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Troops overseas to be protected with €66m armoured vehicles investment



Defence Forces troops on a training exercise

Defence Forces troops on a training exercise

Defence Forces troops on a training exercise

The Government is investing more than €66m in armoured vehicles to enhance the protection of Irish peacekeepers overseas.

Force protection is a key measure in defence budget plans, announced yesterday by junior minister Paul Kehoe.

The minister said the combination of the steps being taken would be to increase protection for military personnel and that they would play a key role in overseas missions.

A mid-life upgrade for the Army's fleet of 80 Mowag armoured personnel carriers is already under way and will be funded at a cost of €55m.

According to the minister, it will extend the utility of the fleet and provide greater levels of protection, mobility and firepower, ensuring the vehicles will remain viable up to 2030.

The first 10 refurbished vehicles have already been delivered, and the next batch of 10 will undergo tests in Switzerland this week.

A further €11m is being spent on the acquisition of 24 armoured utility vehicles from French company Centigon.

Another 10 armoured trucks are being bought from Irish company Westward Scania.

All the vehicles are due to be delivered before the end of the year.

Overall, the defence allocation is set to rise by 5pc to €994m, an increase of more than €47m.

More than €32m is being invested in three fixed-wing utility aircraft PC12 for the Air Corps.

These are being manufactured by Pilatus in Switzerland, and delivery of them to the Defence Forces will begin next year.

A tender competition is also underway for the replacement of the two CASA 235 maritime patrol planes with larger and more suitable aircraft.

The aim is to increase maritime surveillance and provide greater utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks.

The fourth ship in a replacement programme for the Naval Service, at a cost of over €250m, since 2010 is scheduled for delivery in the next few weeks and will be named LE George Bernard Shaw.

The defence white paper provides for the replacement of the current naval flagship, LE Eithne, with a multi-role vessel, which will be enabled for helicopter operations and will also have a freight carrying capacity.

In the meantime, the department has to find a solution to the critical manpower shortage, which is particularly acute in the Naval Service although affecting the Army and Air Corps as well.

A major factor is the numbers leaving almost equating to those being recruited - a problem likely to be solved only by increasing military pay rates, currently the lowest in the public sector.

Irish Independent