Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

USA gets rid of all of its Open Skies Treaty aircraft

US Air Force prepares to mothball and then dismantle the aircraft that were previously used within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty. This was stated in the report that the Pentagon sent to Congress. It appears that the Joe Biden administration has no intention to return to this treaty.

In the event the United States does not return to the treaty, Russia will pull out from the Open Skies Treaty as well. Representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed to the Kommersant newspaper that Moscow would wait for Washington's decision until the summer of 2021 the longest. 

It goes about the Boeing OC-135B aircraft. These aircraft that United States used as part of the Open Skies Treaty, will be sent to a "cemetery" near the Davis-Monten US Air Force base in Arizona in May-June. This was first reported by The World Herald. The publication is headquartered in Nebraska, where the Offut Air Force Base is located. The aircraft are currently located at this particular air base.

Don Bacon, a member of the House of Representatives, who earlier supervised the 55th Wing of the US Air Force, based at Offut AFB, told reporters about the plans to mothball the Boeing OC-135B. 

In his opinion, the decision closes the door for the United States to return to the treaty, although during the election campaign Joe Biden called the decision of then-President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty erroneous.

The Open Skies Treaty, which entered into force in 2002 and allows the military of 33 countries to carry out observation flights over each other's territories, remains perhaps the last effective instrument of conventional arms control in Europe. 

  • The US pulled out from the treaty in 2020.
  • Moscow then considered that Washington was only looking for an excuse to get rid of the need to welcome Russian inspectors.
  • After the US withdrew from the treaty, Russia demanded its European allies should guarantee that the information they collected while flying over Russian territories would not be passed on to the Americans.
  • The Europeans did not accept the terms, and the Russian authorities announced the launch of domestic procedures for withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty too.

For Open Skies flights, the United States used two Boeing OC-135B, built in 1961-1962. These were perhaps the oldest aircraft in the US Air Force.

Russia to pull out from OST already in 2021

Noteworthy, Joe Biden, during his first telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin held after his inauguration, made it clear that Washington could return to the Open Skies Treaty, but noted that it would take time to work out an appropriate decision. A little later, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Moscow would only wait until the summer. 

The head of the Russian delegation at military security and arms control talks in Vienna, Konstantin Gavrilov, confirmed to Kommersant that the deadline remains in force:

"We made it clear that if the United States does not show a desire to return to the Open Skies Treaty before the beginning of the summer, then Russia will complete the procedures for adopting a law denouncing the treaty," Gavrilov said.

According to the Institute for Peace and Security Policy Research at the University of Hamburg, the United States took part in 201 OST observation flights between 2002 and 2019, with 89 of those inspections conducted with the use of allied aircraft. The United States carried out its last OST flight in February 2020 in cooperation with the Lithuanian and Estonian military on Swedish aircraft.