Written answers

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Department of Defence

Overseas Missions

5:00 pm

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Question 44: To ask the Minister for Defence the arrangements for helicopter support for our troops in Chad since they were first deployed in February 2008. [42197/09]

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Contingents of the Permanent Defence Force served in Chad between February 2008 and March 2009 with the EU-led mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR Tchad/RCA. During this period, helicopter support was provided by EUFOR aviation assets. In addition, two helicopters were contracted by my Department in June 2008 to provide both operational and logistical support to the Irish battalion serving with EUFOR. While there were some difficulties encountered with the initially deployed helicopters, which have been well documented, throughout the contract period the helicopters provided essential support to the Defence Forces contingent in cargo transport, mission resupply and standby emergency evacuation, reinforcement and casevac, which were the primary considerations in contracting the helicopters in the first place.

EUFOR's mandate expired on 14 March, 2009, and the operation was replaced by the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). Following the handover of the mission from EUFOR to MINURCAT, significant deficiencies were experienced in the UN helicopter support to the Irish contingent arising from both the lack of fuel and the operational and tasking arrangements for the UN helicopters then deployed in theatre. As a result, it was essential to retain the helicopters contracted for the Defence Forces contingent in Chad. A particular concern for the Defence Forces and the Department was the need to ensure available helicopter support to the Defence Forces contingent during the oncoming rainy season. The Defence Forces helicopter contract was extended on a month-by-month basis for six months. At that stage, the Chief of Staff stated that he was happy with the level of helicopter support then available from the UN for the Irish Defence Forces contingent in Chad and the contract for the Irish helicopters was terminated on 25 October, 2009.

There are currently two UN helicopters based in Goz Beida, providing helicopter support to the Irish contingent, which have also on occasion been used for MEDEVAC/CASEVAC operations. In addition there is also a dedicated MEDEVAC/CASEVAC helicopter located in Abeche on a 24/7 basis.

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