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Irish Air Corps
Aer Chór na hÉireann
Emblem of the Irish Air Corps
Founded June 1922
Country Republic of Ireland
Size 930 personnel
30 aircraft
Part of Irish Defence Forces
Main airbase Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel
Motto Forḟaire agus Tairiseaċt ("Watchful and Loyal")
Roundel Irish Air Corps roundel.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack PC-9M
Patrol CASA CN235-100MP Persuader
Trainer PC-9M
Transport CN-235, Gulfstream IV, Learjet 45, Beechcraft Super King Air, AW139, EC 135P2

The Irish Air Corps (Irish: Aer Chór na hÉireann) provides the air defence function of Oglaigh na hÉireann (the Irish Defence Forces)[1], in support of the Army and Naval Service, together with roles such as Search and Rescue and the Ministerial Air Transport Service. The principal airbase is Casement Aerodrome located at Baldonnel.[2]





The origin of the Air Corps goes back to the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks of 1921, when a Martinsyde Type A Mark II biplane was purchased and put on 24-hour standby at Croydon airport in order to allow Michael Collins to escape back to Ireland if the talks failed. The plane was not needed for this mission, and it became the first Irish military aircraft, arriving in June 1922.[3]

By the end of 1922 the Air Corps comprised ten aircraft (including six Bristol F2B fighters from the First World War), and about 400 men.

In 1938 four Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters were delivered - a further eight were ordered but were embargoed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

World War II

During World War II (or The Emergency) there is no record of Air Corps planes engaging any belligerent aircraft, although dozens of escaped barrage balloons were shot down. 163 belligerent aircraft force-landed in Ireland during the war, and in this way the Air Corps acquired a Lockheed Hudson, a Fairey Battle, and three Hawker Hurricanes.

1955 Defence Forces image of IAC de Havilland Vampires

The Hurricane gave the Air Corps a proven modern fighter, and - at peak - 20 flew in Irish colours.[3]

Post-war years

After the war, the Hurricanes were replaced by Supermarine Seafires and a few two-seat Spitfire trainers. The de Havilland Dove became the Corps' transport aircraft. The jet age arrived on 30 June 1956 when the Corps took delivery of a de Havilland Vampire T.55 trainer.[4]


In early 1963 the Corps took delivery of its first helicopters, SA.316B Alouette IIIs, of which seven remained in service at the start of the 21st century. During their operational lifetime, 3,300 people were assisted by the Alouette helicopters in their Search and Rescue and air ambulance roles.

During the mid-sixties and early seventies, the Corps played a part in expanding Ireland's film industry. Pilots and engineering staff participated in a 1965 box office success, The Blue Max. The fleet of World War One replicas, owned by ex-RCAF fighter pilot Lynn Garrison's "Blue Max Aviation", was based at Baldonnel - before being moved to Weston Aerodrome at Leixlip. Here the Corps continued its involvement, providing aircrew and engineering staff to support films such as Darling Lili, Von Richthofen and Brown, Zeppelin and a number of television commercials. Lynn Garrison was also responsible for coordinating the first demonstration of the Marchetti SF-260 Warrior at Baldonnel. As a result of this presentation the Corps acquired a number of Warriors.

In the mid-1970s the expansion of the "Ministerial Air Transport Service" (MATS) following Ireland's accession to the European Economic Community (now the European Union) led to the acquisition of the Corps' first business jet, a BAe 125-700.

In 1975 several Fouga Magister CM-170 jet aircraft were purchased secondhand from France. They were used for training, for the Light Strike Squadron and for the Silver Swallows display team. They were withdrawn from service in 1998 and not replaced, leaving the Irish Air Corps without any jet combat aircraft.

In 1977 ten SIAI-Marchetti SF.260WE Warriors were delivered for light training and ground attack roles. Four have been lost in crashes. In 1986 six SA 365N Dauphin II were aquired for the SAR role.

Recent history

IAC Dauphin II (since retired)
Formation flight of IAC Pilatus PC-9M
Overflight by IAC non-combat aircraft

As part of Ireland's obligations to the European Union, the IAC patrols 132,000 square miles (342,000 km²) of sea. The Air Corps previously employed three Beechcraft 200 Super King Airs for this duty. However, two of the Super King Airs were disposed of in the 1990s, and the third was allocated to transport duties.[5][6] Two CASA C235-100 maritime patrol aircraft now undertake these patrols - and were upgraded in 2006/2007 by EADS CASA to the FITS Persuader standard with enhanced radar, forward looking infra red equipment and a new electronic and avionics suite.

