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Irish Air Corpsroundel iac

Humble but determined, the Irish Air Corps faces the arduous task of safeguarding a huge coastline. Aviagraphers joined the Gilze-Rijen Aviation Society for a visit to its home base Baldonnel-Casement aerodrome.

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The Irish Air Corps, or Aer Chór na hÉireann is a component of the Defence Force. It numbers around 750 personnel and they maintain and fly a fleet of seventeen fixed wing aircraft and ten helicopters. Onóir, Dílseacht, Buanseasmhacht; or Loyalty, Honesty, and Persistence, is their motto.

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Rarely ever seen outside their homeland is the fleet of Reims Cessna FR172H aircraft. Taken on charge back in 1972, they still look in pristine condition. The five survivors are used for training and liaison flights.

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Pointy end of IAC's stick is their fleet of eight PC-9/M aircraft that can be equipped with unguided rockets and gunpods. During our visit, they had just returned from shooting practice with these. Also note the red ferry tanks obtained by IAC to increase flight time for specific mission profiles.

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Largest fixed wing aircraft in the fleet are two CN235-MPA aircraft and a single Learjet 45. The former will see a lot more action when the Brexit comes into full effect. This will necessitate more scrutiny of the activities of their - then non-EU - nextdoor neighbour... The Lj45 is used for executive transport.

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The helicopter fleet has two main types, not counting the SAR service. The two green H135 are used for a number of surveillance, ambulance and reconnaissance tasks. The two white and blue Garda helicopters are also supported and have aerial support of all policing activities as their main task.

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Seen taxiing out on a troop transport mission, is one of IAC's six AW139 helicopters. This versatile helicopter can be used for SAR and surveillance as well. Usually, one or two are forward deployed.

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The small but varied fleet of aircraft is mostly maintained at Casement aerodrome itself. For depot-level maintenance, the machines are sent back to a manufacturer's service centre.

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Although the weather was not great, the bustling activity at the air base, the friendly hosts, the excellent condition of the aircraft that we could photograph from all angles, made our visit very worthwile. We very much appreciate all the support and also thank GRAS for arranging it and our fellow group members for the good company!