The Irish Army Ranger Wing (or Sciathán Fiannóglach na hAirm in Irish) is the special forces unit of the Irish Defence Forces.
The Army Ranger Wing is Ireland’s premier hostage rescue unit, and trains closely with the specialized firearms service of the Garda Síochána (known as the Emergency Response Unit or ERU). In any major hostage incident the Ranger Wing would be involved with the ERU in a supporting role. Some of the international special operations units the ARW has trained and operated with include the Swedish SSG, US Marine Corps Force Recon and US Navy SEALs, the Italian COMSUBIN, the Australian and New Zealand SAS, among others.
The unit’s official name is “Sciathán Fiannóglach an Airm”, which roughly translates into English as “Army Ranger Wing”.
“Fiannóglach” (representing “Ranger”) is an amalgamation of two words. “Fian” is closest to the English word “warrior”, and refers to the ancient band of warriors known as Na Fianna in Irish Mythology. “Óglach” means “volunteer” and refers to the name of the Defence Forces in Irish: Óglaigh na hÉireann
In the late 1960s and early 1970s a small number of Irish Defence Forces personnel attended the U.S. Army Rangers course at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. On their return, these personnel organized similar courses with the goal of bringing standards of training throughout the Irish Defence Forces into line with accepted international standards. Students on these courses were selected from among all ranks and units of the Army, Air Corps and the Naval Service and covered physical endurance, marksmanship, individual military skills and small unit tactics.
Formalising these standards and creation of the Army Ranger Wing resulted from the increase in international terrorism in the late 1970s and 1980s. The increased skills and endurance training of ‘Ranger’-trained personnel provided the perfect basis for the creation of a new specialist unit to counter these threats. The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) was formally established, in accordance with the Defence Act, by Government order in March 1980.
Command & Communication
The Officer Commanding the Army Ranger Wing is responsible for the Administrative, Disciplinary and Operational control of the unit, and is in turn directly under the command of The Chief of Staff at Defence Forces HQ. The Army Ranger Wing is on immediate call for operations throughout the State.
The ARW is equipped with state of the art SINCGAR, RACAL and Harris communications equipment, all of which have an inbuilt encryption and frequency hopping systems. It is also equipped with satellite communications, though it should be noted that Ireland is a neutral state and does not have its own military satellites.
ARW has a wide variety of roles, covering conventional warfare, anti-terrorist warfare and training for the Defence Forces
- Offensive Operations behind enemy lines, e.g. Securing of vital objectives, Long Range Patrolling – Raids – Ambushes – Sabotage, Capture of key personnel, Diversionary Operations
- Defensive Operations, e.g. VIP Protection, Counter-insurgency.
- Specialist Aid to the Civil Power (Anti-Terrorist Tasks)
- Standards, e.g. Testing and evaluation of military equipment, conducting specialist courses.
- Returning highly-skilled personnel to the Defence Forces on completion of service in the ARW
The ARW was deployed in Liberia following the Second Liberian Civil War as part of a peace-keeping contingent of more than 400 troops from the Irish Defence Forces, in turn part of a rapid reaction force for the United Nations mission in the country.
One of their most successful missions during this deployment was the rescue of a group of civilians captured by gunmen from renegade Government of Liberia forces. Acting on intelligence, twenty heavily armed Rangers were dropped by helicopter into the town of Gbapa. To avoid casualties among the hostages, the Rangers implemented a policy of non-lethal intervention and, after surrounding a 40-foot container containing the 35 hostages, rescued them.
In 1999, the Dáil voted to send the ARW to serve with the United Nations International Force, East Timor (INTERFET). Mandated under a UN Security Council resolution, INTERFET was a peacekeeping force deployed to restore security in the region, support and protect the UN Mission in East Timor, and to facilitate humanitarian assistance operations. The detachment of 30 ARW personnel was involved in peacekeeping duties with Canadian and New Zealand troops near the West Timor border.
As Ireland’s premier hostage rescue unit, operators from the ARW were deployed to Iraq alongside Arabic-speaking members of G2 (the military intelligence branch of the Irish military), after Irish journalist Rory Carroll was abducted. The Rangers were charged with liaison with U.S. Special Operations Forces in regard to a possible rescue operation, and to provide security to the Irish Government representatives who were attempting to negotiate his release. Their assistance was not required however, as Mr. Carroll was released a short time later.
In addition to standard issue weapons of the Irish Defence Forces, weapons used by the ARW include:
- Sauer P226
- Combat Shotguns
- Benelli M3T Tactical
- Assault rifles and Carbines
- Steyr AUG A2
- Heckler & Koch 33/SG1
- Heckler & Koch G36K/C
- Heckler & Koch HK53
- Submachine guns
- Heckler & Koch MP5 – Including MP5A3 and MP5K variants
- FN P90 (Not a standard issue weapon)
- Sniper rifles
- Accuracy International PM/L96 – Including L115 (.338), AI96 (.308), and AW50 (.50 Anti-materiel variants
- Light machine guns
- FN Minimi Para
- Denel vector 60mm commando mortar
- Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle – Including M2 and M3 variants
- Raytheon Javelin Anti-tank guided missile
- FN 7.62mm GPMG
- Browning M2 heavy machinegun .50cal
- Heckler & Koch GMG 40mm automatic grenade launcher
- Ford F350 (modified as Special Reconnaissance Vehicle)
- Land Rover Range Rovers (modified for Counter Terrorist duties)
- Yamaha 660 All-terrain vehicles
- KTM LC400 motorbike
- Armstrong MT350/500 motorbike
- Dräger LAV-7 Rebreather
- Klepper MK13 canoe
- Combat Rubber Raiding Craft
- Rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RIBs) (Delta 7 metre, Lencraft 5.1 meter dive, and Lencraft 7.5&6.5 meter intruder RIBs)