Defence | Upgrading the Naval Service’s equipment and seagoing vessels
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the extent to which the Naval Service continues to be upgraded in terms of equipment and seagoing vessels in order to ensure adequate coastal surveillance; 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, as the State’s principal sea-going agency, is tasked with a variety of defence and other roles. While the main day to day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union, it also carries out a number of other non-fishery related tasks in tandem with maritime surveillance, and as such any Naval Service patrol should be viewed as a multi-faceted activity.
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 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.
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.
I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have a modern and effective range of equipment in order to fulfil the roles assigned to them by Government.
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