An air force of my own #3


Reading about some of the over-priced nonsense the military buys is maddening – but could you make better choices? In the third part of our series we burdened Thomas Newdick with the daunting task of re-equipping the air arms of a notionally oil-rich Ireland. Would his notional air force be combat effective? Good value for money? Most importantly, would it be stylish? 

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Air Force Procurement

Head of procurement: Thomas Newdick

Occupation: Editor of Air Forces Monthly

Nation to defend: Ireland

Year: 2018. In this thought experiment Ireland has found massive oil reserves. Oil rich and with a new government, Ireland massively expands their previously modest air force.


Glider trainer: Not necessary 

Twin-engined prop trainer: Embraer Phenom (12)

Jet/Turboprop/LIFT trainer: Pilatus PC21 (100),  Yakovlev Yak-130 (60)


Tankers & Transport

Light tactical: Modernised Antonov An2 Colt (40), Alenia C-27Js  Spartans (18)


Medium: Ilyushin Il-76MF (20) (re-engined with PS90)

Strategic transport: Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (12)

Tanker: Ilyushin Il-78 (re-engined with PS90) (12) – also used as Aer Lingus freighters 

Hack: Aforementioned An-2s

VVIP transport:  Convair 880 (1) (in emerald green scheme with silver shamrock on the top)


Presidential/Governmental Transport: Lockheed JetStar (5)

(with modern engines)

Other: None



(specify chosen munitions)

Fighter/Attack: Rafale M (140) with Meteor, Python 5, Hammer, Brimstone, ASMPA, SCALP, Kh-31ARM,

Attack, SEAD and long range interception: Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor (48), AIM-120, AIM-9X, SDB and JDAM

Close Air Support: Northrop Grumman B-1B Lancer (31) with all weapons integrated on USAF examples

Fixed-wing COIN and FAC: Super Tucano (24)

CSAR: Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk (12)

Other: None



Trainer:Kazan Ansat (24)

Light transport: Mi-35 updated by ATK (36)

Medium transport: 24 Kamov Ka-29 

Heavy transport: Mil Mi-26s (12)

Attack: AH-64E Apache Guardian (48)

Search & rescue/ASW: Kamov Ka-27 (48)



Intelligence & surveillance


AWACS/AEW:: Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye (10) (Joint force Air Corps/Navy)

ASW: EADS CASA C-295 (12)

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR): GlobalEye (12) (ON ORDER)

Maritime Patrol: MQ-4 Triton (4)

Reconnaissance: Rafale M force is equipped with TALIOS

Other: none

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Display teams

Fixed-wing jet: Silver Swallows with Fouga CM.170 Magister (4), Rafale Trio (one green, one white, and one orange)

Rotorcraft: Alouette III

Historical flight: Supermarine Seafire


Carrier aircraft

z4CCapU.jpg Based on three carrier. Assets pooled with Air Corps.

Fighter/attack: Rafale M (fleet shared with Air Corps)

AEW: Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye (10)

Tanker: Rafale are equipped with buddy-buddy tanks 

Helicopters: Pooled Helix fleet (see above)

Other: None

Misc Aircraft category

Air ambulance/police: Airbus Helicopters H135 (20)

Mountain rescue: Sikorsky H-60 Blackhawk (12)

Coastguard: Sikorsky S-92 (10)

HH-60_Pavehawk_helicopters_on_a_mountain_in_Alaska.jpg Air defence systems  S-400 Triumf, 2K22 Tunguska 0_cc42c_889508c9_orig

Air force defence regiment


Camouflage: East German rain

Standard weapon: SIG SG 550

Sidearm: Škorpion vz. 61 

Light support weapon: M249 light machine gun (LMG)

Heavy machine-gun: .50 cal Browning M2-HQCB

Sniper rifle: Sako TRG

Vehicles: Miscellaneous

Our verdict

Cost effectiveness & sense

The new Irish Air Corps/Navy Joint Force is the most powerful and best equipped air force in Europe. The vast prize tag is paid for by the new oil money. For Ireland’s current defence posture the procurement makes little sense, so it is likely this heralds the coming of a New Ireland, a powerful player on the world stage. It is extremely effective but very expensive, quite what the threat that merits this huge military investment is anyone’s guess — certainly a strong enough force to keep Iceland on its toes.


