Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Defence
11. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the approximate costs for the new large aircraft that is being considered by his Department; if a second-hand plane has been considered; if such a plane would be capable of assisting in fighting wild gorse fires; the functions such an aircraft could undertake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11299/20]
My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government both at home and overseas.
The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence, and White Paper Update 2019, as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. 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, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.
The 2020 capital allocation for Defence is €113 million, an increase of €7 million on the National Development Plan 2019 allocation. The NDP - Project Ireland 2040 - provides financial allocations for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. 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 builds on the significant investment programme over recent years. Some €265 million inclusive of VAT has already been earmarked for investment in new aircraft over the period 2020-23.
No decision has been made to purchase an aircraft. In line with the approach to proposals for major acquisitions and the Public Spending Code, the assessment of a proposal to acquire a large aircraft includes consideration of the overall investment rationale. The assessment would consider the demands that may be made of an aircraft and the capabilities it may be expected to be able to supply, together with the associated technical specification and requirements. These requirements would be considered against existing air-based capabilities supplied by the Air Corps and the feasible options to meet any proposed requirements. Acquisition of a large aircraft could potentially provide a range of capabilities not currently available for military use or to meet other State requirements. This utility would have to be assessed against the significant investment of public funds, in respect of the initial investment and on-going operational costs, which will be considered alongside other spending priorities.
Pending any detailed examination, it is not possible to state what the cost would be, the type of aircraft or what its range of capabilities could be. A tender competition would be required to be carried out in accordance with EU Public Procurement legislation.