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 to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.
The acquisition of new equipment and the upgrading of equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. 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.
In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence has been increased to €106 million for 2019, an increase of €29 million. The National Development Plan provides for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. This level of capital funding 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 identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years.
There is a focus on essential force protection by armoured vehicles, with a significant investment being made in the Army’s fleet of 80 MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs).
A multi year mid life upgrade maintenance and upgrade programme of the MOWAG APC fleet is well underway at a cost of €55m plus VAT, which will extend the utility of the fleet and provide greater levels of protection, mobility and firepower and will seek to ensure viability of the fleet out to 2030. The first 20 refurbished vehicles were delivered in 2018 and a further 20 refurbished vehicles are scheduled for delivery this year.
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.
I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources available to them, including a modern and effective range of equipment which is line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.