The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) is to double in size as the Defence Forces responds to the perceived increase in the threat of international terrorism and implements last year’s White Paper on Defence.
The Rangers constitutes the Defence Forces’ special forces capability. Its precise strength is never disclosed, but it is believed to be significant by international standards.
Army, Naval Service and Air Corps personnel who complete training for the Ranger Wing are regarded as the fittest, most motivated and most able members of the Defence Forces who are capable of operating under extreme pressure.
Ranger personnel led what the Defence Forces has called the most complex land, sea and air joint exercise to date in the Irish Sea on Wednesday when Rangers responded to a simulated terrorist and hostage-taking incident.
In the exercise scenario, heavily armed terrorists had taken control of a passenger ferry, the Stena Superfast X, which was heading to Dublin Port.
As part of the exercise to regain control of the ferry against robust resistance, the Rangers also had to respond to a series of complex bomb scenarios, details of which they had no prior knowledge.
There is also an awareness of the need to provide a level of public reassurance that the Defence Forces are capable of responding to threats of this nature.
“While we are subservient to the civil power, there is no one else in reality who can do this.
“We train ultimately for a warfare scenario but operate normally one step down from that, with peacekeeping and assisting otherwise as requested, but we must train for this type of thing also,” said a military source.