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Russia, Belarus To Conduct U.S. Overflights

Washington, 7 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. government has said Russia and Belarus will conduct their first Open Skies Treaty observation flights over the territory of the United States this week.

The State Department said a Russian Tu-154, an unarmed aircraft, is to arrive at Travis Air Force Base in California. A U.S. escort team will accompany the Russian team throughout the mission, including onboard the aircraft during the observation flight.

The Russian aircraft is equipped with optical cameras. 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 United States along the agreed flight plan.

The Open Skies Treaty entered into force on in 2002. This is the first observation mission the United States is hosting under the accord.

The United States has conducted 10 missions over Russia and Belarus. Russia and Belarus are scheduled to conduct two observation missions over the United States this year.