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Oil-rich Qatar's airforce trying to poach Irish Air Corps

A SMALL oil-rich Arab state is trying to lure technicians from the Irish Air Corps to work on their helicopter fleet -- which uses the same type of aircraft as Ireland.

One of the richest countries in the Gulf region, Qatar, best known for its state-owned television network Al Jazeera, wants to employ Irish technicians to work its fleet of 18 AW 139 helicopters, the first of which was delivered last year.

The Irish Air Corps was the first military force in the world to order the AW 139 in 2004 and it has been in service for the last four years. Six of the twin-engined aircraft, seen as having highly advanced avionics and engines, were bought at a cost of €72m.

Now the small Arab Islamic state, with just 12,000 in its armed forces, wants Irish trained technicians to service their €260m fleet of AW 139s.

It has placed advertisements in an Irish newspaper seeking expert technicians for the Qatar Air Force. Qatar wants Irish technicians with at least 15 years' experience in helicopter servicing, with the last three years spent on the AW 139.

Applicants also should be experts in the aircraft's avionics and radar systems, and have experience on the airframes and PT-6 engines.

While the advertisement does not reveal rates of pay or tax-free sums which can be made, it is bound to be lucrative to attract Irish technicians who have been trained to work on the aircraft over the last four years.

The aircraft, which is now in use worldwide and by at least three armed forces, was seen as setting new standards of performance in its class for military applications with "outstanding one engine inoperative capabilities even in the hot and high environmental conditions", such as the Middle East.

It has an advanced integrated cockpit with state-of-the-art technology to minimise the amount of pilot workload. The contract placed by Qatar, which will use the aircraft for special forces operations, search and rescue and other roles, included crew training.

But in Qatar, which has a population of just 1.4 million, foreigners outnumber the locals and their foreign expertise is constantly needed to run its economy.

Meanwhile, a €4m contract for new camouflage uniforms for the Defence Forces is up for grabs. The National Public Procurement Operations Unit is seeking suppliers to fill a contract for what are called disruptive pattern material uniforms.

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