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.