Tuesday 17 September 2019

Air Corps to spend €32m on new aircraft to act as 'an eye in the sky'

Image: Irish Air Corps
Image: Irish Air Corps
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The Air Corps is being supplied with new aircraft, which will provide a generational boost to its capabilities to operate more closely with the Army and the Naval Service and act as "an eye in the sky".

The three fixed wing utility craft will be equipped for intelligence gathering, targeting and reconnaissance tasks.

And they will also improve the Air Corp capacity to ferry troops and equipment. Each craft can carry nine passengers or in the case of a medical evacuation, two stretcher patients and support staff.

Minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe today signed a contract for the provision of the three Pilatus PC-12 NG, manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft Ltd in Stans, Switzerland.

They will replace the five Cessna aircraft, purchased for the Air Corps in 1972.

The PC-12 is described as a large, single engine utility aircraft, which will be capable of fulfilling its roles on a 24-7 basis in all weather conditions at home and overseas.

The cost of the contract, including equipment fit-out, is about €32m. The first two craft will be delivered in 2019 and the third in 2020.

The minister said this afternoon: "This investment is underpinned by the white paper on defence and is an indication of the government's to ensuring that all branches of the Defence Forces continue to retain a range of flexible conventional military capabilities to meet the roles assigned by government".

The white paper prioritised the need for capital investment on a broad range of replacement defensive equipment programmes.

The cost is being met from the defence capital funding budget of €416m for 2018-2021 and this will also allow for the replacement of both of the Air Corps CASA maritime patrol craft and other major equipment projects during that timeframe.

The purchase of PC-12s is regarded as a big boost for the Air Corps, which is badly in need of new craft.

"This will provide us with a huge generational jump forward from the days of the Cessna and allow us to fulfil the roles that are are envisaged for the Air Corps", one senior military officer said.

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