Irish Air Corps

Aer Chór na hÉireann

 Formed in 1922, shortly after the Republic of Ireland was granted independence from Great Britain, the Irish Air Corps or Aer Chór na hÉireann in Gaelic, provides air support to the Irish Army. The service is not an independent air force as in many other countries, but the air component of the country's Permanent Defence Forces. One of the smallest air forces in Europe, the IAC uses only one base for its operations. 

The IAC's home is Casement Aerodrome near Baldonnel, close to the capital Dublin. Baldonnel houses a total of two wings with five squadrons between them. Apart from that, there is the Air Corps College which controls a Flying Training School. Furthermore, the IAC provides air support for the Gardai, the Irish police force.

Oddly, the highest performing aircraft with the IAC fly with the Flying Training School. A total of eight Pilatus PC.9M trainers were introduced from February 2004 in order to replace the SIAI Marchetti SF.260 primary trainers. In fact, the PC.9M also replaces the Fouga Magister which served as an advanced trainer and light attack aircraft until 1998 when it was retired. The PC.9M depicted at the right can be seen fitted with wing pylons for the carriage of half inch gunpods or 2,75 inch rocket pods.

The unit within the IAC with the most varied equipment and widest range of tasks is No. 1 Operations Wing. A total of five Reims-Cessna FR.172H light aircraft from nine delivered form the equipment of 104 sq which is part of No. 1 Operations Wing. Among the various tasks of this unit is army cooperation duties like reconnaisance, border patrol, light transport and liaison. In the past, the unit has also been tasked with escorting from the air road convoys transporting valuables. Up until 2002, No. 1 Wing was based at Gormanston airfield in County Meath, but was moved to their current base at Baldonnel in a major IAC reorganisation.


The Republic of Ireland has a sizable chunk of Atlantic Ocean to control. For this role, the CASA CN.235M-100 was put into service in 1995. A total of two were bought following trials with an aircraft leased from the manufacturer. The CASA's replaced the Be.200 in this capacity and have a comprehensive fit of equipment for their role. Note the FLIR pod under the nose of this aircraft. The CASA's operating unit is 101 sq which also comes under the control of No. 1 Operations Wing. The CASA has an eight hours endurance and can also be used for transport tasks.

102 sq is the VIP unit within the IAC and operates the Ministerial Transport fleet. This consists of single examples of the Gulfstream Aerospace Gulfstream IV seen left and the Bombardier Learjet 45 seen below right. In the past, such types a s BAe.125 and Be.200 have also been flown in this role. However, the BAe.125 was sold as the Gulfstream became available. The Gulfstream was the first IAC aircraft ever to cross the Atlantic.

The Be.200 which lately was used to train prospective Gulfstream pilots is no longer in use and is now stored in one of Baldonnel's hangars.

Although having a slightly shorter range than the Gulfstream, the Learjet is a useful aircraft for flights within Europe. It was introduced into service in 2004. Apart from a government transport, the Learjet can also be used as an air ambulance and is regularly being tasked in this role by the Irish Department of Health and Children. 

No. 3 Operations Wing is responsible for helicopter operations. Five Eurocopter EC.135's serve with 302 sq which falls under this wing. The EC.135´s have been delivered in three sub variants. There is one EC.135T1 and a pair each of EC.135T2 and EC.135P2. Seen to the left is one of the EC.135P2´s. The EC.135´s have taken over from the long serving Alouette III´s and count pilot training, army support, air ambulance and VIP transport among their roles. Service introduction was in 2002.


The larger Agusta Westland AW.139, of which five aircraft have been bought and introduced from late 2006, serve as medium transport helicopters. The AW.139 provided the Irish Army with a considerable boost in capability. It is capable of airlifting 14 soldiers in a troop carrying role. Operating unit is 301 sq. Like the EC.135, the AW.139 can also be used for VIP transport tasks. 

The Garda Air Support (GASU), also known as 106 sq, is being controlled by No. 1 Support Wing. This unit provides air support for the Irish Police. The unit operates three aircraft, one fixed wing Pilatus Britten Norman BN.2T-4S Islander and a pair of helicopters. Both are EC.135's, one being an EC.135T1 variant, the other an EC.135T2. Seen to the left is the single EC.135T1.  

Although small in numbers, the IAC fulfills a large number of roles. As can be seen this is being done with mostly quite modern equipment, only the Cessnas date back to the 1970's. The entire helicopter fleet was introduced into service after the turn of the century. 

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink

The author would like to thank the Irish Air Corps and in particular Sergeant Wayne Fitzgerald for enabling him to collect the images and information displayed.