Dáil Éireann - Volume 668 - 26 November, 2008
Written Answers. - Defence Forces Equipment.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Deputy Bernard J. Durkan
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which it is intended or expected to upgrade military equipment in respect of each of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43092/08]
Deputy Willie O’Dea Deputy Willie O’Dea
Deputy Willie O’Dea: The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces continues to be a key focus for me as Minister for Defence. Significant investment has taken place in recent years across all facets and elements of the Defence Forces. This investment has been assisted by pay savings arising from the reduction in the strength of the Permanent Defence Force in the context of the White Paper of 2000, which have been re-invested in the provision of equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces.
A tender competition is nearing completion for the acquisition of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles for the Defence Forces. The intention is that the LTAV will complement the Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) in the conduct of conventional and Peace Support Operations and will fill a gap that exists between soft-skinned vehicles and the Mowags. The proposal is to acquire an initial twenty-seven vehicles (17 for overseas mission and 10 at home for training). The tender competition will allow for two additional options, for another twenty-seven vehicles. There is a sum of €6m in this years Estimates provision as a down payment on an LTAV contract and I expect that a contract for the LTAVs will be in place before the end of the year. The Department has acquired eighty Mowag APCs since 2001 at a combined cost of some €120m. The final stage payment of just over €6m was paid last January. A contract was entered into with Mowag last year for the provision of a stock of strategic spares to cover all areas where the APCs are deployed. The value of the contract is over €8m spread over three years (2007 to 2009).
In recent years, significant work has been carried out on the acquisition of an Integrated Protection and Load Carrying System for individual soldiers. This system includes Body Armour, Helmets, Back Packs (Rucksacks) and Battle Vests. 8000 units of Body Armour, 12,000 Helmets and 12,000 Rucksacks have been delivered in recent years at a combined total cost of €13.5m. To complete the modern integrated protection and load carrying system 12,000 Battle Vests have been provided at a cost of some €2.2m. The Battle Vests are used for the carriage of essential items such as ammunition, personal radio, water and ancillary equipment. A further 500 General Purpose Machine Guns have been ordered from FN Herstal in Belgium for delivery next month. A sum of €3.8m is provided in 2008 for the purchase.
With regard to the Air Corps, a total of six utility AW 139 helicopters are being acquired from AgustaWestland, Italy at a cost of €75m, inclusive of VAT. Two AW 139s were delivered in November 2006, two were delivered in 2007 and the final two were delivered in 2008. The final stage payments for the two helicopters have been made this year at a cost of circa €13.5m. A contract was signed with EADS, Spain, for a major mid-life upgrade for the Air Corps two CASA maritime patrol aircraft in late 2006 at a cost of €16.456m, inclusive of VAT. The upgrade on the first aircraft was completed in 2007. The upgrade on the second was carried out this year and a payment in the region of €5.3m was made. The issue of the replacement of the Air Corps Cessna Fleet is under active consideration at present. The question of funding the replacement programme has to be considered in tandem with the overall equipment requirements of the Defence Forces generally and the funding available for this.
 With regard to the Naval Service, three ships will fall due for replacement over the next 3 to 5 years — LE Emer, commissioned in 1978, LE Aoife, commissioned in 1979 and LE Aisling, commissioned in 1980. Following a detailed examination of the needs of the Naval Service within my Department, a vessel replacement strategy for the Naval Service was put in place to cover the period up to 2012. The strategy combined with a continuous process of refurbishment will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a satisfactory level. Following Government approval in July 2007, notice of a tender competition for the purchase of replacement vessels for the Naval Service was sent to the Official Journal of the European Union on 24 August 2007. The competition is for the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV’s) with an option of a third and one Extended Patrol Vessel (EPV) with an option on a second. The options provide an effective value for money opportunity, at locked in prices, to provide replacements for Naval Service vessels, which will reach the end of their service life in the years immediately following the current replacement programme.
Following Stage 1 of the tender competition for the OPVs, Stage 2 of the competition commenced on the 12 September 2008 with the issue of an Invitation to Tender to the shipbuilders who had been short-listed as part of the Stage 1 process. This document included a very detailed ship specification. The detailed tender responses were returned to the Department by the shipbuilders on the 11 November last. Tender evaluation commenced immediately and is expected to continue into the beginning of 2009. Subject to Government approval on funding, it is intended to award a contract for the OPVs to the preferred bidder in the first half of 2009. The decision to proceed with the final award of contract to purchase the vessels will be subject to Government approval and agreement on funding, the full requirement for which will not be known until the tender competition has concluded.
Subject to Government approval on funding, it is expected that the new vessels will be delivered for acceptance by the Naval Service on a phased basis between 2011 and 2013. It is expected that the delivery date for the first OPV will be 30 months after the date of signing of the contract whilst the specified delivery date for the second OPV will be 37 months after the date of signing of the contract. If the Department exercises its option of purchasing a third OPV, a mutually agreeable delivery date shall be negotiated. The timelines are indicative and shall not prejudice the right of the Department to adjust or alter the delivery schedule at the contract stage. At the evaluation stage, marks will be awarded on the basis of the indicative timeline provided by the tenderer.
In the current difficult economic environment, it will be important that we look to the efficiencies which all parts of the public sector can make so as to continue to deliver high quality public services within a more constrained financial resource envelope. However, it is also important that we continue to invest in public services so as we can maintain service levels into the future. We need to continue the process of modernisation and reinvestment in the Defence Forces into the future. The acquisition of these modern new vessels will ensure that the Naval Service will be fully equipped to carry out its day to day roles in enforcing the states sovereign rights over our waters and our fisheries and meeting Ireland’s obligations in the area of maritime safety and security and fisheries protection. In relation to the larger EPV, the Department intends to undertake further analysis of the proposals received, following Stage 1, before the second stage is initiated. As with the OPVs, any decision to award a contract for the purchase of an EPV must be approved by the Government.
Dáil Éireann 668 Written Answers. Defence Forces Equipment.