My priority as Minister of State 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 to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government both at home and overseas.
The White Paper on Defence provides that Ireland's ongoing active participation in a range of peacekeeping and crisis management missions is a key policy requirement. While each mission has elements of danger, it is the Government's position that all actions should be taken to minimise threats to the safety of personnel. Armoured vehicles provide essential force protection and, in this context in accordance with the equipment planning process, the fleet of armoured vehicles is subject to regular review to ensure that it meets operational requirements both at home and overseas.
There are twenty-seven (27) Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles (LTAV) available to the Defence Forces. Since delivery in 2010, the LTAV fleet has been used extensively on deployment both overseas and on island for training purposes. No LTAVs were purchased in the years 2017, 2018 or 2019 to date and no LTAVs were withdrawn during this period.
The LTAV fleet complements the Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and other armoured vehicles in the conduct of conventional and Peace Support Operations. A multi-year mid-life upgrade programme for the APC fleet is under way, which will extend the utility of the fleet and provide greater levels of protection, mobility and firepower. The first twenty (20) upgraded vehicles were recently delivered.
In addition, there has been further investment in the armoured fleet with the acquisition of 24 Armoured Utility Vehicles in 2017, and more recently the acquisition of 10 Combat Support Service Armoured 8 x 8 Drops Vehicles which were delivered in late 2018. These vehicles along with the fleet of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles will provide personnel with the requisite force protection to operate in a supporting role in high-threat environments. The procurement of these vehicles will also enhance Ireland's ability to participate in integrated multinational deployments.
The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment planning priorities planning process. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources available to them, including a modern and effective range of equipment which is in line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.