NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
It appears the flight by Two Russian TU95 Bear bomber reconnaissance aircraft into Irish and United Kingdom controlled airspace was more disruptive than first reported and more dangerous.
We reported on the event last month and on allegations that the aircraft actually overflew Southern Cornwall. The latter allegation, made by two Cornish women, was strongly denied by the UK Ministry of Defence.
The incident took place on February 18th and followed a similar episode about two weeks earlier.
As with the previous incident the aircraft were detected by NATO search radar in the area of the Hebrides-Iceland gap. RAF Typhoon fighter planes were scrambled and escorted the to two bombers until they reached Irish air space.
The assumption then seems to have been that the Russian aircraft, as they had during the earlier event, would fly south and then loop back along the same route. However, the Russian planes flew close to the Irish coast just 40nm off shore (much closer than the 90nm logged during the previous incursion). It appears that at this stage the Irish Aviation Authority had to take action delaying aircraft flights and then vectoring other aircraft both inbound and outward bound from Irish airspace away from potential danger.
Then unlike on the previous occasion the Russian aircraft flew around the South coast of Ireland and up into the Celtic Sea. They eventually appeared over the Channel and a second interception by RAF Typhoons took place. This information seems to be at variance with an account given by the MOD to the Celtic League which seemed to imply that RAF Typhoons accompanied the Russians at all times.
The new information from Irish sources indicates this event went on for 18/19 hours.
The extent of the danger posed can be better appreciated if one considers the extent of transatlantic airspace that the Irish controllers administer – see map her:
Be in no doubt these were ‘airspace infringements’ under the terms of International Law. A EUROCONTROL definition of an airspace infringement is a ‘flight into notified airspace (controlled and restricted airspace) without previously requesting and obtaining approval from the designated controlling authority of that airspace in accordance with international and national regulations’ (Source IAA).
The fact that the Russians entered the Celtic sea is also interesting as this we believe would be a first for operations of this type and is not something that happened even during the Cold War (Indeed during the Cold War Russian aircraft never made such flights off or around Ireland confining themselves to probes along the East coast of England and North and Western Scotland).
The new route would also place the aircraft to north of the Cornish coast and seems to imply (if the MOD) account is correct that they then flew South of the Scilly Isles and into the Channel.
Clearly it was a much longer and more complex game of ‘cat and mouse’ that the Russians and British were involved in and the IAA admission of diversions, disruption and danger does beg the question did similar actions take place in the British controlled airspace?
Also despite the British firm assurance that no ‘over flight’ occurred the Russians are known not always to respect NATO countries sovereign air space as several over flights of NATO Baltic States have been reported since the Ukrainian crisis occurred.
In the meantime Irish government protests to Russia (following the first incident) have fallen on deaf ears and there are renewed calls from opposition Parties for a tougher stance to be adopted.
The issue has also highlighted the inadequacies of equipment available to the Irish Air Corps to deal with such military transgressions close to Ireland shores (from whatever source) with one newspaper (The Examiner) pointing out that other comparable neutral States (e.g. Finland and Austria) do have an air combat capability (see link):
Meanwhile the incursions seem set to continue as there is no easing of Russian-NATO tensions in sight.
Clearly the new information indicates that military aircraft dissecting transatlantic civil air routes in this manner, with their location effectively ‘cloaked’ by having warning transponders of, heightens the danger of possible collision with civil air traffic.
Continual forays of this type also increase the likelihood of an over raction fromNATO as during the Cold War when (with the boot on the other foot) several US reconnaissance aircraft were shot down when they strayed to close to Soviet airspace.
Meanwhile International air safety bodies have finally ‘lumbered’ into action and a meeting on air safety obviously prompted by these concerns was held earlier this week. Crucially the meeting included delegates from the Russian Federation (see link):
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur).
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