The Army run parachute training courses for selected personnel from all units of the Irish Army, Army Air
Corp and Naval Service. Because Ireland is a small neutral country there has never been a need for an airborne regiment, therefore there is no such regiment or battalion in the Irish Defence Forces. However the army has recognised the advantage of parachute training for it’s members and invites suitably qualified personnel to submit their names for acceptance. After an initial selection period the volunteers are sent through the usual physical rigours under the watchful eye of the Army Ranger Wing. After completing 5 basic static line jumps the newly qualified paratrooper earns his wings. The metal Silver wings are complimented by a cloth version for combat dress. 

Rangers in training (circa 1970's)

    After the wings have been formerly presented the ‘paratrooper’ returns to his parent unit and resumes ‘normal’ duties. Part of the Irish contingent with KFOR recently earned their wings when with 15 other contributing nations to KFOR they performed a multi-national solidarity jump at Bondsteel, Kosova. The jump was organised to celebrate the anniversary of the formation of the 82nd Airborne Division US – August 16th 1949.

East Timor.
Ireland and the UN
    The Irish Army involvement with the United Nations goes back to UN Observer Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL) in 1958 and they have had troops and observers in almost every hotspot in the world. They have been major contributors for the UN in the Congo, Cyprus and Lebanon, they also have a Non UN presence in East Timor, Kosova, Bosnia, Croatia & Yugoslavia.

Army Ranger Wing - East Timor 1999

Ranger takes cover behind rock pile.  Note the LAW strapped to back.

  • Eire Southern Irish Defence Forces Arm Formation Patch

    Ranger Training
        In the late 1960s and early 1970s a small number of Defence Forces personnel attended American Army Ranger Courses at Fort Benning, Georgia in the United States. On their return, these personnel were responsible for organising similar type courses which were aimed at bringing standards of training throughout the Defence Forces into line with accepted international standards. Students on these courses were selected from among all ranks and all Units of the Army, the Air Corps and the Naval Service. These courses proved to be very beneficial in improving standards of physical endurance, marksmanship, individual military
    skills and small unit tactics.

    Army Ranger Wing - East Timor 1999

Rangers come ashore from landing craft.

Army Ranger Wing
    The evolution of the Army Ranger Wing resulted from an increase in international terrorism in the late
1970s and 1980s. The kidnapping of politicians and businessmen as well as the hijacking of air and sea going craft was of considerable concern to democratic governments. European and other countries realised that conventional police and military tactics were not suited to dealing with this escalating threat. 
    The Army of the Republic of Ireland maintains a company of Rangers whose training is similar to that of the airborne rangers of the U.S. Army. The Unit is officially designated 'Sciath Fianch an Airm' , which is translated as 'The Army Ranger Wing'. There is no direct English translation of the term 'Fianch' so the designation Ranger is the accepted version. 'Fianch' links the traditions of the 'Na Fianna' (Legendary Irish Warriors) with the present day Irish Defence Forces (laigh na hreann).

Beginning in the late 1960s, the personnel from the Irish Defense Forces were sent to take part in the US Army's Ranger School. Graduates of this program returned to Ireland and established a new school, very similar in mission and organization to that of the US Army. Students on these courses were selected from among all ranks and all Units of the Army, the Air Corps and the Naval Service. These courses proved to be very beneficial in improving standards of physical endurance, marksmanship, individual military skills and small unit tactics. By 1980, it was decided that the skill level of the members had evolved to a degree which warranted the establishment of an official Army Ranger Wing (ARW). The missions of this unit are multiple, including long range patrolling, training of other units, VIP security, anti-hijacking, hostage rescue, and counterterrorism. These duties, specifically as they related to CT, are considered supplemental to Ireland's primary response unit, the Garda Siochana.

Unit strength is approximately 100 men who are organized into two assault platoons, a support platoon with medical, EOD, aviation, etc. Each of the assault platoons has five assault teams of 3-4 men each. These men are all volunteers, selected from other units already serving with the Defense Forces. Training includes at least three days and one night on the firing range. Advanced tactics are taught in parachuting, combat diving, small boat handling, and mountaineering. Interestingly, ARW members are returned to their original units after a set period of time, thus ensuring their expertise will be shared throughout the Defense Forces. The Rangers have received additional training from the Royal Dutch Marines and the U.S. Army's Delta Force. Operational control of the ARW is the responsibility of the Chief of Staff's Branch at Army Headquarters. The unit is currently located at Curragh Camp, County Kildare.

The Army Ranger Wing is an integral Unit of the Defence Forces. Its Roles are divided into Conventional Warfare roles and Specialist 'Aid to the Civil Power' roles. It also has an established role in the advancement of standards within the Defence Forces.

