A joint mission of the United States, Canada and Norway will perform an observation flight over the territory of Russia under the Treaty on Open Skies, according to Sergey Ryzhkov, the head of the Russian National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center.
The observation flight will be conducted on a Swedish SAAB-340 observation aircraft operating from Kubinka airfield from February 25 to 29. During the flight along the agreed route, Russian specialists on board the observation aircraft will monitor the strict compliance with the agreed flight parameters and the use of the monitoring equipment stipulated by the Treaty.
The SAAB-340 surveillance aircraft belongs to a class of aircraft not intended for the use of any weapons. The aircraft and observation equipment installed on it (such as aerial cameras) underwent an international certification, in which Russian specialists took part, which precludes the use of technical means not covered by the Treaty.
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.