McConnell AFB, Kan. recently hosted an Open Skies verification team from Russia, providing refueling and ground support to a Russian air force Tu-154M reconnaissance aircraft. A group from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency on Aug. 29 accompanied a Russian delegation of 29 observers and crew on reconnaissance flights to observe US military bases and activities. Under the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, the United States, Russia, and 32 other states are permitted to conduct mutual reconnaissance of military sites as a confidence-building measure. Flying specifically designated aircraft, signatory countries are permitted unarmed observation of military facilities and activities given 72 hours of notice. McConnell has facilitated Russian flights 12 times under the treaty since 2004. The 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Neb., currently employs the OC-135B as USAF’s designated Open Skies platform on reciprocal flights. (McConnell release)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.