Published on February 2nd, 2023 | by Alan Dwyer0
Air Corps Learjet to be Replaced by 2024
In response to questions in the Dáil on Thursday, Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin TD confirmed that the Irish Air Corps Learjet 45 ‘258’ will be replaced by 2024 at the latest, according to the Air Corps estimations. The Learjet 45 was delivered to Baldonnel on 19th December 2003 and was in operation from early 2004 as part of the Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS) fleet. It worked alongside the Gulfstream IV operating to mostly European destinations. The Gulfstream left the Air Corps fleet in early 2015.
During his question time in the Dail, The Minister for Defence went on to say, “The Learjet is currently approaching its natural end of life. Based on current serviceability issues, discontinuation of manufacturer support, and limited part availability for this type of older aircraft. In line with the public spending code, an interdepartmental high-level group of officials, the MATS review group, chaired by my Department, was established in 2021 to examine options for delivery of the ministerial air transport service. The capability of this service to carry out a broader utility role for the State, in terms of tasks and reach beyond Europe, was also examined. In situations like what happened in Afghanistan last year, there is a need for the State to have strategic reach.”
As the Minister continued, he did not rule out the acquisition of a second-hand aircraft to help fill the role, “the State needs a replacement aircraft that provides a broad utility role, including strategic reach in crisis situations and medical evacuation, as well as ministerial air transport. My officials will now move to progress to the procurement phase. A project team is currently being established and planning for a procurement competition for replacement capability will commence shortly. The procurement will consider both new and second-hand replacement capability. The outcome of any procurement competition will be subject to further deliberation and consideration in line with the public spending code.”
As the Minister finished his questions in relation to the Learjet, he raised the point that the aircraft has had a number of issues in recent times, “There have been issues with the Learjet. There is no point in saying otherwise. There have been serious issues with it. I am not prepared to stand over it. A replacement jet is required. In Afghanistan, we essentially had to depend on other governments to get places on planes for Irish citizens we needed to evacuate quickly. That strategic reach is important. As the Deputy said, medical transport and evacuation is also important, plus the numerous duties and ministerial obligations, for European meetings in particular, are such that we need to deal with this once and for all.”