Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 190 together.
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.
It remains Government policy, as per the 2015 White Paper on Defence, that should additional funding, beyond that provided for in existing plans, becomes available the development of a radar surveillance capability will be considered. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence, reinforced by the White Paper Update 2019, as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process.
The Equipment Development Plan (EDP) published in June 2020 provides a comprehensive list of planned equipment projects to be advanced over the next five years. The EDP includes reference to a primary radar project. Consideration of this project will be prioritised should additional appropriate funding become available. The overall priorities in the EDP will remain under review as it is progressively implemented and taking account of funding availability.
Acquisition of primary radar capability would have to be assessed against the significant investment of public funds, in respect of both the initial investment and the on-going operational costs, which would have to be considered alongside other spending priorities and the nature of the threats Ireland faces.
In terms of Ireland's area of responsibility, Article 1 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation's convention, states that “every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory”. The IAA exercises Air Traffic Control responsibilities for an airspace of some 450,000 sq. km 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.