Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Bills Target Russian High-Tech Spy Planes Eyed for U.S. Overflights

U.S. Air Force personnel work aboard an OC-135B Open Skies aircraft during an August 2007 mission. Republican lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are attempting to block any certification of a Russian surveillance plane equipped with advanced sensors to conduct overflights of the United States under the Open Skies Treaty. U.S. Air Force personnel work aboard an OC-135B Open Skies aircraft during an August 2007 mission. Republican lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are attempting to block any certification of a Russian surveillance plane equipped with advanced sensors to conduct overflights of the United States under the Open Skies Treaty. (U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency photo)

Separate bills in the House and Senate seek to bar Russia from using updated sensors in its treaty-authorized overflights of the United States.

The Republican-led House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces on Wednesday approved its mark-up of annual defense policy legislation, including in it a provision prohibiting the use of funds to approve Russian planes equipped with advanced radar and digital imagery technology for conducting surveillance flights over U.S. territory, the Washington Times reported.

At the same time, a bill introduced on Wednesday by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and 20 other GOP senators contains language with a similar goal: banning Russian aircraft whose surveillance technologies have been updated since the start of the year.

Under the Open Skies Treaty -- which the United States and Russia have both ratified -- member states are guaranteed the right to fly planes across other signatories' territories in order to collect intelligence about troop activities and to verify that nuclear weapon reduction pledges are being followed.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials were previously reported to oppose allowing a Russian aircraft with an updated surveillance package to conduct treaty overflights out of concern its sensors would give Moscow too much insight about U.S. capabilities.

The Russian plane at the heart of the dispute is the Tu-214ON, which is to be equipped with sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar capable of seeing through some types of protective barriers erected to hide sophisticated weapons, according to the Times. U.S. security officials are concerned the sensors could allow the Russian government to learn about secret U.S. weapon-development efforts.

Under the House version of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill, funding needed to certify Russian planes would be blocked until U.S. officials confirm the advanced sensors do not jeopardize national security and Russia ceases "illegally occupying Ukrainian territory." Furthermore, at least three government officials would have to verify to Congress that Moscow is "no longer violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and is in compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe."

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

Country Profile

Flag of United States

United States

This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →