Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Department of Defence

Defence Forces Operations

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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145. To ask the Minister for Defence the policies, procedures and agreements in place in the event of rogue, unidentified, non-communicating, non-transcending or foreign military aircraft operating without diplomatic clearance entering Irish sovereign airspace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35662/15]

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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146. To ask the Minister for Defence the position regarding the agreed respective roles of his Department, the Defence Forces, the Irish Aviation Authority and any other national or foreign agencies which have a defined and agreed role relating to the surveillance, security and defence of Irish sovereign airspace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35663/15]

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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147. To ask the Minister for Defence the agency ultimately responsible for co-ordinating the inter-agency effort to provide sovereign airspace security, including responsibility for civil and military de-confliction, in the event of an airspace incursion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35664/15]

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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148. To ask the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the arrangements for sovereign airspace security, including the respective roles of the different domestic and foreign agencies, are compatible with Article 15(6) of Bunreacht na hÉireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35665/15]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 to 148, inclusive, together.

In accordance with the legislative requirements of the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, all foreign military aircraft wishing to overfly or land in the State require the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Air Corps is not tasked or equipped to monitor and communicate with aircraft overflying Irish airspace, military or otherwise and irrespective of whether the transponder is switched on or not. However, on a routine basis the Air Corps monitors and communicates with foreign military aircraft where such aircraft are flying in the airspace in the vicinity of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, where air traffic control is provided by the Defence Forces.

The White Paper on Defence (2015) provides that should additional funding beyond that required to maintain existing Air Corps capabilities become available, the development of a radar surveillance capability is a priority for the Air Corps. The Air Corps’ existing Pilatus PC9 aircraft provide a very limited air to air and air to ground capacity. The development of a more capable air combat intercept capability will be considered over the lifetime of the White Paper update.

Separately, an inter-agency agreement between my Department, the Air Corps, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) defines how coordination is organised between civil and military authorities at the strategic, pre-tactical and tactical levels of airspace management. Coordination is achieved through the establishment of agreements and procedures in order to increase safety, airspace capacity, and to improve the efficiency and flexibility of aircraft operations. Actions in the event of an unauthorised penetration of airspace by unidentified aircraft are defined by international convention and outlined comprehensively in documentation from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). These ICAO provisions are replicated in the relevant unit procedures and manuals of Air Traffic Services at Stations of the Irish Aviation Authority.

All of the Departments and Agencies referred to above, as well as the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána who have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State, work closely together to ensure coordination in areas of mutual interest. In this regard, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has overall responsibility for the development and formulation of national policy in the field of aviation security, and for aviation security obligations under all national and international legislation. The National Aviation Security Committee meets regularly, under the chairmanship of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

As part of its role, the IAA exercises Air Traffic Control responsibilities for an airspace of some 450,000 sq. kms comprising of both sovereign airspace and also airspace over the high seas, largely off the western seaboard. All air traffic, both civil and military, is monitored and controlled by the IAA in respect of this airspace and in line with ICAO rules it is normal practice for the IAA to be informed by the relevant State of any military flights operating in Irish controlled airspace.

More broadly, the Government is briefed, as appropriate, by relevant Ministers and decisions sought as necessary on a range of issues relating to national security and this includes aviation security. In addition, the National Security Committee considers threats in a confidential manner on an ongoing basis.

I am satisfied that no Constitutional issues arise from the arrangements that are in place in accordance with our domestic requirements and international obligations.

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