7. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the replacement of Air Corps Cessna aircraft; the position regarding the replacement of CASA maritime patrol aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 12152/18 asked on 20 Mar 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The White Paper provides for the replacement of the current Cessna fleet with three larger aircraft which will be equipped for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR).  Following an open tender competition, a contract was placed with Pilatus Aircraft Ltd in December 2017 at a cost of some €32m for the provision of three PC-12 fixed wing utility aircraft suitably equipped for ISTAR tasks which will replace the Cessna fleet.  It is expected that the three aircraft will be delivered by 2020.  

The White Paper also provides for the replacement of the two CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft with consideration of their replacement with larger more capable aircraft, which would enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks. The planning process for the replacement of the CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft has recently commenced in my Department.

The National Development Plan provides for a Capital allocation of €541m for Defence for the five year period 2018-2022. This allocation will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, as set out in the White Paper. The replacement of the Air Corps Cessna aircraft and the CASA Maritime Patrol Aircraft Replacement Programme are among the projects prioritised for inclusion.