Aaron SteinThe Sensor Gap and Open Skies

Is there a sensor gap?

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron discuss the Treaty on Open Skies, Russia’s new spy plane, the sensor gap, compliance concerns, and the “taxi” option. The conversation begins with a general discussion about the Russian spy plane, before pivoting to a more general discussion about the continued value of the Treaty for United States security.

Jeffrey and Aaron discussed a number of articles during the podcast:

David Alee, “New Russian Open Skies jet, Tu-214ON,” McConnell Air Force Base, April 2, 2013.

Exhibit R-2, RDT&E Budget Item Justification: PB 2015 Air Force, March 2014.

Digital Visual Imaging System (Open Skies Sensors),” Department of the Air Force, October 23, 2013.

Briefing on TU-214,” Second Open Skies Review Conference, Open Skies Consultative Commission, June 22, 2010.

Jeffrey’s twitter #hashtag campaign to get the Administration to release a fact sheet. (#NOSENSORGAP!)

Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, Treaty on Open Skies, US Department of State, July 12, 2013.

AH Kats, “The Open Mouth Policy Versus the Open Skies Policy,” RAND Corp, May 1, 1959.

Sidney D. Drell and Christopher W. Stubbs, “Realizing the Full Potential of the Open Skies Treaty,” Arms Control Association, July/August 2011.

William Kristol, “A Secret Fight over Russia in the Obama Administration,” The Weekly Standard, April 13, 2014.

Adam Kredo, “Lawmakers Seek to Stop Russian Spy Flights,” The Washington Free Beacon, April 30, 2014.

Bill Gertz, “Inside the Ring: House panel moves to stop Russia spy flights over U.S.,” The Washington Times, April 30, 2014.

As always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes.


  1. Kevin (History)

    To answer your question about how it takes five years to get funding for the new US Open Skies aircraft go ahead a google the JCIDS process. You will then be impressed that it only took five years to get the money.

  2. krepon (History)

    terminology matters: it’s NOT a spy plane. That’s right wing blather. It’s an aircraft that does cooperative aerial monitoring.

  3. krepon (History)

    terminology matters: it’s NOT a spy plane.That’s right wing blather. It’s an aircraft that carries out cooperative aerial monitoring under agreed procedures using agreed sensors.

  4. krepon (History)

    Plus, guys, you’re not helping by framing this as a “sensor gap.” The digital camera would be operated so as to provide the same resolution as the old film camera.

  5. j_kies (History)

    Lets not forget economics and commercial support; its hard to get wet processing for film anymore at even hideous prices. The digital replacements are far less expensive to operate and provide arguably less resolution (densitometer scanning v oversampling). As a sensor geek, this is merely getting with current events.

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