Faced with Russian threat, Ireland could acquire combat aircraft

In 1998, the Irish Air Corps withdrew from service its Fouga Magister jet training aircraft, bought second-hand in France in 1975, signing the end of jet combat aviation for the Irish Air Body. In fact, however, these Fouga Magisters, like the DeHavilland Vampire T.55 before them, were not real fighters, but simply training aircraft capable of carrying out some striking operations on the ground. Even today, the Irish Air Corps operates only around twenty aircraft, planes and helicopters combined , mainly dedicated to reconnaissance and rescue missions. Its only armed planes are therefore eight PC-9 purchased in Switzerland, propeller training planes capable of carrying light machine guns and rockets.

For more than five years already, Irish parliamentarians are however discussing the possibility of reconstructing combat aviation capable of protecting national airspace against possible incursions by Russian bombers and reconnaissance planes. And the hypothesis was once again raised officially within the framework of the Project Ireland 2040 revealed by the Irish Ministry of Defense. As in 2016, the main argument put forward is therefore the resurgence of Russian activities. Indeed, Russian long-range aviation patrols generally bypass the North of Scotland and Ireland before veering south towards the Bay of Biscay, and risk invading airspace at any time. Ireland, which remains a neutral country.

For the moment, the eight Irish PC-9s are capable of carrying machine guns and rockets for fire support missions. The plane and its armaments are however incapable of carrying out interception operations, even against civilian planes.

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