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That defence profile… January 27, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Curious that there should be complaints about the Chief of Staff meeting the Russian Ambassador.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has spoken of his surprise that the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, met the Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, last Friday.

The minister said he felt the meeting was ill-judged given the crisis in Ukraine, even though the Lieutenant General explained it was just one of a series of meetings he was holding with ambassadors having just taken on the new role of Chief of Staff.

Mr Coveney made the comments at tonight’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

I’m far from an apologist for Russia, but it’s difficult to determine precisely what was ill-judged about the meeting. It appears to be entirely routine and although the situation in Ukraine is serous, as of yet that has yet to step up a significant rung (though some of those arguing that Russian movements there are – ahem ‘defensive’ seem to protest too much).

But this piece on Sky is useful because it raises questions about responses. The piece notes that:

With Simon Coveney’s strong rebuke, Ireland has fired a verbal broadside at Russia – but Dublin knows it lacks the military muscle or legal grounds to do much else. The Russian plans to undertake a major naval exercise in Irish-patrolled waters are seen as provocative, in the context of the Ukraine crisis. But under international law, they’re not doing anything wrong.

And:

It’s understood the Russian exercise will take place approximately 150 miles (240km) off the County Cork coast.

This is outside Irish territorial waters, although inside the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends for 200 nautical miles. Ireland has responsibility for this maritime area and patrols it with naval ships and airplanes.

And:

Ireland’s foreign minister also conceded that “we don’t have the power to prevent this happening”, and that is true in several aspects.

Which are:

Just look at some of the numbers:

• The Irish Naval Service only has nine ships, and is in the middle of a staffing crisis. Crew numbers have dropped by 25% since 1998, and at times up to half the ships have been tied up due to staffing, COVID and mechanical issues. In November, it was reported that Ireland only had one ship ready to put to sea.

• The service does not possess any submarines or advanced underwater surveillance equipment.

• Ireland does not have any fighter jets. The Air Corps operates a total of eight Pilatus PC-9M aircraft. These are lightly-armed propeller-driven airplanes that are completely incapable of intercepting Russian military aircraft.

• Ireland effectively relies on Britain’s RAF to carry out those missions. In March 2020, RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled twice to monitor Russian Tupolev “Bear” bombers that had entered Irish-controlled airspace off the western coast.

• Ireland is the only country in the EU that doesn’t have a primary radar system. If planes switch off their transponders, which Russian jets routinely do, the Irish authorities simply cannot see them.

 Assume we had double or triple the number of ships, that we had a submarine or three, that we had a wing of fast-jets. The cost-benefit ratio for all these is problematic, even on the terms articles like this present.

For a start were Russia to make any hostile moves it is worth considering that the peace loving Russian Navy has 352 active ships and 160,000 personnel on active duty. Their entirely pacific Air Force has just shy of 200,000 personnel and 4,509 aircraft (divided between 8 Bomber squadrons, 37 Fighter squadrons, 27 Attack Squadrons, 10 Attack and Reconnaissance Squadrons). Their Army has 280,000 personnel. Between them their armed forces are reaching up towards a million people – about a fifth of the population of this state. Let’s not forget their Airborne (72,000 paratroopers) and Strategic Rocket Forces. For yes, Russia is a nuclear armed state.

What multiples of our present forces would we need to deal with incursions into our airspace? And keep in mind that the United Kingdom despite having many more aircraft than ourselves still has to deal with precisely these issues. By the by the RAF has 832 operational aircraft. Yet that is not enough to prevent rather performative flights by Russian Air Force aircraft. As matters stand it seems implausible that the Russian aircraft would enter UK airspace, or Irish airspace either. Nor is this sort of performative activity restricted to the Russians.

But what of this state? As this post from way back when on the site notes even relatively wealthy states in the heart of Europe have found it difficult to provide around the clock air responses with fast jets.

What would fast jets do in response to the exercises off the west coast? They would fly towards them, circle some number of times, and then fly away. Perhaps they would remain on point surveilling the activities. But to what particular purpose What would our own flotilla do either? Steam out, stay there for a while and then steam back – actually that raises a question, are any of our vessels going to do that? Would having five or twenty make any great impact?

It seems to me there are better things we could be doing. A proper coast guard – we are an island nation. Perhaps some limited interception capability but no more than that. The one aspect of the report that strikes me as genuinely robust is the inability of the state to know through primary radar what the situation is in our airspace. That would be useful, and in the context of neutrality essential. But all that is a world away from what is playing out in the Irish media.

