In an attempt to promote transparency in military activities between the two countries, Russia will conduct an observation flight over the United States as part of the Treaty on Open Skies between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13, Sergei Ryzhkov, head of Russia’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, said Monday.
The flight will be launched from Travis Air Force Base in California and cover a maximum range of 2,640 miles. A group of U.S. specialists will also board the Russian aircraft to monitor the flight and to ensure that norms of the treaty are not violated. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Treaty on Open Skies allows 34 participating countries to carry out observation flights over each other's territories to gather information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities that are of concern to them.
“Within the framework of the international Treaty on Open Skies a group of Russian inspectors plans to conduct an observation flight on a Russian Tupolev Tu-154M-LK-1 observation aircraft over the territory of the United States,” Ryzhkov told Ria Novosti.
The announcement comes after a U.S. military plane reportedly conducted surveillance flights over Russia last month to capture images of the region’s military equipment. The mission was conducted amid increasing isolation faced by Russia following sanctions imposed against it by the U.S. and European Union over the Ukraine crisis.
“Most of the world has no idea this treaty even exists,” U.S. Navy Commander Chris “Half” Nelson, who was overseeing the mission over Russia at the time, was quoted by Military.com as saying. “Whenever I mention that Russians fly aircraft over the U.S. taking pictures, it blows people's minds.”
Signed in March 1992 in Helsinki, the Treaty on Open Skies came into force on Jan. 1, 2002. Russia ratified the treaty on May 26, 2001.