On this St. Patrick’s Day, what better post for a gun blog than to highlight the weapons of the Irish Defence Force, or in Irish, Óglaigh na hÉireann.
The primary firearm of the Irish Army is the Steyr AUG A1. They adopted this rifle in 1988. Part of the rationale behind adopting this weapon was that it was chambered in 5.56×45. Adoption of a rifle in this round put them on par with most of the armies of the West.
Rounding out the weapons at the platoon level are the M203 grenade launcher made by Diemaco of Canada and the FN MAG 58 general purpose machine gun from FN Herstal. They also are equipped with the AT-4 SRAAW disposable rocket launcher from Saab’s FFV Ordnance.
In the Irish Army, a company is composed of three rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. The weapons platoon is broken down into three sections centered around the platoon’s weapons. First, there is the machine gun section which uses a tripod-mounted FN Herstal FN MAG in 7.62×51. It is called the GPMG SF in the Irish Army. The SF stands for sustained fire.
The second section is a light mortar section using the South African Vektor M1 60mm mortar. This mortar is in use by both the South African Defence Force and the Irish Army. It can also be used with a smaller base plate and a special grip in a commando role.
The third section of the weapons platoon is arranged around the Bofors 84mm Anti-Tank Gun. It is a breech loaded and percussion fired weapon. Like the rest of the sections of the weapons platoon, the Anti-Tank Gun section is composed of three detachments.
The next level of weapons in the Irish Army is the battalion level where the weapons are both lighter and heavier than at the company level. Each battalion has three rifle companies, a HQ company, and a support company. It is this last company which provides battalion level weapons support.
The Support Company is composed of a heavy machine gun platoon, an 81mm mortar platoon, and an anti-tank platoon. Also attached to the Support Company are two Sniper Pairs or teams. The weapon of choice for the Sniper Pairs is the Accuracy International 92 sniper rifle in 7.62. This rifle is mated with a Schmidt and Bender scope. It is reported elsewhere that the Sniper Pairs have upgraded their sniper rifle to the AI AX338 in .338 Magnum.
The heavy machine gun platoon is equipped with the venerable Browning M2 .50 machine gun aka the Ma-Deuce made by FN Herstal in Belgium. The version the Irish Army uses is still equipped with iron sights. They also use the M2 as their primary air defense weapon for the battalion.
The motor platoon uses the Hotchkiss-Brandt 81mm mortar now made by Thales in France. The mortar is equipped with the C2 AI Sight and the Morfire Fire Control Computer.
The Anti-Tank platoon is equipped with the Javelin fire and forget missile system. This is produced in the US by Raytheon The Javelin can be used in either a direct attack or top attack mode.
It should be remembered that Ireland is a small country and that the IDF is a rather small force consisting of approximately 8,500 men and women. The two brigades of the Irish Army have a tripartite mission – conventional military operations, United Nations peacekeeping forces, and as an aid to civil power. In this last role, the Ordnance Corps’ Bomb Disposal Team is often called out the the Garda (Irish Police) to disarm explosives and handle unstable chemicals.