International Information

International Operation Name: Operation ACTIVE SKIES

International Mission Name: Operation ACTIVE SKIES

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: North America

Location: Canada

Mission Date: 1 January 2002 - Present

Mission Mandate: To promote confidence, predictability and stability by allowing over-flights of signatory states.

Mission/Operation Notes: The idea of an open skies treaty, which would allow signatory states to overfly each other’s territory to promote confidence, predictability and stability, goes back to the Eisenhower administration in the United States in 1955. But it was not until 1990 that a Canadian-Hungarian initiative led to the first meetings in Vienna, supported by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The participants were NATO and Warsaw Pact members, whose negotiations resulted in the Open Skies Treaty signed on 24 March 1992. However, the treaty did not come into effect until 1 January 2002, after the last of the signatories ratified the treaty. Originally, there were 22 signatories, but that number is increasing.

The treaty allows signatories to conduct overflights of other signatory states in unarmed military aircraft. A sensor suite on each aircraft allows specific instruments to take measurements over an area pre-specified in the notification of an inspection. The sensors include optical framing and panoramic cameras, video cameras and synthetic aperture radars, with infra-red line scanners coming into use in 2006. The data gathered is shared with any signatory requesting the information. The treaty also created the Open Skies Consultative Commission in Vienna as a consultative body, to clarify issues and to propose amendments to the treaty. The hope is to reduce the fear and instability resulting from suspicions of secret weapons development and deployment.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (ACTIVE SKIES)

CF Mission/Operation Notes: Canadian participation in the Open Skies Treaty consists of three different operations. Op ACTIVE SKIES involves Canada’s conducting a treaty overflight over the territory of another signatory. Op TRANSIT SKIES involves an aircraft from another country overflying Canada enroute to a country in which an overflight will be conducted. Op PASSIVE SKIES involves an actual overflight of Canada.

The value of the Open Skies Treaty can be seen in the fact that it is being considered in South America either as a bilateral or multilateral arrangement between neighbours. Similar treaties have been generated as part of the Dayton Accord (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and between Hungary and Romania, the latter having been in force since 1992.


Photo by Public Affairs Photographer Warrant Officer Robert Granger, Director General Public Affairs, Ottawa.

Master Warrant Officer Peter Veldhuizen, an Imagery Technician with Open Skies Canada, demonstrates operation of the camera control console for the Russian inspectors in preparation for the Canadian observation flight in Russia.

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