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Military


Ireland Air Corps

The primary role of the Air Corps is to support the Army. As the air component of the Defence Forces, the Air Corps provides air support capabilities to the other components in carrying out their roles. On a day-to-day basis the Air Corps undertakes Army Support, Fishery Protection Patrols, provides a Ministerial Air Transport Service and operates an Air Ambulance Service. The Air Corps routinely undertake tasks such as providing air cover for cash in transit operations and providing pilots and technical support for the Garda Air Support Unit. In addition, the Air Corps undertakes approved operations in support of the civil authorities.

The Air Corps is based at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Dublin and consists of an operational headquarters, two operational wings, two support wings, the Air Corps Training College, and a Communication and Information Services Squadron. The operational wings consist of a training/light strike squadron, helicopter squadrons, a maritime squadron, a transport squadron and a fixed wing reconnaissance squadron. The support wings are tasked with specialist maintenance of the aircraft fleet and administration and logistical support for the Air Corps.

The Air Corps new organisation structure with a manpower level of 930 was fully implemented by 2006. The command structure reflected that of the Defence Forces with separate operations and support commands, each reporting to General Officer Commanding (GOC) Air Corps. The 20000 White Paper recognised the urgent equipment modernisation requirements in the Air Corps and between 2000 and 2006 the following aircraft were acquired:

  • 1 x Learjet for Ministerial Air Transport Service in Dec 2003;
  • 8 x PC-9M fixed wing aircraft to take over and enhance pilot ab-initio training, Air to Ground Weapons qualification and Basic Fighter Manoeuvres training for instructors from 2004 onwards. A PC-9M fixed base simulator was part of the overall package;
  • 2 x EC 135 helicopters for helicopter pilot training, limited military operations, operational training and Air Ambulance in Nov 2005. These aircraft have proven to have excellent reliability and have achieved a total flying hours output of 1,700 in the first 12 months in service;
  • Six (6) utility AW 139 helicopters are being acquired, two (2) of which were delivered in November 2006. Each of these will be equipped with 2 x 7.62 calibre machine guns for aircraft self protection and will have the capability to transport approx ten (10) fully equipped troops. These will be operated by the Air Corps in a general purpose military operational and training role, with their primary tasking being security and Aid to the Civil Power, military exercises, training and operating with the Army Ranger Wing, infantry interoperability training and limited troop transport. They will also be used to perform air ambulance, inland Search and Rescue, aid to the civil community and VIP transport tasks
  • A major mid-life upgrade of the two CASA CN235 maritime patrol aircraft will be carried out in 2007 and 2008. This will incorporate a modern airborne search radar system; a modern Forward Looking Infrared system and the CASA developed Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS).

Comprehensive product support contracts have been put in place for the Learjet, PC9Ms and EC 135s and in 2006 one was at an advanced stage of negotiation for the AW139s. The 24/7 Search and Rescue (SAR) responsibilities of the Air Corps were terminated by Government decision in December 2003. A successful service incentive scheme for pilots was introduced in 2002.

The Air Corps operates two CASA CN235 Maritime Patrol aircraft in support of the fishery protection effort. These longrange aircraft patrol throughout the Irish exclusive fishery limits. In addition, other fixed wing aircraft and occasionally helicopters are used to monitor inshore fishing activities. The Ministerial Air Transport Service is provided by the Air Corps to assist An t-achtarn and members of the Government in fulfilling their official engagements at home and abroad. The service is primarily provided by the Gulfstream IV and Learjet 45 aircraft.

Five Reims FR172H Rockets (license built Cessna 172s) are in service 104 Squadron "Hawkeyes" (formerly known as the Army Co-Operation Squadron), part of No 1 Operations Wing, at Casement, Baldonnel (EIME). They are used for parachute training in addition to their main role as "top cover" escorts for vehicles transporting cash, explosives or prisoners. The Air Corps withdrew from Gormanston in Augst 2002. This resulted in an increase in output from the Cessna FR172H aircraft previously stationed there and now supported directly at Casement Aerodrome. The Air Corps HQ located at Casement is now fully functional and staffed in accordance with the new organisational structures. Other infrastructural developments have been successfully completed.



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