France to Conduct Open Skies Observation Flights Over Russia

France will conduct observation flights over Russia under the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies, the Russian Ministry of Defence said in a statement, Oct. 19.

According to the head of the Russian National Center for the Reduction of Nuclear Hazard, Sergei Rozhkov, the flight will be conducted from October 19 to 23 using a French C-130H Hercules observation aircraft operating from Kubinka airfield.

The Russian MOD statement said that Russian specialists on board the observation aircraft will monitor strict observance of the agreed flight parameters and the use of the observation equipment provided for in the contract during the flight along the agreed route.

The C-130H observation aircraft belongs to the class of aircraft not intended for the use of any weapons. The aircraft and the observation equipment (aerial cameras) installed on it passed an international survey, in which Russian specialists also took part, which excludes the use of technical means not provided for by the Treaty.

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).

Open Skies missions consist of Active Observation Missions, known as AOMs, which are the number of flights each party has the right to conduct, and Passive Observation Missions, which are the number of flights each party is obliged to accept.

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.

On May 21, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trumpannouncedthat the United States would be withdrawing from the treaty due to alleged Russian violations.

The “Open Skies” certified aircraft vary for each state party and include the Boeing OC-135B Open Skies (U.S.), Lockheed C-130 Hercules (Canada and France), CASA CN-235 (Turkey), Antonov An-26 (Hungary), Saab 340/OS-100 (Sweden), Antonov An-30B (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Russia), and Tupolev Tu-154M/LK1 (Russia).

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