DEFENCE Minister, Willie O'Dea, is to seek almost €104m for two new patrol vessels and a sail training ship to replace the Asgard which sank off the French coast last year.
Minister O'Dea, visiting Haulbowline Naval Base -- said it was vital the Defence Forces has the equipment required for the vital tasks they are asked to undertake.
The LE Emer, LE Aoife and LE Aisling are all due for replacement after a 30-year lifespan.
Two new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) will cost around €50m each -- but the Minister will not be seeking €100m funding at this point for a larger Extended Patrol Vessel (EPV).
Mr O'Dea bluntly warned about the dangers of cutting Defence Force personnel to levels at which the three services simply cannot function.
He said the services have already taken personnel reductions, reducing them in size from 14,000 to 10,500, while the McCarthy report recommended another 500.
Minister O'Dea stressed that the Defence Forces require specific personnel levels if the demands placed on it by the State are to be met.
"Certainly we are getting near the limits of what we can take obviously," he said.
His Department wants permission from the Department of Finance to spend the €3.8m the insurers have paid for the Asgard.
The €180m naval vessel replacement programme has already been held up by cuts in the 2009 Budget and An Bord Snip Nua has also proposed a further delay.
Now, after a tender competition overseen by the Department of Defence, a proposal for two new OPVs has been identified.
The vessel replacement programme includes an option on a third OPV and proposes the purchase of an Extended Patrol Vessel costing €100m, and an option on a second EPV.