The Irish Air Corps welcomed its latest induction of two Airbus C295 maritime patrol aircraft at the end of last month after a deal made by the Tánaiste and Minister of Defence, Micheál Martin, for €230m ($252.2).

Airbus Defence and Space won the contract to supply two maritime patrol aircraft in December 2019 following an open tender competition.

These new aircraft will replace the two existing CASA CN235-100 maritime patrol aircraft purchased in 1994.

The C295 is a maritime surveillance aircraft: particularly fisheries protection. It will also provide the Air Corps with the capability to deliver a range of services including logistics support and transport of troops and equipment, medical evacuation and air ambulances, search and rescue and a general utility role.

Airbus manufactured the aircraft in Seville, Spain and the total cost of the contract for both aircraft and associated training, ground equipment and spare parts is $252.2m. So far, Airbus has only delivered one of the planes, the company will supply the second later this year.

According to GlobalData‘s intelligence forecast, the government will spend $23m on its C295 aircraft in 2023, which will grow to $38m by 2026.

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In addition to these two aircraft, the Irish government also sought to expand its fleet. In December 2022, the Irish government awarded another contract to Airbus for an additional C295W aircraft – this time a military transport variant.

Ireland’s C295s combat illegal trafficking

“The arrival of this aircraft is an important moment for the Air Corps and a commitment delivered from the White Paper on Defence,” Martin stated.

According to the Irish government’s White Paper 2019 update, “Ireland continues to play its role in international action to combat the activities of transnational organised crime.

“Being an island, mnay of the risks and threats listed in the EU Maritime Security Strategy are relevant to Ireland’s maritime domain. This includes threats to Ireland;s economoc resources arising from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or other illegal exploitation of Ireland’s maritime resources.”

The induction of the two new C295s, with greater capability, will enable the Irish Air Corps to respond to these domestics threats.

Irish vulnerabilities are European liabilities

The acquisition will also help to wean the country away from its reliance on the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), with whom the Irish government permitted the RAF to enter Irish airspace in the event of a threat.

According to a commentary from the UK defence and security think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Ireland’s lack of adequate air and maritime defences leaves Europe vulnerable to surprise attacks.

Ireland’s two new European-manufactured maritime patrol aircraft will enable the country to monitor and track, as well as deter, threats within its vicitnity with a up-to-date capability

“[T]his is the largest equipment acquisition project undertaken for the Defence Forces.

This significant investment is an indication of the government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that our defence forces retain a range of flexible conventional military capabilities to fulfil their roles and duties,” Martin added.