Defence | Update on the availability of equipment for the Defence Forces in case of emergency
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the extent to which he remains satisfied that the Defence Forces have access to adequate equipment such as air and seagoing vessels in order to meet any emergency that might arise; 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 Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.
The Equipment Development Plan (EDP) published in June 2020, completed through extensive joint civil-military work, provides a comprehensive list of planned equipment projects by means of a five-year rolling plan. The EDP builds on the intentions set out in the White Paper in relation to equipment acquisition, modernisation and upgrade and has been developed to ensure that the Defence Forces have the major equipment platforms, ancillary equipment and force protection equipment to carry out their important roles both at home and overseas.
A step change in military air-based capability is being achieved through the delivery into service of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. While nominally a replacement for the Cessna, the new aircraft move capabilities considerably ahead of the previous level. The original order of three aircraft which were delivered in September 2020 was augmented on an urgent basis by an additional aircraft delivered in April 2020 to enhance fixed wing capacity to meet demands arising from Covid-19. The PC-12 has proven itself an effective and versatile asset.
The programme for the supply of two C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft is well underway with delivery of the aircraft expected later this year. In relation to new air-based capability a contract has been 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 of this aircraft is expected in 2025.
This significant investment in air capability is an example which demonstrates my commitment to update and upgrade the Defence Forces equipment and capability, within the financial envelope available.
I also remain committed to ensuring a programme of investment in the Naval Service. The Naval Service Vessel Renewal and Replacement 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 a multi-role vessel to replace the now decommissioned 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 the decommissioned LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara, it is expected these vessels will be transported to Ireland by May 2023 following the completion of a programme of works.
Whilst the Defence Forces are not a primary response agency for non-security related emergencies, as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Principal Response Agency in the event of a natural disaster or emergency situation in its Aid to Civil Authority (ATCA) role. In this regard, the full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment, commensurate with operational requirements, is made available for deployments, within current means and capabilities, as the need arises.
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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