Comments»

1. Wes Ferry - January 27, 2022

If Ireland did have fighter jets, you can bet your pension that much of the media would periodically run a feature on how an expensive component of the state’s public services is sitting idle much of the year.

And apart from ‘intercepting’ Russian warplanes occasionally (to what end?), what would pundits have Ireland’s aerial strike force doing or threatening?

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Wes Ferry - January 27, 2022

Call up Kevin!

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Wes Ferry - January 27, 2022

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WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2022

Beyond parody. You have to wonder how smart these guys are.

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Wes Ferry - January 27, 2022

And this puts the ‘expertise’ of Kevin Myers lauded by his chum Mary Kenny in perspective.

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Fergal - January 27, 2022

Does this mean there’s a monument in Waterford that claims to be for the youngest allied soldier to die in ww1… (we don’t give a crap about any younger ones from the other side ….cos they weren’t on the right side)
Has it been amended?
Love to see a few ww1 monuments like this one, in France, around the country…translates roughly as ‘a curse on all wars’..
https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_aux_morts_pacifiste.

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6to5against - January 27, 2022

In response to Fergal, The Philadelphia Vietnam War memorial contains this inscription:

”By honoring these veterans the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial separates the warrior from the war, focuses on the valor and sacrifice of those patriots, and gives each of them a place in history”

I was always struck by how they (sort of) disowned the war itself while honouring the US soldiers who died. But I I’ve just googled it now and the honouring of the war seems to have been ramped up in recent years, with Sth Vietnam flags flying and various additional inscriptions having been added, which changes the emphasis.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

Does this mean there’s a monument in Waterford that claims to be for the youngest allied soldier to die in ww1… (we don’t give a crap about any younger ones from the other side ….cos they weren’t on the right side)

There is of course now a number of equally-euphemistic British WWI ‘peace parks’ around the country, typically with Royal British Legion and Decade of Centenaries money funding them.

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2. EWI - January 27, 2022

The reason there’s an effort to slap the COS back down is because the supposed ‘Russian threat’ is BS, and the banal routine of NATo, the Russians and everyone else conducting exercises – as they are perfectly legally entitled to do – in in international waters over which we exercise no sovereignty cannot be admitted, or else the whole silly balloon deflates.

As to ‘monitoring’ and ‘interception’ and all the rest of it; we already have maritime surveillance planes and naval ships (and just need some cheap jets for the airborne interception role). You don’t need ‘proper’ war-winning combat forces to fulfill this role, and we could not ever afford same. And not that we need to, unless we’re planning for conflict with the UK. The Russian forces are not a first or possibly even a second-rank power; the one aircraft carrier they had has both gone and fire and sunk within the past decade, and has only ever been barely seaworthy. They have no capability to sustain any kind of serious, non-nuclear war over long distances.

What we don’t have is a government committed to proper pay and conditions for young (and not so young) soldiers, sailors and airmen. I see that this is about to get much worse, with the Govt eyeing up Cathal Brugha Barracks for ‘housing’ (I wonder which developer or fund has paid in the brown envelopes on that one).

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EWI - January 27, 2022

*gone on fire

As of July 2021, Admiral Kuznetsov is out of service for a refit. In November 2018, it was damaged by a falling 70-ton crane from the floating dry dock PD-50 and a fire that killed two during the refit. The dry dock, which sank due to a power outage while holding Admiral Kuznetsov,[10] was vital to repairing the carrier,[11] which is not expected to re-enter service until 2022 at the earliest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_aircraft_carrier_Admiral_Kuznetsov

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3. John Goodwillie - January 27, 2022

It is at least gratifying to find that Simon Coveney’s comments were not intended for publication. But he should really be more careful. Criticising your chief of staff sounds like a call for a resignation.

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4. EWI - January 27, 2022

🙄

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WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2022

In fairness NATO exercises have disrupted whales and other sealife very badly in previous exercises (whales were stranded in Gran Canaria after an exercise in September 2002 and around the time of previous exercises from 1985 onwards, similarly in Scotland a couple of years back, and last year a NATO sonar exercise in the North Atlantic appears to have been responsible for the stranding of whales subsequently). I don’t blame people for being exercised about that, or indeed for fishing representatives for being likewise. I see they met the Russian Ambassador today.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

In fairness NATO exercises have disrupted whales and other sealife very badly in previous exercises

They have, and within the past few years as well. This gent (who has ‘consulting for Ukrainian organisations’ on his cv over the past decade) hasn’t been too concerned with those particular happenings, that I can discover.

