Some of Ireland’s search and rescue (SAR) functions may be carried out by aircraft based in the UK, raising concerns among senior Irish military officers with regards to “intelligence implications”, reports The Irish Times.

It is understood that one of the primary concerns is the UK having access to Irish intelligence, reports The Irish Times.

“Irish officers are concerned about the intelligence implications of allowing UK-based aircraft to collect data over Ireland as they provide top cover for rescue missions.”

The outlet also quote a military source, saying:

“The main worry is control of the data. It’s not that we wouldn’t necessarily give this data to the UK if they asked for it. But if the planes are flying out of an English airfield we have zero control over it.”

This comes as private companies will shortly be asked to tender for a €60-million-a-year contract to provide a new SAR service to replace the current service provided by the Irish Coast Guard, CHC Ireland and the Air Corps.

“The winning bidder will likely be required to base four SAR helicopters at Irish bases. It will also be required to provide a fixed-wing aircraft or drone to provide top cover for rescue missions and be available on a 24-hour basis. The technical specifications for the contract have yet to be finalised but, according to sources familiar with internal discussions, serious consideration is being given to allowing the winning bidder to base their fixed-wing aircraft in the UK as a cost-saving measure.”

State ownership isn’t an option due to the costs involved and potential “risks to the state”, reports The Times here.

A presentation for potential bidders for the SAR contract last August made no mention of a requirement for fixed-wing aircraft to be Irish-based, you can read more about the contract here.

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So the Irish are concerned about data that if the UK asked for it they’d likely give to them. There must be a definition of paranoia in this somewhere……

Darren hall

But what would we say if the service was to help us and was based in France?


I suspect it’s a last ditch effort to get the Irish Government to stump up the money so the Air Corps and Coast Guard can carry on rather than bringing in a private contractor.


That’s the only logical explanation. Doesn’t exactly make sense that the Irish military have a real problem with Coast Guard aircraft when they outsource air defence to the RAF.


I agree, it simply illustrates how the Irish are prepared to fight in which to work inside the Country. Unlike the British who are more than happy to outsource work, in which to save money , but in reality end up costing more.

Last edited 4 months ago by Farouk

Yep, save a penny spend a pound or something….I’m sure we could get Dido Harding to sort it out….

Robert Blay

The UK SAR cover today is a far superior service to the one provided by the RAF/RN with the Seaking. Sometimes outsourcing is the way to go.


As is the service for Ireland out of CHC, since the Government was never willing to invest enough to either get the AC to do it right, or to be able to do anything else while trying to do SAR.


No, that area is already private with CHC, this is some sort of attempt just to try and deal with the ruling out of the AC for the Top Cover position of the contract.

Paul T

Bristow would fit the Bill,it could tie in nicely with their SAR Coverage of the UK ,or is that too obvious a solution ?.


I assume that is what it meant by “cost saving measures”. If Bristow did get the contract then they could base aircraft out of existing SAR bases in the UK where there has already been significant investment such as St Athan.

Otherwise, I can’t see the cost of operating an SAR aircraft out of an Irish airfield being substantially higher than out of a British airfield which was not previously being used for the purpose. Aviation is an expensive enterprise in both the UK and Ireland.

Last edited 4 months ago by Daniel

Spike Milligan springs to mind!

Jason Holmes

Or a Monty Python sketch!

Blue Fuzz

SAR assets (helos) based in the RoI have for years operated over NI and will no doubt continue to do so by mutual UK/RoI consent (and Irish Air Corps assets occasionally come North for firefighting, air shows, etc too). If RoI based assets can operate over the UK without any worries about the control of data, why is it suddenly an issue when things are the other way around?


Because some in the AC or former AC are upset that the new contract for SAR is ruling out AC involvement and some want to go back 20 years and are trying to use any argument they can.


Collecting intelligence from Ireland?? surely some mistake here? 🙂


Zing !! 🤣🤣🤣

Jason Holmes

Steal the recipe for Guinness ??


Cute, maybe you should take that up with your Government given they have been complaining about Russian Intelligence operations in Ireland.

Harry Bulpit

You have to feel sorry for the IDF. Given their history it must be a real insult for the Irish Government to then rely so much on US.


Hi folks hope are all well.
Interesting, what intelligence do they mean? I was under the opinion that we are allies along with the rest of our EU chums in respect to security gathering including the sharing of data if appropriate. The attitude adopted by the Irish military officers is strange to say the least.
A grude guess is that the UK knows about Irish military sensitive areas of concern anyway, what’s the big deal?

Daniele Mandelli

Morning George.

It is not about HMG learning Irish secrets, as we probably do, and could do easily if we needed to.

The Capenhurst Tower springs to mind straight away.

I read it as they are more concerned that the contractor in a UK location won’t enable the Irish to have the oversight they need.

To be fair, if the UK was in the same position, we too would be concerned.


Not really, the UK is to be cut out of all EU security info transfer schemes in December at the rate things are going. As to the position of the DF, whatever this story is is just related to the AC not being included in the Top Cover SAR contract.

Supportive Bloke

Really odd TBH as we can hoover whoever we want from the land based sites we already have.

With no disrespect to IDF what have they got that is so secret or we might be interested in?

The SAR Helo’s are non military and not equipped to slurp anyway… I’m lost as to what the problem is…..?

Daniele Mandelli

Does not need to be a military aircraft.

The Metropolitan Police operate Sigint aircraft, so do private companies on behalf of HMG.

I think if there was any intell collection they were concerned about it might be collection and analysis of mobile signals and such from the populace in a CT role, much as Northolts Islanders once did, more than any interest in the IDF itself.

Yes, we can “hoover” signals as you say, but not all of them, and complementing the “take with airborne and other platforms is always necessary.

All immaterial probably anyway.


Non story really, someone is just trying to change the position on the AC being ruled out of the Top Cover contract, but the reality is that short of major changes the AC can’t cover that anyway.

Rob N

If the Irish wish to complain about UK assets in Irish airspace they should fork out for their own aircraft rather then get the Uk to cover their funding gaps.

Perhaps they should start paying their way!


This is for a private contract that the Irish Government will be paying for to the tune of half a billion over ten years most likely. But rant on if you like.


Hundreds of aircraft take off from England and fly over Ireland every day. Who are these mysterious senior officers?


Most likely either exers that are still anger that the AC lost the SAR role back in 2003, or ones that somehow thought the Government would massively increase the AC budget… Non story really.

4th watch

Seem to me this is part of a much wider problem. Now the UK has left the EU there needs to be some sort of bilateral confidence building body to work at overcoming these on going problems.


Not really, I mean there’s issues of course going forward, but this is more just a move from either Exer’s or senior officers harking back to 2 decades when the AC lost the SAR role.


Rescue aircraft are now operating with signal collection from mobile phones and the like, so i guess one of the reasons.
Where does that data ends?

David Flandry

The UK wants that vital intelligence about the Irish Navy and the high performance Irish Air Force fighters and its 0.50m mm guns.

peter french

Its not April 1st is it. THe Irish fear we might gain Intelligence from the Irish
What on earth would we gain



Cute, maybe you should share that with your intelligence services given their concerns about Russian operations in Ireland.


Playing the race card again