Friday, July 30, 2010

Half-assed Magnificence: Irish Defence Procurement

Delightfully Waltish thread over at, detailing myths and legends surrounding the Irish Defence Forces. All the usual are there: the Rangers are banned from bars near the Curragh due to their homicidal tendencies, troops have to shout "BANG!" during exercises because we have no actual rounds (live or otherwise) for them to use, and that Naval Officers liked to tell visiting Soviet crews about Ireland's secret submarine. But also discussed has been Ireland's incredibly bizarre ability to hold helicopter procurement competitions which are usually won by the least impressive aircraft on offer.

First, at the beginning of the decade we had the competition for a medium-life helo contract between the Sikorsky S-92 and the Eurocopter Cougar. Bizarrely, the S-92 won, despite the fact that it had not seen operational service, while the Cougar was already in use, and was based on the tried and trusted Puma. This development had absolutely nothing to do with promise by Sikorsky to invest €148 million in a production facility in north Dublin, where many constituents of the then Taoiseach, Bertie "El Berto" Ahern, worked. However, this sweet deal fell through when Eurocopter, rather unsportingly, took the state to the European Court over the decision.

So the Air Corps soldiered on, sans medium lift helicopters, and its fleet of Dauphins eventually faded from service, leaving only the Alouette IIIs on the front line. Yes Alouette's, the helicopter in service before my Dad reached the production stage.

And then, Baldonnel was blessed with the promise of new helicopters. "Brilliant", said the airborne brass in blue, "we'll have some of those Blackhawks the Yanks are always raving about." Alas, the government felt otherwise. After all, if we were to buy Blackhawks, which have a scary name, and are used by such evil imperialist regimes as the US, Israel and Austria (Austrian bastards, going around like they own the place!), then we would upset Ireland's lunatic fringe of sandal-wearing, bike-loving hippies.

Instead, the boys and girls in Baldonnel got the Agusta AW139, a well-known military vehicle of mythical might, used by such powerhouses as the Ambulance Service of New South Wales and the Estonian Border Guard. Still they have nice leather seats, which will mean the Army Ranger Wing can transit to hostage rescue missions in comfort. As can any Ministers who need to use the helicopters for, I don't know, flying to their constituency to open a pub.

I'm just dying to see how our procurement process works in the purchase of new ships for the Navy. Smart money says that the Navy ends up with superyacht equipped with tennis courts and swimming pools ... you know, so the government can use it for a bit of a relaxing break when the Navy isn't deploying the "SUPERYACHT!" (for that will be its official name, "SUPERYACHT!" ) on drug-busting patrols.

No comments:

Post a Comment