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Wednesday
Aug092017

Unarmed Russian Air Force jet flies over Washington sites as part of Open Skies Treaty

icholakov/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An unarmed Russian Air Force jet flew over a number of Washington, D.C. locations on Wednesday as part of the Open Skies Treaty, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over the territory of its 34 participating nations.

The flight over what is normally some of the most secure airspace in the nation was allowed under the Treaty of Open Skies that allows participating countries the opportunity to take aerial imagery anywhere over a participating country's territory to promote transparency about military activities.

The Russian Tupolev TU-154M, also flew over the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, as well as Camp David and Joint Base Andrews, both in Maryland.

According to flight data obtained from the aircraft monitoring website Flightradar24, the Russian aircraft took off from Dayton, Ohio, Wednesday morning.

A second flight Wednesday afternoon shows the aircraft flying over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Trump is taking a working vacation during White House renovations.

The Russian flights, first reported by CNN, were conducted under the Open Skies Treaty signed by 34 countries, including the United States and Russia.

The treaty allows for unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of a participating country's territory.

"They come here just like we go there," a U.S. official said of the Open Skies flights. "It’s a mutually agreed process."

The United States flies Open Skies missions over Russian territory. The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) noted that unclassified imagery gathered in March, 2014 during a joint German -U.S. mission flight over Russia's border with Ukraine helped prove Russian military activities in eastern Ukraine despite Russian denials.

The official said Russia typically flies Open Skies missions in the United States over command infrastructure, key locations, and other critical infrastructure. That includes flights over Washington D.C. through what is normally secure airspace above national security landmarks that is always off-limits to American civilian aircraft.

The Russian flights in the United States are coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and carry U.S. Air Force personnel who serve as escorts.

DTRA would not confirm Wednesday's Russian flights, but said a typical mission conducted under the treaty has multiple flights taking place over several days.

Per instructions in the Open Skies Treaty, visiting aircraft are allowed to use specific wet film equipment or digital sensors to take aerial surveillance photos that are later shared with the host nation.

The U.S. flies the OC-135B aircraft when it conducts these same missions over Russia and other countries.

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