Russia’s Aerospace Force had every right to perform an observation flight over Washington under the terms of the Open Skies Treaty, an official of the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency confirmed on Wednesday evening.
As the official said, the treaty allows participating states “to observe the entire territory of the other states parties.”
“The Washington, DC area is not excluded from this requirement,” he acknowledged. “Prior to an overflight, each overflown state is notified of the observation mission’s planned flight path.”
“Russia is allowed by the Treaty to conduct overflights at multiple altitudes,” the official said. “The United States and other states parties certified Russia’s aircraft and sensor for use at a low altitude, which in this case is approximately 4,000 feet (about 1,200 meters).
He emphasized the fact that the treaty “affords states parties various options for helping prevent unauthorized collection, including sensor capability limitations, pre-flight inspections, and on-board U.S. observers.”
“The treaty requires that Open Skies overflights receive prioritization over all other regularly scheduled air traffic. The conduct of Russian overflights of the United States is closely coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration,” the official pointed out.
For his part the chief of the DTRA Public Affairs, Dan Gaffney, refrained from specifying to TASS the current observer mission’s route.
“As per the treaty, we cannot confirm any locations until after the mission is over. A typical mission has several segments (flights) taking place over a few days; once this mission is over we can confirm the specific locations per your request,” he said.
US media said a Tupolev-154M plane of Russia’s Aerospace Force on Wednesday flew over Washington and its environs at an altitude of slightly above 1,000 meters while making a scheduled flight under the Open Skies Treaty. The plane equipped with monitoring cameras flew over the Pentagon, the CIA, the White House, the US Congress and a number of other US government facilities.