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A BRIEF HISTORY OF AERMACCHI AIRCRAFT IN THE IRISH AIR CORPS (Part II) A WHIFF of Cordite


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A BRIEF HISTORY OF AERMACCHI AIRCRAFT IN THE IRISH AIR CORPS

Cuid a do (Part II)

First part can be seen on irish forum

https://ipmsireland.com/a-brief-history-of-aermacchi-aircraft-in-the-irish-t3119.html


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A WHIFF of Cordite

The 1997 Price Waterhouse Review of the Naval Service and Air Corps recommended that the six MB 326 EI and seven SF260WE's be replaced with eight examples of a single type training aircraft system.
 
A requirement for a new aircraft had been identified.
The Swiss Pilatus PC-9M was the first choice, a propeller aircraft with no realistic attack capability in any meaningful sense.
The use of the MB 326 EI as a reconnaissance platform over the previous since 1977 had proven its worth, a capacity that the PC 9 could not cover.  

With the Aermacchi production and maintenance facility in Dublin, jobs were also under threat - most notably in Taoiseach Bertie Aherns' constituency. 
Regardless of the training and light strike / COIN decision, it was felt a reconnaissance platform was still required 
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This led to the development of the MB 326 EI-RE ( Reconnaissance and Electronic) starting in 1999, planned at two conversion per year with a planned domestic capacity of 4 with the hope of gaining foreign orders. 

 


The aircraft was developed from MB 326 EI airframes. 
Using spares purchased from South Africa the airframes were 'zero houred' in a major Service Life Extension Program (SLEP)

The first air frame selected was 220
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In 2002 a new low visibility camouflage scheme based on the RNZAF pattern was selected.


It was a mirror of the RNZAF style, and was applied as type B as with the historic Hurricanes in Irish service.
Also, in homage to the first modern fighters in the Irish Air Corps, the two tone roundels were chosen, this also aided the low visibility concept. 
 
New wing tip tanks were installed to increase range were sourced from MB 326 K / Impala airframes. 
New plumbing was installed to allow a greater fuel tank capacity

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The fuselage - as with the A4 Skyhawk - was enlarged using a hump to allow more sensors, computing and data storage space in addition to extra electrical power.

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The larger tail elevators from the 326K Impala also were installed to improve handling.

Visually the most apparent change in the air frame was a tail pod, designed to house electronic surveillance equipment. 
Unusually for a military aircraft, a commercial Stingray device was provided by the Gardai.  

All flight controls were removed from the rear cockpit to provide the sensor operator space.

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In 2007 the decision was made to deploy two MB 326 EI-RE to support the Irish UN deployment in Chad. 
Initial authorization for the mission by the Government was given following the UN Security Council in resolution 1769 of 31 July 2007
 
Two helicopters were leased to support ground operations, with the MB 326 EI-RE providing recon to the air mobile operations, checking landing areas etc.

 With the similarity in the theatre of operations, controversially, former SAAF technicians were hired from South Africa, as were advisors.
It was pointed out that they were some of the few people who had experience in operating the aircraft from primitive field locations.
The Irish UN contingent, as in the Congo 40 years earlier, had some bitter lessons to learn.
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In 2009, the loss occurred of an MB 326 EI-RE to a SAM 7 Grail fired by Janjaweed militia and probably provided by the Government of Sudan.
The Irish aircraft, without countermeasures suited to the threat environment, was withdrawn.
 

Unusually for a military aircraft, a commercial Stingray device was provided by the Gardai.  
This device led to quite a bit of controversy when it was revealed it was used in 2014 under the direction of the Gardai to carry out surveillance operations against journalists, some Irish MP's and GSOC representatives as well as some whistle blowers caused a controversy in Ireland.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_GSOC_bugging_scandal


UN Operations
In 2007 the decision was made to deploy two MB 326 EI-RE to support the Irish UN deployment in Chad. 
Initial authorization for the mission by the Government was given following the UN Security Council in resolution 1769 of 31 July 2007
 
Two helicopters were leased to support ground operations, with the MB 326 EI-RE providing recon to the air mobile operations, checking landing areas etc.

 With the similarity in the theatre of operations, controversially, former SAAF technicians were hired from South Africa, as were advisors.
It was pointed out that they were some of the few people who had experience in operating the aircraft from primitive field locations.
The Irish UN contingent, as in the Congo 40 years earlier, had some bitter lessons to learn.
 
In 2009, the loss occurred of an MB 326 EI-RE to a SAM 7 Grail fired by Janjaweed militia and probably provided by the Government of Sudan.
The Irish aircraft, without countermeasures suited to the threat environment, was withdrawn and replaced with 4 MB 339 EI which carried out the Aircorps first offensive military operations in 2010/11
 

TRANSFER
The remaining modified MB 326 EI-RE were eventually donated to Malta in 2015, with LE Aoife.
One stripped airframe was retained as a gate guard at Baldonnel as a memorial to Air Crew lost over the years. 

