Russia conducts routine surveillance flight over Pentagon

The sun rises at the Pentagon on September 11, 2016. On Wednesday, August 9, the Russian military flew a surveillance plane over the Pentagon as part of a routine flight allowed under an international treaty. Navy Photo by Damon J. Moritz/UPI

Aug. 9 (UPI) — The Russian military flew an unarmed surveillance plane over the Pentagon with U.S. military personnel on board, in accordance with an international treaty to promote transparency between several nations, according to the State Department.

The plane had U.S. military officials on board as it flew over the Pentagon, the Capitol and other government buildings in the Washington, D.C. area.

Russia and the United States have conducted similar flights over each other’s territory 165 times over the past 15 years. The flights are part of the Treaty on Open Skies, which “establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories,” according to the State Department.”The Treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts to date to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities.”

Thirty-four nations are signatories to the treaty.

Wednesday’s flight marked the tenth time Russia has flown an Open Skies flight over the U.S. this year.

“They usually come in and they list out what locations they want to fly over,” a Pentagon official told Politico. “We put together the flight plan and with a few exceptions — safety-wise or weather-wise — they are allowed to fly over pretty much the entire territory.”

He added: “It is very controlled and very proscribed.”

In addition to military and government buildings, Russia took a flight over President Donald Trump‘s golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he is currently on vacation.

In 2014, military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported on U.S. military flights over Moscow and other parts of Russia to take photos of military installations and equipment.

“Most of the world has no idea this treaty even exists,” said Navy Cmdr. Chris “Half” Nelson, who oversaw the mission at that time. “Whenever I mention that Russians fly aircraft over the U.S. taking pictures, it blows people’s minds.”

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