The Government of Ireland (Rialtas na hÉireann) has laid down a deposit on a new medium tactical transport aircraft for the Irish Air Corps (An tAerchór), which would carry troops and vehicles to foreign military missions and rescue stranded Irish citizens. The deposit was paid on 23 December by the Department of Defence (An Roinn Cosanta) and the final cost could be in the region of €50 million. The original contract was focused on two replacement Casa maritime patrol aircraft for the Air Corps. That tender is nearing completion as the delivery of these new aircraft is imminent. They will be dedicated to patrolling the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone and monitoring fishing and other ship movements. The Irish Air Corps ordered two C-295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft in December 2019 to replace their CN-235 aircraft. The purchase of additional C-295s for general transport duties was also being evaluated as of June 2022.
Thejournal.ie reported that the decision to expedite the tendering process with an amendment followed anxious discussions about the need to see urgent progress in one of the key recommendations in the Commission on the Defence Forces. A source said that the decision to opt for the Casa 295 cargo variant means that the Air Corps pilots will not require extensive training in “converting” their qualifications to flying the aircraft. The final decision was made with the arrival of Tánaiste Micheál Martin to the Minister for Defence role. It is understood that the Government was anxious to progress the procurement before the end of 2022, with an amendment made to an existing tender with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The issue of Ireland’s lack of large military transport aircraft was highlighted in the wake of the Kabul mission to rescue Irish citizens in 2021.
The Airbus C295 is a medium tactical transport aircraft that was designed and initially manufactured by the Spanish aerospace company CASA. Work on what would become the C-295 was started during the 1990s as a derivative of the successful CASA/IPTN CN-235 transport aircraft. On 28 November 1997, the prototype performed its maiden flight; quantity production commenced shortly thereafter. In April 1999, the Spanish Air Force became its launch customer with an order for nine military-configured C-295s; two years later, the type was declared operational with the service. Further orders for the C-295 would promptly follow. Following the incorporation of CASA into the pan-European aeronautical group EADS in 2000, it was redesignated as the EADS CASA C-295. The aircraft has received orders from military and civil operators all over the world, from Canada and Egypt to Spain and Indonesia.
Beyond its use as a tactical transporter, the C-295 is capable of performing a wide variety of missions effectively. These included parachute and cargo dropping, electronic signals intelligence (ELINT), medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), and maritime patrol. Some of the equipment for adapting the aircraft to performing various roles has been mounted onto pallets, allowing for its rapid installation and removal. With cabin dimensions of 12.7 m/41 ft 8 in (in length), the C295 has the longest unobstructed cabin in its class. It can accommodate up to 71 seats, offering a much higher personnel-carrying capability than its competitors in this segment. For the same reason, it can carry much more palletised cargo (up to five 88 in by 108 in standard HCU-6E pallets) with direct off-loading through its rear ramp door. The C295’s STOL capability combined with a strong landing gear enable it to operate in the most austere locations with the worst conditions for take-off and landings.