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Irish commission recommends fighter procurement

A Commission on the Defence Forces report has recommended that Ireland field a ‘squadron' of modern combat jet aircraft to fulfil the country's air-defence requirements. A number of types might be suitable for such a role, including the Saab Gripen from Sweden. (Saab)

Ireland's Commission on the Defence Forces has recommended that the country field a modern combat aircraft type as part of a wider raft of proposed military procurement suggestions.

In its report published on 9 February, the commission said that the Irish Air Corps (IAC) should acquire for itself an air combat and intercept capability through “a squadron” of combat jets.

“The air force should comprise of a structure that can manage, maintain, and administer a modern and balanced fleet of aircraft and, in the event that a primary air radar capability is introduced, as recommended, the Chief of the Air Force should be responsible for maintaining a recognised air picture to ensure that Irish territorial airspace and Irish controlled airspace are fully monitored and that any infringements on Irish sovereignty are detected and responded to,” the report stated.

The IAC fields no viable air-defence capability, with its only combat inventory limited to eight Pilatus PC-9M turboprops. “In terms of air combat, the commission is aware that the existing PC‐9 aircraft type, which primarily operate as the [Irish] Air Corps' main pilot training aircraft, can provide a very limited air-to-air and air-to-ground capacity, and this fleet is due for replacement in 2025,” the report said.

The country's air-defence requirements are reportedly provided by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), which, by means of a non-publicised agreement signed following the 11 September 2001 attack in the US, is allowed to enter Irish airspace to intercept rogue aircraft.

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