30mm cannon on US plane at Shannon

The controversial weapon on a US military plane that passed through Shannon Airport last month in breach of landing conditions, appears to have been a powerful, side-mounted 30mm cannon.

Earlier this week, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore confirmed that a US military plane carrying a “fixed weapon” landed at Shannon in contravention of conditions for such landings in Ireland.

It’s now known that an AC-130W Hercules turbo-prop aircraft, attached to the United States Air Force (USAF) 73rd Special Operations Squadron (SOS), landed at Shannon on Sept 5 and departed again the following day.

Located at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico USA, the 73rd SOS flies the AC-130W Stinger aircraft that have been specifically modified to include a precision strike package (PSP) for close air support missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Central to this PSP is a 30mm modified MK-44 cannon located low on the front of the fuselage in front of the wings. Photographs taken at Shannon on Sept 6 clearly show this weapon.

Admitting the unlawful breach, Mr Gilmore said: “This case was raised at the highest possible level with the US embassy. The embassy official explained that this isolated incident had taken place as a result of an administrative error, and assurances were given that steps had been taken to prevent any recurrence.”

Anti-war groups now say, since it has been shown that US aircraft are carrying weapons, the Government should order random inspections of military aircraft at Shannon. A spokesman for Shannon-watch, a group that closely monitors US military aircraft movements at Shannon Airport, said: “We must remember that we’re talking about an armed aircraft at Shannon, not a pistol held by the crew, or personal weapons like rifles and pistols that come through all the time. The aircraft in question has a 30mm cannon and it was sitting at the airport in Shannon.”

Shannonwatch’s John Lannon said: “The minister for foreign affairs cannot continue now with the pretence that the US military are not engaged in military operations when they come through Shannon. He’s got the evidence that should lead to decisive action to end Ireland’s support for US wars, and for military interventions not sanctioned by the UN.”

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