Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Defence
227. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the degree to which it is intended to upgrade and update or re-equip all equipment and aircraft available to the Army Corps in line with the need to carry out coastal surveillance for obvious reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24060/22]
My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces, including the Air Corps, is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable them to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.
The Equipment Development Plan (EDP) published in June 2020, completed through extensive joint civil-military work, provides a comprehensive list of planned equipment projects by means of a five-year rolling plan. The EDP builds on the intentions set out in the White Paper in relation to equipment acquisition, modernisation and upgrade and has been developed to ensure that the Defence Forces have the major equipment platforms, ancillary equipment and force protection equipment to carry out their important roles both at home and overseas.
The White Paper provides for the replacement of the two CASA 235 maritime patrol aircraft with consideration to be given to their replacement with larger more capable aircraft which would enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks. A contract for the supply of two C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft was entered into with Airbus Defence and Space in December 2019, with delivery of the aircraft expected in 2023. The cost of the contract including ancillary support is €229m inclusive of VAT. The project is progressing well.
This significant investment in maritime patrol aircraft is an example which demonstrates my commitment to update and upgrade the Defence Forces equipment and capability, within the financial envelope available.
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 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.
The Deputy will be aware that the Government established an independent Commission on the Defence Forces in December 2020. 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.