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Russia carries out observation flights over Belgium

12:11 17/03/2015

Watchers of the skies be warned: If you should think you see a Russian air force Antonov An-30 flying overhead in the next few days, your eyes do not deceive you. The aircraft and crew will be carrying out observation flights in Belgian and Dutch airspace under the Treaty on Open Skies.

The treaty was signed in 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, intended to herald a new era of mutual transparency in terms of military operations of participants. Belgium is one of 35 states to sign the Treaty on Open Skies, which mostly consists of European countries but also the US. More than 1,000 observation flights have taken place under the treaty since the first one in 2002.

The Antonov is scheduled to arrive at the military airport in Melsbroek outside Brussels today. The flights will carry a number of disarmament specialists from Belgium and the Netherlands on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the Russian aircraft will move into German airspace before returning to Melsbroek on Friday for a return flight to Moscow on Saturday.

The Antonov An-30 (pictured) was designed for observation flights for the purposes of cartography. It is a descendant of the An-24FK, which first flew in 1967. Its distinctive appearance includes a nose section that is entirely glazed and that contains navigational equipment as well as an optical sight for accuracy of aerial photographs. The aircraft’s flight path is controlled by computer to allow it to repeat previous flights precisely.

Another strange sight in the skies these days is Brussels Airlines’ Airbus A320, decorated with artwork from the Tintin album Red Rackham’s Treasure. The new Rackham plane was inaugurated this week by airline chair Etienne Davignon. The aircraft, which looks like a mechanical shark being piloted by Tintin, is also decorated inside with scenes from the comic album.


photo courtesy Gartenfreuden/Wikimedia

Written by Alan Hope