May 21, the United States announced the withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty (DON). As a result, third-country surveillance aircraft will not be able to conduct observation flights over American objects - and thereby disturb Washington. It should be recalled that the observation aircraft of the Russian side were really unnerving to the American leadership and even criticized.
Top Secret Golf
An official statement on leaving DON was made by Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Robert O'Brien. He said that during observation flights, the Russian mission tried to monitor the head of state. Routes ran alongside the White House, Camp David's residence and Bedminster Golf Club. Trying to keep an eye on Donald Trump, Russia used DON inappropriately.
Such implementation of the terms of an international agreement threatens US national security. Therefore, they intend to withdraw from DON; all necessary procedures will take six months. Thus, the Treaty will be left without one of the key parties, and other countries will lose the ability to conduct inspections.
Open air planes
Russia was one of the first to sign the Don in 1992. Soon, our country began organizing its observation flights, and also opened its skies to foreign inspectors. In preparation for future departures, several aircraft with special equipment were prepared. Due to different tasks, different platforms were used.
RONSAR radar. Photo Research Institute "Pendant" / niikulon.ru
For flights over European countries on relatively short routes, an observation plane was prepared on the basis of the An-30B serial reconnaissance aircraft. Longer routes over the United States were to be served by an aircraft with different characteristics. The Tu-154ON project was developed on the basis of a passenger aircraft; it was implemented by re-equipping the Tu-154M LK-1 flying laboratory (RF-85655). He completed his first flight over North America in 2000.
In 2011, the first flight was made by the Tu-214ON (RA-64519) aircraft with new-generation equipment. At the end of 2013, the second instance of this type, RA-64525, began service. The planes were intended to fly over the United States, but the American side refused permission. Reconnaissance equipment with characteristics exceeding the requirements of DON, as well as the alleged presence of certain undocumented capabilities, became a formal reason.
As a result, for several years the observation was carried out using the old Tu-154M LK-1 (Tu-154ON). The international certification of the Tu-214ON was only possible in 2018, and the first flight over the United States took place in April 2019. Obviously, new flights of this kind should now not be expected. However, modern technology may find application in inspections in other countries participating in DON.
Reasons for concern
Both in the past and now, official allegations from the United States affect the characteristics of the target equipment of Russian surveillance aircraft. Consider what the Tu-154M LK-1 and Tu-214ON can do, and why Washington considers them a cause for concern.
The Tu-154M LK-1 in the initial configuration carried a complex of four AFA-41/10, A-84OP, AK-111 and AK-112 cameras with different characteristics that can be shot simultaneously. A high-resolution video camera, infrared and ultraviolet equipment were also installed. The most important element of the target equipment is a side-scan radar with a synthetic aperture RONSAR. This product was created specifically for open skies and provides an overview of the strip up to 25 km wide.
Flight performance of the Tu-154M LK-1 remained at the level of the basic general purpose model. At the same time, it is possible to shoot the underlying terrain in different spectra, as well as to collect radar information.
At the beginning of the last decade, a modernized complex of surveillance equipment based on modern digital components was created. In particular, the photo equipment was partially replaced with new digital cameras. the capabilities of computing systems and information storage facilities have drastically improved. The new project provided for the modernization of the Tu-154M LK-1; some new units could be used to upgrade the An-30B.
On the bottom of the fuselage, fairings of special equipment are noticeable. Photo by PJSC Tupolev / tupolev.ru
In 2016, the upgraded “digital” Tu-154M LK-1 passed certification and got the opportunity to work in the airspace of the countries participating in the Don. In the future, he was repeatedly involved in flights over different countries, primarily over the United States.
The newest Russian model for the "open sky" is the Tu-214ON - there are two cars of this type, built in 2011-13. The basis for such an aircraft was the Tu-204 airliner, in the passenger cabin of which new equipment was placed, as well as the workplaces of operators and observers. The modern equipment for the aircraft was developed by the Vega Concern.
On the Tu-214ON for the first time in stories DON is installed a full range of various observational equipment authorized for use. The aircraft received A-840N, AK-111 and AK-112 cameras for various purposes with interchangeable lenses, as well as three digital video cameras. There is an infrared scanning device. Digital cameras provide shooting with a resolution of up to 30 cm, infrared - up to 50 cm. Saved RONSAR radar, used on the Tu-154ON. All surveillance tools are integrated in the on-board digital computer complex with five automated workstations of operators.
To work with the Tu-214ON aircraft, a new set of ground-based facilities has been created for collecting and processing information. A training complex for training operators has also been built.
The United States has only three open skies. These are OS-135V Open Skies vehicles based on WC-135V scouts. In real flights, only two planes are used, while the third performs the tasks of an experienced one for working out certain solutions. In addition, there is a limited operational readiness associated with the great age of technology - aircraft were built back in the early sixties.
The OC-135B carries three KS-87E cameras with different angles and a panoramic KA-91C. There is a side-view radar AN / UPD-8. Data collection from all funds is carried out by the DARMS complex. The received information can be displayed on the monitors of operators, and also recorded for further analysis on the ground.
Open Skies aircraft received a certificate for participation in DON flights in 2002, and have since been regularly recruited to work. Due to the considerable age, this equipment is faced with various problems and is idle for repair part of the time. However, its modernization or replacement has not yet been envisaged. Now, in connection with the withdrawal from the contract, these measures do not make any sense.
Unlike the United States, Russia is not going to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. The same position is shared by its other participants. For this reason, they will continue to organize and carry out observation flights. As a result of this, the fate of the Russian aircraft for aviation surveillance is obvious. They will continue to serve.
Now there are several An-30B aircraft in service, which have recently undergone modernization, the updated Tu-154M LK-1 and two modern Tu-214ON. All this equipment meets all the requirements and can be used for many years. It is unlikely that she will now have to fly over the United States, but other countries will provide air corridors for observation.
The prospects for the American OC-135B do not give cause for optimism. The aircraft built in the sixties are approaching the final development of the resource, and their operation is a separate problem. Now, Washington has decided to withdraw from the Don - and this determines the fate of the aircraft. Apparently, after completion of the procedures for withdrawing from the Agreement, unnecessary cars will be sent for disassembly. However, the most successful example can go to the museum.
In general, despite the loss of a key participant, the Open Skies Treaty remains in force - and the operation associated with it continues aviation technicians. Existing plans and schedules will be changed, but flights will continue. The Russian Tu-154M LK-1 and Tu-214ON will now fly only over Europe, and the American President’s golf club can no longer fear surveillance.