Their 2014 use in questionable surveillance operations of Journalists, the Garda Ombudsman, civillians and whistle blowers as well as elected officials in Ireland certainly hastened their departure.
Irish Air Corps pilots were seconded to the Maltese air wing which proved crucial during the Mediterranean Refugee crisis.
An additional re-conditioned 2 seat MB 326A was provided to Malta by the Italian air force to provide a suitable training platform, bringing the number of Maltese MB 326 to four.
The remaining modified MB 326 EI-RE were eventually donated to Malta in 2015, with LE Aoife.
Irish Air Corps pilots were seconded to the Maltese air wing which proved crucial during the Mediterranean Refugee crisis.
An additional re-conditioned two seat MB 326A was provided to Malta by the Italian air force to provide a suitable training platform.


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In the selection of a dedicated trainer for the Irish Air Corps, all indications pointed to the Pilatus PC9 but in September 2001, events changed course.  It was readily apparent that air defense should not be left with the PC-9, which was in military terms on a par of performance with allied aircraft …….. That is to say, on a par performance in terms of allied aircraft towards the end of the 2nd world war.
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On the afternoon of September 11, 2001 the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Bertie Ahern ordered the "heads of the security services of key government departments" to undertake a complete re-evaluation of measures to protect the state from attack. Hence, underway within hours of the 9/11 outrage in the United States was potentially the most far-reaching review of Irish national security in decades.
 
Among the initial aircraft considered were the BAe Hawk, but at a 2003 unit cost in the region of GBP 18m was considered too expensive.
There were also concerns about the lead in time involving the purchase, transition and training period needed to reach active service
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Other aircraft considered were the L-39 and in particular the L-159 at $9.5m with the Italian FIAR Grifo L multi-mode Doppler radar for all-weather, day and night operations, as well as it’s ASRAAM capability and fit to receive AMRAAM potential.
 
A third option seriously considered was what was referred to as the Austrian option – to lease, or buy and upgrade F-5E/F Tiger II with the option to buy and upgrade to S/T standard.
 
In 2002, during Ireland’s rugby tour of New Zealand, after quiet negotiations, it was announced that Ireland was to purchase 6 former RNZAF MB 339’s
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Their availability, cost and sharing a Rolls Royce Viper turbojet engine with the MB 326 EIRE was the major factor in the decision to purchase the aircraft, which had few air hours and a superb maintenance record.

In addition, the training and re-qualification of pilots to combat jet status could be achieved rapidly in the transfer agreement with the availability of the RNZAF instructor cadre.
 
For logistics and maintenance personnel, the transition to another very similar Aermacchi type from the 326 EI-RE was relatively straight forward. 
RNZAF personnel moved to Ireland for 6 months to provide training and advice.
 
After negotiations with Aermacchi, a maintenance deal was reached to retain the Warriors in service as the basic trainer for IAC, the aircraft was still in production.
 
In mid 2002 the MB 339’s began their long journey to Ireland, via Italy for upgrades to the aircraft.

In 2011 the MB 339 EI and MB 326 EIRE were retrofitted with in-flight refueling capacity for use with the Aircorps rather dubiously 'acquired' two C-130's which could provide tanker support ACH SIN SCEAL EILE (That's another tale) 

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COMING SOON - PART 3

MB 339 EI

 

BUILD NOTES TO FOLLOW

Edited by simonj
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Very good but they would have retained the tricolour bosses. 

Also it was considered but the cost of ordering a dedicated military radar system exceeded the cost of the jets themselves. Thus reducing their efficacy. 

 

I have personal experience of the inadequacy of the radar coverage. 

 

To follow up, most of the jets would be grounded, many to provide spares for the remaining aircraft. Particularly after a number of high profile accidents. Eventually they were sold at a knock down prices to an overseas Air force. Who upgraded them and put them back into service. 

 

But then again in some alternative  and frankly plausible universe your very well made models really exist. 

 

 

 

Edited by noelh
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Thanks so much for the feedback - means a lot.

At the moment I am cooped up on board a ship, in the US, and it looks like a relieving officer is going to take some time!!

Your comments really give me a lift

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On 3/19/2020 at 8:37 PM, simonj said:

Thanks so much for the feedback - means a lot.

At the moment I am cooped up on board a ship, in the US, and it looks like a relieving officer is going to take some time!!

Your comments really give me a lift

It's like the voyage of the damned right now isn't it!

 

My oppo lives in Canada...   

 

Fun times.  🙂

 

I'm all for breaking out the malts, medicinal and disinfectant purposes only you understand!

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9 hours ago, At Sea said:

I'm all for breaking out the malts, medicinal and disinfectant purposes only you understand!

 

I only drink on two ocassions: When I'm alone or when I'm with somebody.

 

 

Cheers!

 

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Chris

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Was reading something in light of the Russian Bears encroaching Irish airspace recently & why Ireland hasn't got anything to intercept any intruders & have to rely on RAF Typhoons.

Excellent back story & the model looks superb.

 

Martin

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 3/23/2020 at 4:25 PM, Lightningboy2000 said:

Was reading something in light of the Russian Bears encroaching Irish airspace recently & why Ireland hasn't got anything to intercept any intruders & have to rely on RAF Typhoons.

Excellent back story & the model looks superb.

 

Martin

Working towards it. Part 3 now up

 

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