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 so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government both at home and overseas.
The acquisition of new 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, including response to security risks and other emergencies, 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.
In relation to the Army, there is ongoing investment in force protection, transport, communications and information technology, weapons and ammunition. Twenty four (24) 4 x 4 Armoured Utility Vehicles were acquired in late 2017 and in 2018 the Defence Forces took delivery of ten (10) new armoured logistic vehicles. A significant investment is being made in the Army’s fleet of MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carriers. A multi-year mid-life upgrade programme is 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. The first twenty (20) upgraded vehicles were recently delivered.
The Defence Forces fleet of armoured and non-armoured vehicles is subject to regular review to ensure that it meets operational requirements both at home and overseas. In this regard a requirement for additional 4x4 armoured utility vehicles has been identified and subject to consideration of a business case and assessment of associated cost, funding will be made available. At this time there are no plans for the purchase of additional armoured logistic vehicles for the Defence Forces.
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.