Jeffrey LewisOpen Skies

The Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus will conduct their first Open Skies Treaty observation mission over the territory of the United States this week (The Russians have conducted some other missions prior to entry-into-force). The treaty, which entered into force on 1 January 2002, permits a state party “to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights” over other state party/’s territory for arms control verification and confidence-building.

The Open Skies Treaty is also slightly famous among the “black helicopter” crowd, which has the strange idea that the treaty provides the legal basis for some conspiracy or another.

Anyway, here is the fact sheet (which I don/’t see on line):

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Arms Control
Washington, D.C.
June 7, 2004

Fact Sheet
Open Skies Treaty — First Russian Observation in the United States

During the week of June 7, 2004, the Russian Federation and Republic of
Belarus will conduct its first Open Skies Treaty observation mission over
the territory of the United States. The Open Skies Treaty entered into
force on January 1, 2002. Since entry into force, this is the first
observation mission the U.S. is hosting under the Treaty. To date, the U.S.
has conducted 10 observation missions over the territories of the Russian
Federation and Republic of Belarus. Russia and Belarus are scheduled to
conduct two observation missions over the U.S. this year.

The Russian TU-154 is an unarmed aircraft that was recently certified in
accordance with Treaty provisions. It will arrive at Travis AFB, California
(a designated point of entry into the U.S.), and the mission will commence
from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

A U.S. escort team from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) will
accompany the Russian team throughout the mission, including on-board the
aircraft during the observation flight.

The Russian aircraft is equipped with optical cameras. The U.S. will
receive a copy of the imagery collected during the mission. Other Open
Skies States Parties may also purchase copies of the imagery from Russia.

The Russian team will negotiate a mission route of up to 3,750 kilometers.
The Treaty allows Russia, as the observing Party, to image any point on the
territory of the U.S. along the agreed flight plan.

For further information, please see fact sheets on the Open Skies Treaty at or