U.S. to Conduct Observation Flight over Russia as Part of Treaty on Open Skies

The United States will conduct an observation flight over the Russian Federation on August 19-24 as part of the Treaty on Open Skies, according to Sergei Ryzhkov, the head of Russia’s Nuclear Risk Reduction Center.

The observation flight will be conducted by a U.S. Air Force OC-135B Open Skies observation aircraft.

“During the flight along the agreed route, Russian specialists on board the aircraft will monitor the strict observance of the agreed flight parameters and application of the monitoring equipment stipulated by the contract”, said a statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The OC-135B, a modified WC-135 Constant Phoenix special-purpose aircraft, flies unarmed observation flights over participating parties of the Treaty on Open Skies. Two fully operational OC-135B aircraft were delivered to the USAF in 1996 with the full complement of treaty-allowed sensors, which includes an infrared line scanner, synthetic aperture radar and video scanning sensors.

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 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.

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