Conventional Warfare (Military Tasks)

Offensive Operations behind enemy lines :
  • Securing of vital objectives.
  • Long Range Patrolling - Raids - Ambushes - Sabotage.
  • Capture of key personnel.
  • Diversionary Operations.
  • Intelligence Gathering

Defensive Operations

  • VIP Protection.
  • Counter insurgency.
  • Training in and conduct of specialist operations.
  • Delay Operations

Specialist Aid to the Civil Power
(Anti-Terrorist Tasks)

Anti-Hijack Operations - aircraft, ferry, ship, bus, train.
Hostage Rescue Operations.
Airborne and Seaborne Interventions.
Search Operations - Difficult or dangerous specialist tasks on land or at sea.
Pursuit Operations over any terrain.
Recapture of terrorist-held objectives - Vital Installations, Embassies, Airports, Gas & Oil Rigs, Summit venues, Broadcasting and Government facilities.
VIP Security Operations/Close Protection of VIPs.
Contingency Planning to Counter Terrorist/Subversive Threat

Advancement of Defence Forces Standards

The ARW contributes to the improvement of standards in military and related skills throughout the Defence Forces by :
  • Testing and evaluation of certain military equipment for the Defence Forces.
  • Organising and participating in Defence Forces training exercises.
  • Conducting Specialist Courses.
  • Returning highly skilled ARW personnel to all Corps of the Defence Forces on completion of service in the ARW

      The Defence Forces was in a position to respond with a competent and highly trained Unit. The increased skills and endurance training of 'Ranger'-trained personnel provided the perfect basis for the new specialist unit. The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) was formally established. As part of the ongoing training the Unit conducts interchanges with Special Forces and Intervention Groups among which are The Royal Dutch Marines, the French GIGN, the Italian CIS, the German GSG9 and the Swedish SSG. Exchanges lead to international co-operation through mutual contact and evaluation of each other’s specialised skills. ARW individuals selected are of varying service within the Unit and specialise in areas such as diving, sniping, parachuting, medical or explosives.

Army Ranger Wing Arrive in Chad

At 10.45 this morning 54 members of the Army Ranger Wing of the Defence Forces arrived in the Chad capital N'Djamena constituting the first main grouping of Irish troops deploying to the EUfor mission in the region. A logistical operation to transport vehicles and equipment by air into the mission area via Antinov heavy-lift aircraft will begin on Saturday and continue over the subsequent three to four days.

On the arrival of their kit and equipment the Rangers will undertake a 900km journey east across Chad's arid interior to their operational base in Abeche. They will be working in tandem with other EUfor special forces and will focus immediately on identifying suitable base camp locations for the main body of Irish forces who are due to arrive over the next weeks and months. The Rangers will also assess the various threats that exist on the ground and their presence will begin the process of creating a safe and secure environment for the 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons along the Darfur border who remain the absolute focus of this mission.

The Irish Defence Forces Army Ranger Wing

Boat Handling

The Irish Defence Forces Army Ranger Wing

The Naval Service is responsible for patrolling an area of 132,000 sq. mls of sea which is the equivalent of four times the size of the island of Ireland. The sea conditions on the Atlantic coast are often extremely hazardous offering an operational challenge to the ARW which is trained to complement the activities of the Naval Service.

All ARW Combat Divers undergo a Boat Handling Course. On this course the student is introduced to the ARWs inflatable and semi-rigid craft. The Course subjects include Boat Maintenance, Global Positioning System Navigation, High Speed Handling, Interception and Boarding of all types of vessels in all weather conditions. The craft are also used as troop carriers in various roles for Maritime Intervention and Seaborne Operations.



The Selection Course is held annually by the ARW for potential new Unit members. It is open to serving members of the Defence Forces only. Candidates must be medically fit, have a good conduct rating, may be of any rank and must undergo a rigorous physical fitness test.

The Selection course is of four (4) weeks duration. The student must cope with physical and psychological pressures and is constantly assessed by instructor staff. The course covers Physical Training, Weapons Handling, Confidence Training, Mountain Navigation, Survival Skills and all aspects of special forces conventional tactics. Standards required are set at the highest level. Successful students continue with the induction process by completing an ARW Basic Skills Course, which is in effect a probationary period.

Basic Skills Course

The Basic Skills Course is of six (6) months duration where assessment of student suitability to serve in the ARW is detailed and continuous. Students learn all the new skills necessary for membership of the Units' assault platoons. These skills include :

Physical Training.
Advanced Shooting and Marksmanship.
Long Range Patrolling - Survival Training and Rough terrain navigation.
Hostage Rescue Tactics - House, Aircraft, Bus, Train and Ship assaults.

Specialist Training

Throughout the Ranger's career he/she will undergo further specialist training on a continuous ongoing basis ensuring peak of performance at all times. The Ranger will be trained to the highest level of skills such as helicopter rappelling, fast roping, boat handling, sniping, underwater combat diving, explosives intervention, close protection, parachuting and advanced navigation. These skills are unique to the Army Ranger Wing and affords the Unit much valued flexibility in contingency planning for operational tasks.

The Unit is supported by Defence Forces assets such as Air Corps aircraft, Naval Service Patrol Vessels, Army transport and specialised all weather military kit and high tech equipment. The availability of these assets enables the ARW to train for scenarios based on airborne as well as underwater and surface maritime operations. Training is carried out on gas and oil rigs off Ireland's Atlantic coast, in remote rural areas and in the urban environment.


