The government Lear 45 Jet pictured in 2016. Eamonn Farrell/

Government to spend €45 million on new ministerial jet to replace ailing Learjet

Tender documents state that the jet must have capacity for at least 10 passengers and an unrefueled range of at least 3,500 nautical miles.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS gone out to tender for a new €45 million government jet to replace the current ailing aircraft that has been plagued by technical issues. 

It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told The Journal in Brussels last month that it was taking a “long time” to procure a new jet to replace the Learjet, which was purchased in 2004. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin confirmed earlier this year that he had signed off on a plan to buy a new jet, saying at the time that there had been “serious issues” with the Learjet and that it was reaching its natural “end of life cycle”. 

Most recently, the Taoiseach had to make alternative travel arrangements to get to Brussels last month for the European Council meeting due to the Learjet and the Air Corps PC-12 plane being out of action.

In tender documents published yesterday, the Department of Defence announced the competition for a new jet aircraft for the Irish Air Corps “for Ministerial Air Transport and broader utility use”. 

It said the new jet must have a basic minimum of two engines, an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), capacity for at least 10 passengers and an unrefueled range of at least 3,500 nautical miles. 

It must also have the capability of “being fitted with a Defensive Aid Suite (DAS)”, a military aircraft system designed to protect planes from attack by surface-to-air missiles and guided anti-aircraft artillery.

The contracted supplier will be required to provide training for crew, including pilots, flight attendants and maintenance personnel.

The documents state that while the new jet will be used primarily for the transport of Government ministers, it may also be used for the evacuation of Irish citizens from “critical situations” abroad.

It states that it could also be used for “the medical evacuation or repatriation of Irish Defence Forces personnel deployed on overseas missions, logistics support for transport of sensitive material/resupplies to Defence Forces overseas missions, and air ambulance patient transfers”. 

The new jet is estimated to cost €45.4 million excluding VAT, the document states. The deadline for prospective suppliers to respond to the advertisement is 13 December.

The Air Corps Learjet was purchased in 2004 and has been in operation since then. It only has the capacity to fly to the European region and does not travel long-haul. 

Last year, the Government was advised that a replacement plane was needed following a number of technical issues with the Learjet. 

It is understood the government had to lease a private jet to get the Taoiseach and his delegation to Brussels last month when the Learjet was “out of action”. 

In the same week, issues with the government jet and the Air Corps PC-12 plane, which was being used as a substitute, also led to travel disruption for the Tánaiste Micheál Martin this week, who was stuck in Luxembourg as a result

The Tánaiste had to take a commercial flight back to Ireland due to the problem.

Speaking last month, the Taoiseach said it was “very important” that “it’s not seen just as a government jet – it’s about being able to get to the US, being able to get to Lebanon, so we can connect with our military over there, and also evacuate citizens as needed.

“So certainly not just for ministers.”

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