Irish Air Corps adds helicopters to inventory

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The Irish Air Corps is a small organisation, with about 850 personnel and fewer than 30 aircraft, including two dedicated to VIP transport duties. But despite its size, the air wing has recently modernised its inventory, notably adding nine utility and training helicopters and upgrading its two EADS Casa CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft.

Six AgustaWestland AW139s and three Eurocopter EC135s are the most recent additions to the Irish Air Corps fleet at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. Ordered after an ambitious deal for Dublin to become the launch military customer for Sikorsky's S-92 collapsed, the aircraft have replaced aged stocks of Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette IIIs and Eurocopter AS565 Dauphins. The latter type left service in 2006, and Ireland's last Alouettes were retired in September 2007 after a service life of 44 years and 77,000 flight hours.

agustawestland
 © AgustaWestland

Capable of missions including troop transport and search-and-rescue, each AW139 can carry 12 passengers or nine equipped troops, and two general-purpose machine guns.

Entering service from 1994, Ireland's two CN-235s were returned to service in December 2007 and July 2008, respectively, after an extensive mid-life upgrade at the now-Airbus Military's facilities in Seville, Spain. This included installing EADS Casa's fully integrated tactical system, a Telephonics APS-143C(V)3 search radar and FLIR Systems' Star Safire III electro-optical/infrared sensor.

The air corps needs to replace its five Cessna 172s, with potential candidates including the Cessna Caravan and Pilatus PC-6. But despite Ireland having sent 400 peacekeepers to Chad earlier this year, there are no plans to acquire dedicated military transports.