According to Quartz, Russia’s Tu-214ON has flown its first reconnaissance mission over the U.S., which can be done due to a Cold War agreement called the Open Skies Treaty. The treaty allows unarmed flights to monitor military operations.
American government sites have been tracking Russia’s flights. “The Russian aircraft will carry out the flight according to the route agreed with the observed party,” Russia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement. “US experts on board will monitor the procedure for using the observation equipment and compliance with the provisions stipulated by the agreement.”
Although Moscow has not reported problems with the missions, the U.S. doesn’t seem to be able to keep up as the Boeing OST OC-135B observation aircraft used by the U.S. to monitor Russia cannot fulfill their missions.
A U.S. Air Force acquisitions document says that the plane’s range is “too short to safely execute desired mission options within the 96-hour Treaty in-country observation time constraint.” The document adds that there are “extreme ranges between some Open Skies airfields and desired observation areas.”
The Air Force says it hopes to have new and better aircraft “in the 2023 timeframe.”
The Boeing OST OC-135Bs are aging and plagued by mechanical issues. In 2017, only 64% of the U.S.’s scheduled Open Skies missions over Russia were completed. “Other Treaty states parties, including Russia, typically complete 100 percent of their scheduled missions,” then-secretary of defense James Mattis wrote.
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