Foreign military aircraft regularly enter Irish-controlled airspace unannounced, it has been claimed as details emerged of an incursion by two Russian ‘Bear’ bombers which flew within 90km of the Irish coast while “testing” RAF responses.
The long-range Tupolevs were shadowed by British fighter jets in a Cold War era-type game of cat and mouse which saw the giant bombers enter Irish-controlled airspace on a number of occasions last Wednesday.
Irish Aviation Industry sources said incursions into our air traffic control area — which extends to more than 480km off the coast — are a regular occurrence by military aircraft from a number of different countries.
Military aircraft regularly turn off their transponders, as the Tupolevs did, appearing as blips on radar screens which are unidentifiable to passing commercial aircraft and air traffic control.
The British summoned the Russian ambassador to explain why the bombers twice flew close to British airspace, first north of the Hebridies and then into the English Channel.
It is believed the Russians entered Irish-controlled airspace after first being spotted and again while returning from the south of England.
The Department of Defence said that non-controlled and non-notified flight activity by military aircraft is not acceptable. Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley called on the Government to seek explanations from both the Russian and British governments.
The Irish Aviation Authority said that no commercial flights were at risk in Irish airspace, adding that it co-ordinated closely with British counterparts during the incident.
Russian news agencies reported air force spokesman Colonel Ivan Klimov saying at no stage did the Russian planes violate any country’s sovereign airspace.
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