My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.
The White Paper on Defence provides for the replacement of the two CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft with consideration of their replacement with larger more capable aircraft, which would enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks.
A public tender competition for the replacement of the CASA Maritime Patrol Aircraft is underway in my Department at present and is expected to be completed shortly. The tender competition is being carried out as a two stage restricted procedure in accordance with EU Directive 2009/81/EC, which is a specific Directive relating to the award of contracts in the field of defence and security. A Request for Proposals (Stage 1) was published on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) in May 2018, and a Request for Tenders (Stage 2) issued in November 2018, followed by a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of tenders.
It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on at this stage or to divulge the estimated cost of the project pending the outcome of the tender competition as this information is commercially sensitive and the procurement process has not yet been completed.
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 NDP provides for a total of €541 million over the period 2018 to 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. The replacement of the Air Corps CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft is among the projects included for funding. There will be no expenditure on the project until a contract is awarded.