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  World   Americas  11 Aug 2017  Russian aircraft creates buzz in Washington

Russian aircraft creates buzz in Washington

AP
Published : Aug 11, 2017, 3:50 am IST
Updated : Aug 11, 2017, 3:50 am IST

Tu-154M’s flight over Capitol, Pentagon cleared by U.S. under global treaty.

Tupolev Tu-154M
 Tupolev Tu-154M

Washington: A low-flying Russian airplane created a buzz in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, but it turns out the surveillance flight over the Capitol, Pentagon and other sites was cleared by the US government under a long-standing global treaty. The flight, which was filmed by the Associated Press, was permitted under the Open Skies Treaty.

The Russian air force’s Tupolev Tu-154M — similar to a medium-sized airliner — appeared to have left Moscow early Wednesday and flown through Reykjavík, Iceland, before entering US airspace around Virginia’s Chincoteague Island. The plane then made several passes around the D.C. metro area for about an hour at lunchtime. It also veered into Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, often at low altitudes.

Russia and the United States are signatories to the treaty, which allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of all 34 member nations. The flights are intended to foster transparency about military activity, reduce mistrust or misunderstandings and help monitor arms control and other agreements.

Dan Gaffney, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said he could not confirm the path of the plane until its mission was over. “A typical mission has several segments (flights) taking place over a few days,” Gaffney said.

But the US Capitol Police issued a heads-up, saying an “authorised low-altitude aircraft” would enter restricted airspace over the Capitol between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. “The aircraft will be large and may fly directly over the US Capitol,” the statement said. “This flight will be monitored by the US Capitol Police command center and other federal government agencies.”

Since the treaty entered into force in 2002, there have been more than 1,200 Open Skies flights. According to the Pentagon, the overflights are conducted by unarmed observation aircraft equipped with certain types of film and sensors that are certified under the treaty.

The Pentagon says that before the flights, each state is given the flight plan of the mission and an escort team flies aboard the aircraft to make sure it complies with the treaty. After each flight, the host nation gets a copy of any imagery taken by the observation aircraft.

Senior US intelligence and military officials have expressed concern that Russia is taking advantage of technological advances to violate the spirit of 
the treaty. Steve Rademaker, former assistant secretary of state for the bureau of arms control, told Congress in past hearings that Russia complies with the Open Skies Treaty, but also violates spirit of the accord. 

Tags: us government, dan gaffney, russian aircraft