439. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount of funding necessary to replace or upgrade aircraft within the Air Corps; if new aircraft will be purchased in 2018; the number of aircraft deployed with the Air Corps; the age of each aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44993/17 asked on 24 Oct 2017)

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 Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government as set out on the White Paper on Defence. Equipment priorities for the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment planning process. In this context the principal aim over the period of the White Paper will be to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements both at home and overseas. The White Paper on Defence provides that the Air Corps will see the Cessna fleet replaced with three larger aircraft suitably equipped for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance tasks. The tender competition for the procurement of the three new aircraft is underway and the cost will be determined by the outcome of the tender competition.

The two Air Corps CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft are due for replacement in 2019. The White Paper also provides for the replacement of the CASA 235 s with consideration to be given to 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.

Also, a decision was made in 2016 to replace a PC-9M aircraft and this aircraft was delivered from Pilatus Aircraft in Switzerland this July at a cost of €5m exclusive of VAT. The new aircraft brings the fleet up to 8 and will assist in a required increase in pilot training in the Air Corps.

The Defence Capital envelope of €416m for the period 2018 – 2021 will enable further investment in major equipment platforms, including the replacement of the Cessna aircraft.

There are 2 7 aircraft in the Air Corps fleet, 1 7 of which are fixed wing and 10 of which are helicopters. The age of each aircraft in the fleet is as follows:

Aircraft Type – Fixed Wing Number in Service Age Year Delivered
Cessna 5 45 years 1972
Casa 2 23 years 1994
Defender ** 1 20 years 1997
Learjet 1 14 years 2003
Pilatus PC-9M 7 13 years 2004
Pilatus PC-9M # 1 3 months July 2017
Total 17
Aircraft Type - Helicopters Number in Service Age Year Delivered
EC 135** 2 15 years & 10 years 2002 & 2007
EC 135 2 12 years 2005
AW 139 6 Between 7 and 11 years 2 in 2006, 2 in 2007, 2 in 2008
Total 10

**Aircraft owned by Department of Justice and Equality but operated by the Air Corps.

# Replacement Pilatus PC-9M aircraft delivered in July 2017