One of the ARW primary specialist military skills is Sniping. Up to half of ARW members are fully qualified snipers. This affords the Unit a high degree of flexibility within its various roles. All potential Snipers undergo a rigorous seven-week Basic Sniper Course. On this course the student is taught the Sniper related military skills e.g. Shooting, Camouflage and Concealment, Stalking and Navigation. Having successfully completed this course the student becomes a fully qualified sniper.
Heckler and Koch MP5A3

Country of Origin Germany
Type Submachine gun
Calibre 9mm
Weight  2.55kg. (5.62lb) empty.
Length 0.66m ( 2ft 2in) with the butt stock extended or 0.49m (1ft 4in) with stock retracted.
Effective Range 200m (656ft)
Rate of  Fire 800  Rounds per Minute
Feed 15 / 30 Round Box Magazine
  Muzzle Velocity  400m (1312ft) per Second
The ARW is equipped with state of the art SINGCARS and RACAL communications equipment which provides the unit with secure communications between all it's elements and Defence Forces Headquarters.
Intensive exercises are conducted for selected personnel, sometimes in conjunction with Foreign Special Forces. The Unit trains its Snipers in Anti-Terrorist sniper military skills including Advanced Shooting Techniques, Urban Hides, Co-ordinated Shoot Procedures and Computer Data Transmission.

ARW Snipers are trained to operate in many environments and so the Wing is equipped with an array of specialist weapons to enhance effectiveness. Some of the weapons in use are :

Country of Origin United Kingdom(Accuracy International)
Type Bolt-action, Magazine fed.
Calibre 7.62mm ( .308)
Weight  6.5kg (14.3lbs)
Length 1.124m to 1.194m ( 3ft 5in to 3ft 11ins)
Effective Range 1000m (3280ft)
Feed 10 Round Box Magazine
Muzzle Velocity 914m (2998ft) per Second

The ARW conducts parachute training within the Defence Forces and all Unit members are proficient in this area. All trainees must successfully complete five (5) static line jumps from 2,000 feet using T10 round canopies to earn their wings. Selected unit members then progress to free-fall. Rangers who reach a high standard are sent abroad for HALO (High altitude low opening) and HAHO (High altitude high opening) training.

Most ARW parachutists are encouraged to compete in sports parachuting such as accuracy and relative work competitions. ARW members also represent the Irish Defence Forces in the annual World Military Parachuting Championships under CISM (Conseil International du Sport Militaire) .


Country of Origin Switzerland
Type Semi Automatic Pistol
Calibre 9mm
Weight  0.75kg ( 1.65lbs) empty
Length 19.6cm (8in)
Effective Range 50m (164ft)
Feed 15 / 20 Round Box Magazine
Muzzle Velocity 350m ( 1148ft) per Second
Advanced Navigation

From the beginning of the induction process each Rangers navigation ability is tested to its maximum. Effective day/night solo all weather navigation, over the roughest of terrain and at varying levels of elevation, is paramount to successful ARW missions. An advanced level of perfected skill is constantly demanded. Participation in military orienteering sporting competitions is encouraged and assists in honing the skill required for reaching and returning from mission imperative objectives. Equipment proficiency ranges from application of the basic map and compass to the more sophisticated Global Positioning System with computerised interface.



Individuals within the Unit are appointed and responsible to oversee the upkeep and maintenance of the best available medical equipment. It is a source of pride that each Army Ranger has the ability to care for casualties until they are put into the care of the emergency medical services.


Combat DivingSelected Rangers specialise in Combat Diving and must undergo a two week preliminary Diving Course under the supervision of the ARW diving section. This course involves an introduction to diving and diving equipment. Students gain water confidence and dive in varying conditions and visibility in preparation for the next phase of the course which is conducted by the Naval Service Diving Section at the Naval Base.


A1 96 (.308) Accuracy International.

Heckler and Koch SG1 5.56 mm.

The locating, observing and reporting on targets are essential skills of the ARW sniper. These three functions are complemented by the invaluable experience gained on front-line duty with the Irish Battalion serving with the UN in South Lebanon. The ARW uses state of the art Digital Technology and Burst Transmission Communications to transmit images and data


Every member of the Unit undergoes an Advanced First Aid Course, run by the Army Medical Corps. The syllabus includes Basic Trauma life-support and covers Intravenous Infusion and Oxygen Therapy. On operations and during training exercises the Units full range of medical equipment will be close at hand, ready to care for any casualties be they ARW personnel or others.

Foreign Exchange Programs

As part of the ongoing training the Unit conducts interchanges with Special Forces and Intervention Groups among which are The Royal Dutch Marines, the French GIGN, the Italian CIS, the German GSG9 and the Swedish SSG. Exchanges lead to international co-operation through mutual contact and evaluation of each others specialised skills. ARW individuals selected are of varying service within the Unit and specialise in areas such as diving, sniping, parachuting, medical or explosives.

Members of the ARW also take part in the Irish Defence Forces contribution to overseas Peacekeeping Missions around the world. Over the years these missions have included service in Lebanon, Bosnia, Cyprus, Iraq, Somalia and Western Sahara

ARW Personnel
UNOSOM II - 1993