Arms, explosives and other material discovered in Co Armagh and described as a "major" dissident republican weapons cache were in an "advanced stage of readiness", the PSNI said on Friday evening.
The firearms and munitions were uncovered during a big two-day security operation at woods near Lurgan. The guns and explosives belonged to the dissident group, the "New IRA", it is suspected.
PSNI Supt Karen Baxter said the weapons bore "all the hallmarks of violent republican activity" and that the discovery had "saved lives".
“This for us is a significant find in the fight against terrorism. We appeal for any information that the public might have to come forward and assist us with this investigation,” she added.
"These items were in an advanced stage of readiness and some were ready to be used. All of these items will go in for forensic examination," said Supt Baxter.
A number of hides were discovered in a wooded area close to a derelict convent near the railway. During the operation, which is continuing, the Dublin to Belfast railway line was closed. It was reopened on Friday evening.
A fully primed bomb at the scene was defused by British army bomb experts. Police said the cache was uncovered as a result of an “intelligence-led” operation.
Among the items found were improvised mortars and rockets, homemade explosives, pipe bombs and three firearms and ammunition.
Material to make under-car booby trap bombs such as the device that claimed the life of prison officer Adrian Ismay in May this year was also uncovered. That attack was carried out by the "New IRA".
It is expected that more items will be recovered during the search operation.
The find follows the discovery of two dissident arms dumps earlier this year in Cappanagh in Larne and Carnfunnock Park, Co Antrim.
"It is sad in some respects that people are so intent on killing other individuals in Northern Ireland. However, I am pleased with the success we have had here today. We have worked extremely hard," said Supt Baxter.
“We have a number of ongoing investigations against dissident republican activity across Northern Ireland and this has been a really successful day for policing,” she added.
The chairwoman of the North's Policing Board, Anne Connolly, praised the police for the recovery. "It's a great result for the PSNI to find these firearms/munitions and take them away from those who would have used them to cause harm in our community," she said.
DUP Upper Bann Assembly member Carla Lockhart also praised the PSNI. "It once again should be a wake-up call to those in our community who want to return to the past, that the PSNI will continue to work to defeat the threat of dissident activity. Their actions have no place in our community," she said.
local Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Seeley said there was "no space for armed actions" in our society. "The fact that those would try to roll back the progress we have made as a society, regardless of who they claim to represent, will not be able to use these weapons, is to be welcomed," she said.
“I’m glad these materials have been discovered and taken out of circulation and cannot be used to endanger life,” she added.
Ulster Unionist Party MLA for Upper Bann Doug Beattie said the PSNI had carried out "fantastic" work. "The find of a substantial amount of arms and munitions is a major success and a significant blow against republican terrorism. Some of these devices were in the advanced stages of construction. Without a shadow of a doubt, their removal has saved individuals from death or serious injury," he said.