Written Answers. - Defence Forces Equipment.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

109 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence if it is intended to proceed with the plans to acquire a fleet of light armoured vehicles for the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18773/03]

The Defence Forces commenced a programme to acquire Mowag APC-light armoured vehicles in 1999. To date 40 of these vehicles have been received and a further 25 vehicles are scheduled for delivery in 2004. The total cost of the programme is in the region of €84 million.

In addition to this programme, the Defence Forces has a requirement for a smaller light armoured vehicle, designated as a light tactical vehicle which can be used to protect troops engaged in peace support operations in areas where the larger Mowag APC would be inappropriate. For instance, the movement of one to three personnel in high risk confined areas and general surveillance work are amongst the key roles of the vehicle.

Funding for this programme must be considered in the context of the larger APC programme and the changed financial situation and it has been agreed with the military authorities that the programme for the acquisition of the vehicles will not proceed for the present. In the meantime, the Defence Forces will continue to conduct further studies in relation to the type and specification of vehicle required.