Military Use of Shannon Airport

Shannon Airport has been used by the US military on their way to/from Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. It has also operated as a stopover point for CIA rendition planes. All this came about without the permission of the Irish people. As a result we are all complicit in gross violations of human rights, the killing of innocent civilians, and unending cycles of suffering for millions of people.

Since 2002 over 2.5 million US troops have gone through Shannon Airport. The numbers were at their highest in 2005 when Shannon facilitated 341,000 soldiers on their way to war. The figures for 2012 were less than half that number, and the numbers for 2016 were less than half that again. However this decrease does not in any way diminish Ireland's complicity in war.


US Troops Passing Through Shannon Since 2002

2016 48,648
2015 63,549
2014 55,405
2013 69,840
2012 101,108
2011 250,000
2010 229,000
2009 265,000
2008 256,000
2007 263,000
2006 281,000
2005 341,000
2004 159,000
2003 122,000
2002 73,000


US Military Flights Through Shannon

US military flights continue to land at Shannon every week. The aircraft include U.S. troop carriers, U.S. Air Force and Navy C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, in-flight refuellers, executive jets and others.

Most of the US troops passing through Shannon are on board flights that are classified as "civilian". These are governed by the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation (known as the Chicago Convention). Most of the troop carriers are operated by Omni Air International or Sun Country Alliance. The Irish government has acknowledged that many of these aircraft are permitted to carry weapons on board (see Permits Issued to Carry Munitions of War through Ireland or Irish Airspace).

In addition to the US troop flights, aircraft operated directly by the US Air Force and Navy also pass through Shannon. Quite extraordinarily, the Irish government claims that these are all completely unarmed, carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives and are part of military exercises or operations. This is desipte the fact that in September 2013 a Hercules C-130 with a 30mm cannon mounted on the side was photographed at Shannon.

For a foreign military aircraft to land at at Irish airport or even to pass through Irish airspace, permission must be granted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 2015 he granted permission to 647 aircraft - the vast majority of these (approximately 90%) were for US military aircraft although a small number of permits were issues to military aircraft from Bahrain, Belgium, Egypt, France, Italy, Libya, Malaysia, Panama and Russia.

Year Number of permits granted for military aircraft to land at Shannon
2016 6451
2015 647
2014 741
2013 541
2012 666

1 On 17th January 2016, in response to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly TD to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade that asked the number of military aircraft that landed at Shannon Airport in 2016, the Minister said that his Department received 645 requests for landings by military aircraft at Shannon Airport. It is not clear if the Minister intentionally avoided saying that 645 planes landed, or if the number that were allowed to land was different to the number of requests.

Over 90% of the military planes that land at Shannon each year are US military planes. In 2016, 592 of the 645 military landings (92%) were from the US.

A much larger number of military aircraft, mostly from the US, pass through Irish airspace.


Permits Issued to Carry Munitions of War through Ireland or Irish Airspace

The Chicage Convention states that "no munitions of war may be carried in or above the territory of another State in aircraft engaged in international navigation, except by permission of such State". This only covers the so-called "civilian" aircraft that are carrying troops and cargo. In Ireland the Minister for Transport routinely receives requests to carry munitions from aircraft landing at Shannon or passing through Irish airspace. The vast majority of these requests are from aircraft chartered by the US military.

The number of requests made and permits granted to carry munitions are as follows:

2016 937 8581
2015 869 812
2014 606 584
2013 714 693
2012 821 807
2011 1393 1382
2010 1352 1307
2009 1306 1276
2008 1387 1359
2007 1517 1495

1 According to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, 53 permit requests were refused. Of these, 41 were refused on the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and 12 were refused at his discretion.

Of the 937 requests received in 2016, 873 were from the US - thats 93% of the requests. Applications also came from airlines from Ireland (16), Ethiopia (4), Spain (1), Azerbaijan (1), Switzerland (4), Turkey (2), UK (13) and Russia (3).

Of the 693 flights for which permits were granted, 357 landed in Ireland (mostly at Shannon); the rest were overflights.


Shannonwatch routinely logs military-related aircraft landing at Shannon. Not all landings have been recorded, but details of those that have can be made available on request. Contact us for more details.


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