July 6, 1993
The U.S. Open Skies aircraft, the OC-135B, was rolled out of the
hangar at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on June 30,
1993. The aircraft will be used for observation flights provided
for by the Treaty on Open Skies upon its entry into force.
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992. Twenty-seven states have signed the Treaty, which establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its signatories -- from Vancouver, Canada, to Vladivostok, Russia -- the most wide-ranging international effort to date to promote openness and transparency in military activities. The Treaty is of unlimited duration and is flexible, allowing for consensus decisions to upgrade sensors, to adjust annual quotas for observation flights, and to admit new participants. Annual flight quotas are scaled to the size of participants, with the United States and Russia/Belarus (as a "Group of States Parties") having the largest potential number of flights, 42 each.
The United States has chosen the long-range, turbojet-powered Boeing WC-135B, redesignated the OC-135B, as its operational Open Skies platform. It is equipped with one panoramic and three framing cameras, which are to be used for observation flights during the phased implementation period of the Treaty, 1993-1996. Current planning calls for two additional aircraft with full sensor packages -- one panoramic camera and three framing cameras (for daylight photography), two video cameras, an infrared line scanner (which can operate also at night) and a synthetic aperture radar, which can operate day and night in any weather -- will be available in time for full Treaty implementation in 1997. Nine observation flights by the U.S. are scheduled for the first year following entry into force of the Treaty. This number may be increased, up to the full allowance of 42, in subsequent years.
In March 1992, the On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA) was assigned the operational responsibility for executing U.S. missions under the Open Skies Treaty, with the Department of Defense overseeing its implementation. At the same time, the U.S. Air Force was assigned the responsibility to acquire, operate and maintain the U.S. Open Skies aircraft. OSIA will carry out its mission in conjunction with other agencies, including the Department of State and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA).
The Treaty on Open Skies is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participating countries, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern, as well as reducing the risk of conflict by promoting greater transparency in military matters. The principal role of the Treaty on Open Skies is building mutual confidence and stability.
Thomas Graham, Jr., Acting Director