Two Army APCs costing €2.6m in crash

 

Another Army Mowag armoured personnel carrier (APC) has been returned to the manufacturer in Switzerland and at least three others are out of commission awaiting repairs as a result of accident and engineering difficulties.

Two of the APCs, which cost around €1.3 million each, crashed during a junior command and staff course in the Curragh on the night of April 22nd. Four junior officers, all men, were hurt in the collision and one suffered serious injuries to his ribs and spine, requiring hospital treatment.

The Army said yesterday the accident happened during a night-time training course when one APC had to brake suddenly to avoid colliding with a civilian car. A second APC crashed into the rear of the other, damaging its hydraulically operated rear ramp which seized. A spokesman said the fuel tank was designed to disengage in an accident and did so.

The spokesman for the Defence Forces said three of the four soldiers were back on duty.

The APC, which received damage to the armour plating on its nose, has been returned to the manufacturers for repairs and inspection. It was shipped from Dublin yesterday. The Army said the other vehicle was being repaired at the Curragh.

At the start of the year, four of the vehicles were sent to Eritrea. The Defence Forces has a 100- strong contingent serving with the UN mission to oversee the ceasefire between forces in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Two of these vehicles developed problems which required the shipping of what was said to be small parts. However, as Switzerland is prevented from shipping any military equipment to either Ethiopia or Eritrea, there were difficulties in shipping parts out quickly.

It is understood the manufacturer has had to send the parts here, then the parts will be flown on to the Irish contingent. This is expected to take at least two weeks.

Last summer, four armoured personnel carriers were returned to the manufacturers in Switzerland after they developed cracks in their armour while being tested. They were said to have had "welding" problems.

As a result of this incident, a new warranty agreement was drawn up. The previous one-year manufacturer's warranty was replaced with a five-year one.

The cost for damage caused by accidents is not covered by the warranty and the damage caused to the vehicles in the Curragh will be paid for from the Defence Forces' budget.

In 2000, the Government entered into a contract to buy 40 of the Mowag APCs from the manufacturers in Switzerland. These have all now been delivered and the Government has an option to buy up to 40 more. Sources say it is likely that at least a further 20 will be purchased.

The Defence Forces have also encountered some difficulties over the supply of its proposed new fleet of medium lift helicopters.

A Government decision to award this €100 million contract to the US manufacturer, Sikorsky, is being challenged in the courts by the European helicopter makers, Eurocopter.

The Mowag acquisition represents one of the main elements of expenditure on a €300 million re-equipment programme for the Defence Forces. The Mowag purchase budget is believed to be about €80 million.