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WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2022

Indeed not but that doesn’t invalidate the specific point.

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5. Liberius - January 27, 2022

The ridiculousness of the fast jets arguments is that unless you’re willing to shoot down other aircraft and start a war there isn’t much point having them at all, but then all the hawks, including the faux neutrality types, know this, it’s all about building up arms for their preferred purpose whether that be NATO membership or invading the north (as recent threads show that delusion is still a strong one in some quarters), neither of these are sensible and they should be fought back against at every opportunity. Complete disarmament is the only correct answer to this, scrap the army and transform the navy into a civilian coastal policing service supported by an Air Corp reconstituted as a civilian air rescue service.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

The ridiculousness of the fast jets arguments is that unless you’re willing to shoot down other aircraft and start a war there isn’t much point having them at all, but then all the hawks, including the faux neutrality types, know this, it’s all about building up arms for their preferred purpose whether that be NATO membership or invading the north (as recent threads show that delusion is still a strong one in some quarters)

No idea where the batshittery at the end came from, agree on the NATO part, and something cheap but fast is needed to keep not just Russians but the RAF (who apparently have agreed free reign) away from overflying this country at whim.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

*rein not reign, but perhaps appropriate

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Liberius - January 27, 2022

It was an observation based on the recent thread about invading the north back in the late 60s being “minutes away” before being called off, the point being that that was then an absurd idiocy that luckily never happened and would still be an absurdity today; “defending” the CNR population being logically the only purpose of any armed forces in an Island with almost no hypothetical enemies, who are they defending us from? Seals?

As to keeping the RAF away, would they care if we didn’t shoot anything down (which we won’t as that will start a war)? And no jets will ever be cheap enough if it’s just some puffed up emblem of nationalistic posturing, there are better things to do with state finances.

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Liberius - January 27, 2022

Slight amendment to the above, was meant to read what else rather than who else.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

who are they defending us from? Seals?

Historically the former National Army has been used as a gendarmerie for internal security, barring a very brief period of being treated as a proper military during the Emergency (and Haughey’s enthusiasm at the start of the ’80s). They are likely to become worth having again as the UK continues its slow falling apart, and probably soon enough Irish unity arrives.

As to keeping the RAF away, would they care if we didn’t shoot anything down (which we won’t as that will start a war)? And no jets will ever be cheap enough if it’s just some puffed up emblem of nationalistic posturing, there are better things to do with state finances.

Right now the Irish state has a policy of ‘see no evil’ as regards neutrality and in favour of NATO, in particular the US and the UK. Buying radars and planes would force us to actively police our airspace, and take away the current situation where the RAF claims – and has supposedly been given by the State – the right to enter our airspace at will and probably shoot down on their own initiative.

As to what you’re saying about shooting down, that’s not how that particualr game is played. There’s a whole understood dance and escalations all the way up to the very last resort of deliberately firing to damage or destroy.

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WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2022

Yeah, it is performative but I’d agree some capacity to deal with it is likely necessary. And I think it’s key to our neutrality to be able to at a minimum know what is happening off our coasts and in our airspace.

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Liberius - January 27, 2022

Historically the former National Army has been used as a gendarmerie for internal security, barring a very brief period of being treated as a proper military during the Emergency (and Haughey’s enthusiasm at the start of the ’80s). They are likely to become worth having again as the UK continues its slow falling apart, and probably soon enough Irish unity arrives.

You see that’s the point, if they don’t have any external enemies to deal with they become a tool of repression on the public whenever a government desires. I’m not interested in having armed soldiers roaming any streets at any point, there is no emergency that it should be necessary to threaten the civilian population into whatever line, any standing army is a threat to democratic order, just look at Burkina Faso, only a few days ago the army launched a coup, no reason to think our army wouldn’t do the same if they had the power and desire. Democratic order must always be maintained by civilian structures, internal security should always be a policing matter, and largely an unarmed one at that.

…take away the current situation where the RAF claims – and has supposedly been given by the State – the right to enter our airspace at will and probably shoot down on their own initiative.

As to what you’re saying about shooting down, that’s not how that particular game is played. There’s a whole understood dance and escalations all the way up to the very last resort of deliberately firing to damage or destroy.

