Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Air Corps

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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87. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when the replacement aircraft for the current Casa CN 235 maritime patrol aircraft will arrive; if he is satisfied with Ireland’s current capacity to patrol its maritime territory; if he has plans to further expand the Air Corps capacity to patrol territorial waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56539/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Air Corps Maritime Patrol Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of territorial waters using the two CASA CN 235 maritime patrol aircraft. These aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and communication equipment which offers aerial assistance to the Naval Service in patrolling the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone.

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. The principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements.

The White Paper on Defence has identified and prioritised the need for capital investment on a broad range of replacement defensive equipment programmes and on upgrading the Defence Forces built infrastructure. Defence has received a capital allocation under the National Development Plan of €566m over the 2022-2025 timeframe. Within that capital allocation the Defence annual capital budget for 2022 is €141m.

In relation to air-based capability, three Pilatus PC-12 aircraft in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) role have been acquired. An additional PC-12 was also acquired in response to the Covid 19 situation. A contract for the supply of two C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft was signed with Airbus Defence and Space in December 2019. Some €276 million, including VAT, has been committed to the acquisition of all of these enhanced capabilities.

The larger Airbus C295 MPA's are more capable aircraft which will enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks. The two Airbus C295 maritime patrol aircraft due for delivery in 2023.

The Government established an independent Commission on the Defence Forces in December 2020, with a mandate to report within 12 months. The work of the Commission encompasses the consideration of appropriate capabilities, structures and staffing, and their report will inform decisions regarding the future development of the Defence Forces.

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