Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Air Corps

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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89. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to purchase training jets for the Air Corps; and the locations in which they will be stationed. [56318/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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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. Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and Equipment Development Planning (EDP) process.

In this context, 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 at home and overseas. The Department of 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. This will enable continued investment in defence equipment, including major platforms, and barracks infrastructure.

In relation to air-based capability, my immediate priorities have been the acquisition of three Pilatus PC-12 aircraft in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) role and to acquire two Airbus C295 maritime patrol aircraft. 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, with delivery of the aircraft expected in 2023. Some €276 million, including VAT, has been committed to the acquisition of all of these enhanced capabilities.

There are currently has no plans to purchase training jets. The Pilatus PC9 aircraft, which entered into service in 2004, is the Air Corps trainer aircraft, as well as contributing to other military roles. The Equipment Development Plan provides for a mid-life refit of these aircraft.

The Deputy will be aware that 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 military equipment capabilities, structures and staffing, and their report will inform decisions regarding the future development of the Defence Forces.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have a modern and effective range of equipment which is line with best international standards, to enable them to meet operational requirements.

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