Russia is seeking permission to fly planes loaded with “high-powered digital cameras” over the United States. The U.S. and Russia signed the Open Skies Treaty in 1992, an agreement that sought to increase transparency by allowing 34 member nations to fly unarmed, observation flights over other member nations' terrains and collect information on military forces.
A State Department spokesperson told SCMagazine.com via email that Russia submitted technical data on Monday for its long range Tu-154 aircraft with a digital electro-optical sensor. The Open Skies Treaty requires a 120-day certification period for requests of this nature. “We will be evaluating the data in the weeks ahead,” wrote the spokesperson. “Until recently, all Open Skies flights were conducted with wet-film. Given challenges presented by wet film the Treaty permits aircraft to be equipped with digital sensors once certified by all States Parties. The Treaty establishes procedures for certifying those digital sensors to confirm that they are compliant with Treaty requirements.”
A June 2015 State Department compliance report warned that Russia has not met its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty. The report noted that Russia failed to “provide priority flight clearance for certain Open Skies flights, thereby preventing States Parties from effective observation of the territory of Russia in accordance with Treaty provisions.”