|Air Corps GOC outlines his future priorities (November 2011)|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2011 00:00|
In an interview in the October issue of An Costantóir (the Defence Forces magazine) with Brigadier General Paul Fry (GOC Air Corps and Director of Military Aviation) he outlined his priorities for the Air Corps during the present “challenging times”. He first stressed the positives, promotions starting to appear, a new recruit platoon in training, more apprentices, three pilot cadets in the
Looking to the future he says that their “goal is to stay relevant to the needs of the Defence Forces and the citizens of the state”. This is done through service level agreements with various government departments, for air ambulance (committed to 70- 80 missions annually), support to the Coast Guard and the Garda Air Support Unit and maritime patrolling (1,750 hours annually). For the Gardai they operate their helicopter assets on routine standby 24/7, with a two-minute response time or 12 minutes for the fixed-wing Britten-Norman Defender 4000. The Air Corps also provides transport services to the Garda Ombudsman's office, the Irish Aviation Authority (lAA) and the Air Accident Investigation Unit. He also notes that the Air Corps “have proven that aircraft and crews are flexible” in assisting the civil authorities be it with flooding, heavy snowfalls and fires or evacuating Irish citizens from a disaster area.
He sees three key areas for future expansion “when the economy can support them”, strategic lift capability, maritime patrolling, and overseas deployment. He would like to see hired commercial aircraft replaced by a strategic capability that could be very quickly kitted out for troop transport, cargo, air ambulance/medevac, disaster relief or surveillance. This could be linked to a requirement to support an extended maritime region out to 350 nautical miles for which the CASA would have limitations. A multi role strategic lift aircraft could do this role with quicker transit and longer loiter time. On overseas deployment he pointed to the considerable experience already developed in Tchad where Air Corps personnel ran the airfield operation and carried out their Forward Air Controller tasks on patrol. With experience building in search-and-rescue winching, CASEVAC, underslung load carrying, assault abseiling, ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target-acquisition, and reconnaissance) and night flying operations “it is the next logical step for us”. Finally another area he thinks needs to be looked at in the future “is building a recognised airspace picture for Ireland” with “an established monitoring centre” which “would track, using radar, every aircraft in our airspace at all times”. In spite of the nation’s difficulties is good to see that at the top echelons of the Air Corps we have positive and forward looking thinking.
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