Russia will conduct an observation flight over the territory of the United States under the Treaty on Open Skies, Sergei Ryzhkov, the head of Russia’s National Centre for Nuclear Risk Reduction, announced.
The flight will be conducted with a Russian Tu-154-ON (Tu-154M-LK-1) observation aircraft, specially designed for Open Skies flights, and is scheduled from October 21 to 26 from the Great Falls International Airport in Montana. The maximum flight range will amount to 5,130 km.
The Russian observation aircraft will fly along the agreed route, and American specialists on board will monitor the use of special equipment and compliance with the provisions of the Treaty on Open Skies.
The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force on January 1, 2002, establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its 34 participants.
Aerial reconnaissance flights on the basis of the Open Skies Treaty are conducted in order to verify that the arms control agreements in force are respected by the overflown country. The flights can be carried out over the whole territory of the country with the only exception is for flight safety reasons (i.e, not for reasons of national security).
The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them.
The 34 state parties to the Open Skies Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark (including Greenland), Estonia, Finland, France, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed the treaty but has not yet ratified it.