Defending Irish airspace

 

Sir, – After reading the article on our non-existent air defence capabilities in Saturday’s Irish Times, I thought it might be interesting to see how some of the other non-Nato EU member states measure up (“The ‘gaping gap’ in Ireland’s airspace defence”, Analysis, June 19th). It is difficult to get exact figures but what my brief research revealed is interesting.

Top of the list comes Sweden, with about 80 Saab Gripen fighters and 40 more, including an updated version, on order. The Swedish air force also has two airborne early warning and control aircraft and a number of electronic surveillance aircraft. It has an in-air refuelling tanker plane. Including helicopters, it has nearly 200 aircraft in all. Finland has 55 F/A 18 Hornet fighters, and Austria has 15 Eurofighter Typhoons. Outside the EU, Switzerland has over 50 fighters and is in the process of re-equipping its air force at a cost of around €6 billion Swiss francs (€5.48 billion).

The difference between those countries and Ireland is that they take their defence seriously. We, on the other hand, prattle about our neutrality while subcontracting our air defence to the RAF. – Yours, etc,

JOHN KILCULLEN,

Lucan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, The basic premise of the “Gaping gap’ in Ireland’s airspace defence” article is misleading, as it was over the recent months during which The Irish Times has been trying, with enviable persistence, to push the idea of the Russian air force being a threat to Ireland and international aircraft traffic in the North Atlantic.

Russian military aircraft have been carrying out routine training missions in the region of the North Atlantic for many decades (so do military aircraft of other countries). The flights take place in international airspace.

The aircraft at no point enter the sovereign airspace of Ireland, nor there are any plans to do so.

The issue of air travel safety has always been the top priority for Russia both in civilian and military aviation. The missions we have mentioned are no exception. They are carried out in strict accordance with all International Civil Aviation Organisation rules and regulations.

There is no reason, nor any intent, on the part of Russia to “provoke Ireland”. Both countries enjoy a positive and respectful relationship, which is advancing steadily in many areas. We do appreciate the important voice of Ireland in world affairs as well as its prominent place in the global economy, and we see the clear potential for the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

This time the issue of Russian “air threat” is played up in the context of discussions in Ireland on the future of its Defence Forces – an important and serious issue for any country. One thing we object to is the attempt to create a Russian “connection”. Russia does not and should not have anything to do with Irish defence planning.

One might conclude from the article that there is a different view in the UK political and military establishment, which is not content with ruining its relations with Russia and wants Ireland to follow suit, paying in the process at least part of the bill for British anti-Russian paranoia. – Yours, etc,

YURIY FILATOV,

Ambassador of

the Russian Federation

to Ireland,

Dublin 14.