Author: Lt Col Mick Moran, C Eng. FIFE, aeronautical engineer and quality assurance manager, Defence Forces of Ireland Air Corps
For nearly a century, the Irish Air Corps has been serving the Irish State. Whether rescuing an Irish citizen from war-torn Libya or extinguishing large gorse fires in Donegal, the Air Corps fleet has always remained ready to defend, protect and support the citizens of Ireland.
The mission statement of the Irish Air Corps is “to deliver the airpower contribution to the military defence of the security of the State and to fulfil all roles assigned by Government, through the deployment of a modern, well-motivated and effective air corps”.
This was ably demonstrated when the Air Corps co-ordinated a complex air defence network over Ireland during the first official visit of HRM Queen Elizabeth II and US president Barack Obama in 2011. For almost two weeks, Casement Aerodrome became a nucleus for this enormous security operation and, over the space of ten days, the whole Air Corps fleet took part in the operation.
Aircraft provided combat air patrols and ceremonial flights; while others took on the role of airborne command-and-control platforms, as well as providing military transport for the operation. Helicopters provided army support, VIP transport, military transport and an air ambulance capability, while fixed-wing aircraft conducted visual air patrols and other aircraft were on constant standby for VIP transport.
The operation’s success required detailed planning and liaison with several agencies such as the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), Garda Síochána and civil air-traffic control, as well as developing a complicated communications network, airspace management and rules of engagement for the combat air patrols.
The Air Corps has always taken pride in answering its primary role of defence of the State, including supporting Irish troops at home and in United Nation missions or evacuating Irish citizens from war-torn areas of the world. However it is equally proud of all of its other assigned Government tasks that make it an essential support service to the Irish people.
[caption id="attachment_8117" align="alignright" width="1024"] Air Corps Eagle Section[/caption]
At a recent charity event to raise awareness for organ donation, hosted by the Air Corps, transplant surgeon Mr David Hickey, director of transplantation in Ireland, stated that without the support of the Air Corps, transplantation in Ireland – both literally and metaphorically – would never have got off the ground
“From the start of our programme, the Air Corps, through its professionalism, expertise and availability, has been an integral part of the success of the transplant programmes in Ireland," he added. The military aircraft used for these roles were not purchased to support transplantation, however. This role developed in support of a requirement for a fast, reliable and flexible transport system.
Another example of this innovation and flexibility can be seen in the operation of the Air Corps Maritime Patrol aircraft. The Air Corps operate two Airbus Military CASA CN235, which are maritime patrol aircraft. These fixed-wing aircraft are equipped with an extensive suite of radar and camera surveillance systems managed by an on-board computer. This surveillance system was required to be extensively upgraded when Ireland’s responsibility for its maritime waters was significantly expanded.
This upgrade was designed by Air Corps engineers, pilots and technicians and allowed Ireland to protect and exploit the largest maritime area in Europe. It offered the key platform upon which the Government could develop ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’, an ambitious plan to double the economic output from the maritime sector by 2030.
WIDE VARIETY OF ROLES
[caption id="attachment_8119" align="alignright" width="1024"] Skellig Michael operation (December 2012)[/caption]
As well as directly supporting this critical economic activity, these Air Corps aircraft, due to their size, are also used for a number of additional roles. After completing a six-hour patrol over the sea, these aircraft can be tasked with: