Elite Army unit to get four armed helicopters
8th June 2004
The Irish Independent
FOUR new armed helicopters are to be used by Ireland's elite soldiers, the Rangers, giving a boost to the country's anti-terrorist capabilities.
It is the first time aircraft have been acquired mainly for use by the Rangers and it also marks the first time Irish helicopters will be armed to support their operations.
Up to now, the Rangers have had to use small Air Corps helicopters, some of them up to 40 years old, but now the force will have large modern helicopters on call.
The move comes amid a continuing security review of Ireland's defence capabilities after the September 11 atrocities, which saw a boost in the strength of the Ranger Wing.
It also reflects the use of the Rangers on dangerous missions like those in East Timor and Liberia where helicopters proved invaluable for inserting and extracting small Special Forces teams.
Such tactics would also be used by the 40-strong Ranger unit promised by the Government to the European Rapid Reaction Force.
According to documents sent to helicopter manufacturers vying for the contract, the four helicopters will have a primary tasking of training and operating with the Rangers. They will each be able to carry two four-man teams.