Political considerations

The Irish government have made some very surprising moves! Spurning British or British-involved aircraft was perhaps to be expected, but turning to Russia was a dramatic surprise. The Ilyushin transport and tanker fleet, combined with the large rotorcraft and trainer order show an unlikely new international relationship. The large US deals ties fit comfortably with Ireland’s long friendship with the United States. Becoming both an operator of intercontinental heavy bombers and ordering three supercarriers may alarm other countries in Europe.


Aesthetic appeal 

The luxury Convair 880 selection was brilliant as was the JetStar fleet, the return of the charismatic Magister simply divine. Scoring highly in this round.



The reopening of the F-22 production line for 48 aircraft? The Russian equipment? The B-1Bs? Utterly and wonderfully bananas. But not impossible



A strong score here. Going from from a handful of PC-9s, the Irish Air Corps is now significantly more powerful than its neighbour Britain.


Total score: 306/500

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  1. Big Brother

    B-1B’s for close air support? In an Arsenal Plane role, maybe, but you don’t need supersonic performance to be a smart bomb truck. They’ve got good low-level performance but are too expensive to risk in a non-permissive battlefield environment plinking pillboxes and tanks. And I’d like to see the naval expansion you think is gonna accompany those 3 big-deck carriers Ireland is gonna operate.

  2. duker

    Spurn UK equipment ? After leaving the EU, Britain might be less than welcoming for Irish agricultural exports, for its biggest market.
    There is an oil rich country in Europe much the same size as Ireland, its Norway and they sure arent wasting their wealth on ridiculous defence purchases. An Oil rich Ireland would even be less well equipped as Norway as they dont have a border with Russia. Even now its for good reason Ireland has minuscule air force and navy.

  3. Jim Smith

    Without reading more than the headlines, my first reaction was ‘Where does the money come from?’ OK, the answer is oil. Second question (reflected in the scoring) was ‘Who on earth is the threat?’.

    The New Irish Air Force would indeed be the strongest conventional force in Western Europe. Who are they going to take on? With this level of capability they could overreach any of the non-nuclear powers. If they really want to be a world power, however, they seem to have forgotten to go nuclear !!

    If they don’t have being a world power in mind, they certainly don’t need the carriers and the B-1Bs

    Some great choices though. I guess my biggest issue is to do with RealPolitik. There is no way the US will supply F-22 and B-1B to a force operating French aircraft, leave alone the Russian contingent.

    Would a CV-990 have even more style than a CV-880?

  4. Conor Quinn

    I am about to lose my mind over this. Why are there so many turbojets? Why so much Russian stuff? Where in God’s name are you going to put all of this? Unless you’re turning half the country into airbases, I’ve no idea where you could fly all of this from. Yeah, there’s oil money but oil money only gets you so far. There’s 4.8 million people in Ireland. At least 100k of them are in the air corps, and given you’ve granted us a naval service with multiple supercarriers, there’s likely that many in that too. There’s about 3 million people who are working age. 7% are in the air corps or naval service. Unless we’ve gone and invaded the UK and Scandinavia, the staffing requirements are nutty.

  5. Duker

    Looking at Ireland now, its % GDP spend is around 0.35% Thats right A 1/3 of 1 %. But even if you looked at a bigger spend say Switzerland , they are in a way the next step up and they spend 0.72%. As they are quite rich per capita that could be more than it sounds in comparison with Ireland. But no Navy and a citizen militia not a good comparison.
    When you have a land border with a super power, plenty of oil , but not tooo much, Nato membership, you can spend 1.5% GDP like Norway. They seem to have balanced forces, Army, Navy and Airforce. This is paid for by 5X larger slice of GDP than Ireland does now. Looks like about the level Ireland with Black gold would go for. Most of it for air and naval forces along the lines of Norway as your oil fields are offshore. perhaps they could be part of EU security arrangements like Sweden and Finland, so these forces have some real world experience and interoperability with Nato which includes Canada, US.

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