Army chief hopes to replace Air Corps fleet

The Defence Forces Chief of Staff is hoping to replace the Air Corps’s ageing fleet of Cessnas and purchase a third new ship for the Naval Service within the next five years.

The Air Corps’ five Cessnas have a combined age of more than 200 years and the pilots who fly them are all younger than the aircraft.

Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle described the Cessna as “a great workhorse” which played an important role in internal security.

He said he wouldn’t be able to replace them in one go as modern versions, or their equivalent, cost up to €2m each.

However, he hopes to start replacing them shortly and added it was likely the Naval Service will need a new ship within the next five years, which will probably cost in excess of €50m.

The navy is replacing two ships and the first replacement, LÉ Samuel Beckett, is expected at its Haulbowline base next month. The second, LÉ James Joyce, will arrive a year later.

Lieut Gen O’Boyle described the need for the Cessnas and an additional ship as “the big ticket items” on his shopping list.

However, he said the Defence Forces capital works budget is seriously underfunded and he was working with the Department of Defence to get it increased.

So far this year the army has carried out nearly 4,000 domestic security operations, with the Air Corps contributing in excess of 2,000 missions. The navy’s ships have clocked up nearly 1,050 patrol days.

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