In its MATS role, following Ireland's assumption of the EU Presidency the Corps leased a Grumman Gulfstream III - which in 1990 became the first Irish military aircraft to circumnavigate the world. A Grumman Gulfstream IV was later acquired, as was a Learjet 45.

In 2004 eight Pilatus PC-9M trainers were delivered to the Air Corps. The Pilatus aircraft were the first Air Corps aircraft to break with an IAC tradition of using consecutive tail-numbers. The General Officer Commanding started the new Pilatus tail-numbers in the 260 series - jumping from tail-number 258 (a Learjet 45) to 260 (the first Pilatus) - skipping tail-number 259. The Pilatus is the first Air Corps aircraft to have ejector seats since the Vampire.

Two Eurocopter EC 135P2 Light Utility Helicopters were delivered to the Irish Air Corps (IAC) in November 2005. The first of four AgustaWestland AW139s were handed over to the IAC at Agusta's facility in Milan in November 2006.[7] Two of the AW139 remained in Milan to provide training for Irish pilots before being flown to Ireland in December 2006. These helicopters are another first for the IAC as they are delivered with the capability to carry door mounted 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns.

On 12 October 2009 an Air Corps instructor, Captain Derek Furniss, and Cadet David Jevens were killed when their Pilatus PC-9 crashed during a training exercise in Connemara County Galway.[8]



Aircraft[9] Origin Type Versions In service[10] Notes
AgustaWestland AW139  Italy Medium lift/utility/attack helicopter 139 6 AW 139 '278' Last one delivered Dec 08
CASA CN-235  Spain maritime patrol-limited transport role CN-235M 2 upgraded by EADS-CASA in 2008
Cessna 172 Skyhawk  France Liaison/trainer H 5 Three W/O
Eurocopter EC 135  Germany Light utility/attack helicopter P2 2
Gulfstream IV  United States Ministerial/Presidential IV 1
Learjet 45  Canada Ministerial/Presidential/medivac 45 1
Pilatus PC-9  Switzerland Trainer/light ground attack M 7 1 Crashed 12 Oct 09
In addition, the IAC operates on behalf of the national police force's Garda Air Support Unit:
Eurocopter EC 135T2  Germany GASU T2 2
Britten-Norman Defender 4000  United Kingdom GASU BN2T-4S 1
IAC Aérospatiale Alouette III. In use 1963 to 2007.

Recent equipment retirements

Replaced by the PC-9Ms, several SF-260WE Marchetti Warriors (the previous fixed-wing mainstay of the Air Corps College) were sold to a private collector in the United States - though one example was retained for the IAC's museum collection. Several other aircraft (including four Dauphins and one Gazelle) have retired from service, struck off the IACs aircraft register and sold to foreign buyers.

The Sikorsky S-61N operated by the IAC for Search and Rescue/Coast Guard operations was returned to CHC Helicopter - who now operate the S-61N in the same Coast Guard SAR capacity. As part of this consolidation to a limited number of supported types, and following the exercise of two further options on AW139 Utility Helicopters, the previous army support fleet, the Alouette IIIs, were "stood down" at a ceremony at Casement aerodrome on September 21, 2007.

The Eurocopter Ecureuil helicopter of the Garda Air Support Unit was replaced by a second Eurocopter EC 135 in January 2008.


The Air Corps' ranks are similar to those of the Irish Army. The strength is 850 all ranks.[2]



See also


  1. ^ The Irish Defence Forces are made up of the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF or P.D.F) and the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF or R.D.F.). The Air Corps are part of the PDF.
  2. ^ a b - Official site of IAC
  3. ^ a b - History page on official IAC site
  4. ^ The Irish Air Corps/Aer Chór na hÉireann at Scramble
  5. ^ IAC (102 Squadron) operates one Beech King Air (#BB-672 with tail-number 240). Two previously operated aircraft (#BB-376 and #BB-208, with tail-numbers 232 and 234) were sold in 1991 and 1992 respectively. See:,, and other sources.
  6. ^ Irish Air Corps website King Air page retrieved 2007-11-05.
  7. ^ Air Corps Fleet - Agusta Westland AW139
  8. ^ RTÉ News - Two pilots die in Air Corps crash - 13 October 2009
  9. ^ Defence Forces - Air Corps
  10. ^ "World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 15, 2007.

External links


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