The peace and human rights group Shannonwatch have called on the Irish government to avoid using the US military to help keep Shannon Airport open as it struggles to remain viable. In light of the recent Aer Lingus announcement that it was closing its passenger operations at Shannon, Shannonwatch call for a development strategy for the airport that does not include a reliance on the transit of foreign troops and their weapons to keep it open.
Today we photographed another US Air Force Hercules EC-130H 'Compass Call' at Shannon. There was one there two weeks ago on May 20th (see our report here), it had call sign AXIS12. Today's was AXIS11. It arrived at 10:56 and left again at 13:34. The aircraft registration was 73-1584.
We're back in business, photographing warplanes at Shannon Airport!
The most notable or notorious one today was this US Air Force C32B, registration 00-9001. It is one of two such planes operated by the 486th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Base in Florida and also Joint Base McGuire in New Jersey. It was using call sign KAPPA77, and had recently been in Oslo and Athens. It also passed thorough Shannon around midnight on 20th/21st May.
In Ireland many young drivers have been justifiably prosecuted for joyriding offences under the Road Traffic Act. On Tuesday 18th May we had a form of joyriding not seen before in Ireland, but there is unlikely to be any prosecution.
The joyriding was in the skies over Ireland, sometimes at heights of close to 3,000 feet. A US Air Force pilot in charge a massive C17A Globemaster III aircraft took what appears to be an unscheduled sightseeing flight path along by the Cliffs of Moher and over Galway Bay, before heading inland over Longford at a level of 8,000 feet and lower. It then flew on to Casement Aerodrome where it landed. The pilot informed Air Traffic Control that: “I am a native of Longford, Ireland and so we are just giving everybody out here a little hello from us."
At Shannon today we had a US Air Force electronic warfare and intelligence gathering plane. Its a Hercules EC-130H 'Compass Call' registration 73-1583. It came from Siauliai in Lituania, made a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, arrived at Shannon at 13.02pm and took off again at 14.56, flying to the Azores.
On the Wikipedia page the EC-130H Compass Call is described as an electronic attack aircraft. It is based on the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, and is heavily modified to disrupt enemy command and control communications, perform offensive counterinformation operations, and carry out other kinds of electronic attack.
In the past few days we've had three NATO air forces using "neutral" Shannon Airport to refuel and train. On Friday (14th May) a US Air Force Learjet C21A (84-0087 arrived) from Ramstein Air Base in Germany at 11.17am and took off again at 13.06pm heading for Hamburg in Germany. It was also at Shannon on 11th May.
Another almost identical US Air Force C21A Learjet number (84-0096) arrived at Shannon at 10.53, also coming from Ramstein. It took off again heading back towards Ramstein at 13.51.
Photo taken at Shannon in 2020
Omni Air plane number N234AX, flight number CMB501 on contract to the US military, travelled a very unusual flight sequence on Sunday May 9th. It took off from Hill Air base which is a major US Air Force base in Ogden, Utah and flew directly to Shannon Airport. It then went on to Charles de Gaul CDG, Paris, then to Mont-de-Marsan Airbase, also in France.
Mont-de-Marsan is a secretive test facility for French cutting edge aircraft and related weapons systems. Wikipedia describes it as home to two squadrons of Dassault Rafale, the most advanced French fighter aircraft. The base includes Centre d'Essais des Matériels Aéronautiques - CEMA (the French air force military experimentation and trials organisation), an air defense radar command reporting centre, and an air defence control training site.
From there, N234AX headed north and then took an unusual turn rather than land at Charles de Gaulle, heading as if towards Ramstein. It made another turn heading south east again.
The US military base at Shannon in "neutral" Ireland has been quite busy at the start of May. In the first six days of the month there were nine troop flights, all identifiable from their US Transportation Command "Camber" (CMB) call sign, at least three US Air Force landings, and stopovers by the Canadian Air Force. All in six days.
That's six days at a time when the Irish government is still advising against all non-essential international travel. Travel restrictions are in place to protect public health and to mitigate the risk of new variants of COVID-19 entering the country, they say. The Department of Justice has temporarily ceased accepting new visa/pre-clearance applications globally (with limited exemptions). And yet the US military is allowed to travel through Shannon every day.
We interested in finding out about a US Air Force Gulfstream Aerospace C-37B that landed at Shannon last Tuesday (13th April), stayed overnight, and left the following day.
Its flight history shows that it came from Dubai, and had a Special Air Mission [SAM] call sign. That means that it was probably carrying high ranking government or Department of Defense officials. What is also of note is that before Dubai it was recorded flying over Pakistan. No record of where it landed, but it was in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region.
Saturday night/Sunday morning last saw four warplanes refuelling at Shannon.
Omni Air troop carrier N486AX landed at 10pm on Saturday night having been in the Middle East and at several European air bases. It took off again at 5.46am on Sunday, heading for Fort Campbell KY .
Omni Air N207AX arricved from Norfork VA in the US at 2.46am (Sunday) and took off heading towards the Middle East at 7.16am.
Omni Air N351AX landed at 8.37am coming from Riyadh in Saudia Arabia.