Hawaii part of U.S. restrictions on Russian surveillance flights

Sept 28, 2017
A Russian Tu-154 surveillance jet landed in August at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. CHUCK HAMLIN / STAFF FILE PHOTO

The United States will restrict Russian surveillance flights over the Hawaii Islands in response to Russia imposing limitations on U.S. observation flights allowed under an Open Skies treaty, according to U.S. authorities.

Some Russian surveillance flights have originated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, as did one this August that reportedly flew over West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Bedminster, N.J., where President Donald Trump was vacationing at the time.

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The United States will limit the distance Russian planes may fly over the Hawaii Islands, stop waiving certain Federal Aviation Administration flight restrictions for the Open Skies flights and no longer allow overnight accommodations at some airfields designated for Open Skies flights, according to the Pentagon. Additional details were not immediately released.

“We hope these measures will serve to change Russia’s calculus and encourage Russia to engage with us more constructively about our concerns,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza said in an email. “These measures are reversible should Russia come back into compliance with its Open Skies Treaty obligations.”

The treaty allows the United States, Russia and other participating countries the right to overfly the territory of the other in unarmed observation planes to ensure a nation abides by arms control agreements and to monitor military developments.

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The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the U.S. has concerns about Russian restrictions on American surveillance flights over the region of Kaliningrad — an area reported to have sophisticated weaponry — and objected to altitude floors over Moscow, among other complaints.

According to the Russia Today website, a Kremlin spokesman has urged treaty members to stick to terms of the agreement and raise concerns through the treaty provisions.