I’d rather that money went to things that might actually improve real people’s lives rather than hypotheticals involving what the RAF might do, and frankly probably would do irrespective of the Air Corp’s capabilities, it’s an expensive coarse of action to maintain a fig-leaf of notional power over them.

And I think it’s key to our neutrality to be able to at a minimum know what is happening off our coasts and in our airspace.

WbS, I’ve no problem with that as long as it is under a largely unarmed civilian structure such as a coast guard.

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Liberius - January 27, 2022

I should add to that that I know none of you are going to agree with me on the Defence Forces being a potential threat to the democratic order of this state but that is the way I see it and I’ll never see it otherwise.

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EWI - January 28, 2022

I should add to that that I know none of you are going to agree with me on the Defence Forces being a potential threat to the democratic order of this state but that is the way I see it and I’ll never see it otherwise.

On the contrary. I agree with you. But whatever notions the scions of FF/FG families might have (and many do), the Department and PDFORRA have long had RACO by the unmentionables. I’m more concerned about their networking with other countries with more aggressive militaries and being drawn further rightward (US and UK in particular).

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EWI - January 28, 2022

I’d rather that money went to things that might actually improve real people’s lives rather than hypotheticals involving what the RAF might do, and frankly probably would do irrespective of the Air Corp’s capabilities, it’s an expensive coarse of action to maintain a fig-leaf of notional power over them.

It’s a nightwatchman role (twenty years ago we saw the worst-case scenario actually play out). But more than that, it’s an ability to enforce control of its own skies which no sovereign nation can do without, and not even one which still claims neutrality.

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Liberius - January 28, 2022

But whatever notions the scions of FF/FG families might have (and many do), the Department and PDFORRA have long had RACO by the unmentionables.

Wish I had your confidence there, for me the mere fact of having thousands of armed soldiers is a threat itself irrespective of anything else.

On the airspace front, don’t think we’ll ever agree about that.

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6. Alibaba - January 27, 2022

Somewhat off-topic but relevant to related issues and the request made earlier for clarification on SF’s position on the Ukraine and Russian naval and missile exercise controversy. The Phoenix, edition 28 January 2022 noted this:

‘ Despite SF’s long, strong-standing commitment to neutrality and an independent foreign policy, [Sorca] Clarke’s statement appeared to reflect the current cold war culture so prevalent in the west. Headlined,’Concerns expressed over reports of planned Russian missile exercise off Irish coast – Sorcha Clarke TD’, she attacked the government for warning in the 2015 whitepaper about the need to prioritise radar surveillance and then failing to do so.

She bemoaned the understaffed, underequipped state of the Defence Forces in the face of such Russian initiatives … and in a statement that no FG or FF defence minister or spokesperson could better, omitted to make any mention of neutrality. Mary Lou McDonald followed up with similar marks the next day.

One wonders what will become of the SF position on Shannon airport if it enters government and its opposition to the free run that US forces are granted to ferry troops and weaponry to various hot spots across the globe’.

To be fair, SF seeks a de-escalation of Ukrainian developments, but there is still lots more of concern going on here.

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Fergal - January 27, 2022

Out of curiosity why does the US use Shannon? Could they not go to Lisbon, London? Edinburgh? instead?

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WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2022

Or indeed NI.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

Out of curiosity why does the US use Shannon? Could they not go to Lisbon, London? Edinburgh? instead?

Middle of nowhere and away from prying eyes, can be easily secured, big runways but sitting there with little traffic, supine judiciary and government who will never ever cause problems.

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terrymdunne - January 27, 2022

Its been the guts of 20 years but I seem to recall cost being a major factor – at least during the mobilisation for 2003 invasion it was mostly commercial carriers contracted by the U.S. military who were coming through – it is one of the last/first places you can re-fuel before crossing the Atlantic (and as you say has very little traffic). It was used to transatlantic refueling for a long time before the use by the U.S. military. It is not security anyways cause security is next to non-existent.

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EWI - January 27, 2022

It is not security anyways cause security is next to non-existent.

There’s no large Muslim population nearby, so not a significant risk of either indirect or ‘direct’ actions being staged to interfere with US invasions and occupations.

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terrymdunne - January 27, 2022

They also use Prestwick in Scotland (another commercial civilian airport) and have heaps of airbases all over Europe.

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7. Gearóid Clár - January 27, 2022

We need another Tom Clonan article calling for this state to join NATO. Can we please have another Tom Clonan article calling for this state to join NATO.

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8. Paul Culloty - January 29, 2022

Plaice in our time!

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WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2022

Heheheh!

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