New Russian Open Skies jet, Tu-214ON

  • Published
  • By David Allee
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing International Treaty Compliance Office
The Open Skies Treaty permits each of the 34 participating states to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation flights over the territories of its signatories.

The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them.

Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts to date to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities.

McConnell Air Force Base serves as one of four main Continental U.S. Open Skies Airfields and one of seven refueling airfields for host base support.

The Russian Federation is set to showcase the new Open Skies Tu-214ON aircraft in late 2013 or 2014.

This airframe will augment or replace aging Tu-154M which supports two critical missions, the Russian Cosmonaut Training Program and the Open Skies Treaty.

This new aircraft could be equipped with the full sensor suite allowed by the treaty which includes special digital photo cameras, video, infrared line scanning device and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar for aerial photography and can transport the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on site inspection teams to declared U.S. points of entries.

Russians scheduled nine observation over-flights for this year that are set to begin in late March or early April. AF/A5XP, Strategic Plans, Policy Division and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency anticipate Open Skies missions to increase between from nine 21 passive missions per calendar year once the Russian Tu-214 becomes certified.

The Air Force will replace the optical framing and panoramic cameras in the OC-135B with digital cameras in the coming years.

The modifications have been submitted for fiscal year 2014 program objective memorandum budget cycle.

The camera modifications will not start until the summer of 2016.

Based on current projections, the earliest the Air Force will fly an observation mission with digital cameras is the fall of 2017.