Author: Ian French

Photographers: Ian French & Jon Astley

The National Army Air Service was established during the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks of 1921 and came into being in March 1922. Following a reorganisation in 1924 it was renamed the Irish Army Air Corps.  

The first jet aircraft, the Vampire T55, arrived in 1956 and the first helicopter, the Alouette III, arrived in 1963.  The IAAC expanded in the 1970s when Ireland joined the EEC and a business jet (a BAe125) and more trainers (Magisters and SF260WEs) were acquired. 

In the 1990s the IAAC was renamed the Irish Air Corps and lost its link to the Army.  Today, it provides military support to the Army and Naval Services, together with non-military air services such as Garda air support, air ambulance, fisheries protection and the Ministerial Air Transport Service.  The PC-9Ms and AW139s can be armed.  The order of battle was revised in 2002 to consist of two operational wings and the Air Corps College.  All units are based at Baldonnel-Casement Aerodrome.

The images above from left to right are the Flying Training School crest, the centenary plaque presented in March 2022 and the centenary markings which are based on the Silver Swallows display team markings used by the Magisters from 1986 to 1998.

The Irish Air Corps is currently organised as follows (aircraft and helicopter types operated in the last 50-60 years are also listed):

1 Operations Wing 

101 Squadron – Maritime surveillance and airlift 

Aircraft operated: B200 1977-1992 & CN235 from 1991.  The CN235 is due to be replaced by the CASA 295 in 2022

102 Squadron – VIP transport 

Aircraft operated: Dove 1953-1980, BAe125 1979-1992, Gulf III 1990-1992, Gulf IV 1992-2015, B200 1992-2010 & Learjet 45 from 2003 

103 Squadron – Engineering, no aircraft operated

104 Squadron – Army Co-operation 

Aircraft operated: CR172 1972-2019 & PC-12 from 2020 

105 Squadron – Defence Forces Photographic Section, no aircraft operated 

3 Operations Wing 

301 Tactical Helicopter Squadron formed in 1962 

Helicopters operated: SA316B 1963-2007, SA330J 1981-1983, SA365F 1986-2005 & AW139 from 2006 

302 Training & Surveillance Squadron 

Helicopters operated: EC135P from 2005 

303 (Maintenance & Deployment) Squadron.  This became a non flying squadron after the withdrawal of the Gazelle. 

Helicopters operated: SA342L 1979-2005 

304 Garda Air Support Unit formed in 1997 (this was 106 Squadron) 

Aircraft operated: BN-2T from 1997,  AS355N 1997-2008 & EC135T1 from 2002

Air Corps College 

Flying Training School 

Aircraft operated: DHC-1 1952-1983, Vampire 1956-1976, Provost T51/53 1954-1978, CM170 1975-1998, SF260W 1977-2004 & PC-9M from 2004 

Aviation Press would like to thank the Irish Air Corps and in particular Corporal David O’Dowd and Operations Sergeant Neville Coughlan for their assistance and generous hospitality.

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