IRELAND'S military capability to tackle a terrorist plane hijack was put to the test at Dublin Airport over the past four days.
And Defence Forces chiefs were impressed with the performance of the specialist troops from their elite unit, the Army Ranger wing.
It was the biggest counter- terrorism exercise ever conducted within the State and was brought to a conclusion yesterday morning when the "hostages" were saved.
Soldiers played the role of passengers, who were being held at gunpoint on a hijacked craft in a corner of the airport, in a simulated operation codenamed "Firm Response".
The majority of the 100-plus Ranger wing took part, supported by bomb disposal teams, engineer specialist search teams, snipers, Air Corps craft, surveillance squads, medical teams and logistical support.
The exercise was co-ordinated at the joint operations centre at Defence Force headquarters.
The Ranger wing maintains a military counter-terrorist capability for use at home and on United Nations-approved missions overseas.
The Rangers have been involved in providing protection at airports in the past for visitors including members of the British royal family and US and British politicians.
They acted as the initial entry force when Irish peacekeeping troops were preparing to join the UN mission in Chad and carried out long range patrolling and reconnaissance exercises.
The Rangers also had a high profile in the East Timor mission but remained largely out of the spotlight in other missions such as Liberia.