded at a cost of €68 million, including VAT, for the provision of a new Fixed Wing Military Transport Aircraft for the Defence Forces. The Airbus C295W aircraft is highly versatile and will provide a dedicated asset to support the Defence Forces military airlift transport requirements and provide a wide contingent capability. The aircraft will enable the Air Corps to provide a wide range of services including logistics support and transport of troops and equipment, medical evacuation and air ambulance, Special Operations Forces operations and a general utility role. Delivery is expected in 2025.
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 €344 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 and it is expected these vessels are expected to arrive in Ireland in Quarter 2 this year following the completion of a programme of works.
The Department of Defence has received a capital allocation under the National Development Plan of €566 million over the 2022 to 2025 timeframe. The Defence annual capital budget for 2023 is €176 million. 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.
This is following Government approval for a move over a six-year period to a level of Defence Forces’ capability equivalent to ‘Level of Ambition 2’ (LOA2), as set out in the capability framework devised by the Commission on Defence Forces, which will entail funding increases to reach a Defence budget of approximately €1.5 billion (at January 2022 prices) by 2028 through the annual Estimates.
This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and the Report of the Commission, while building on the significant investment programme over recent years.
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