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US is Out of the Open Skies Treaty

The United States is now officially out of the Open Skies Treaty, but questions remain about the road ahead.

The Trump administration announced in May it would leave the pact in late 2020. The treaty, which allows nearly three dozen signatory countries to inspect others’ military installations from above, entered into force in 2002, but U.S. officials have raised complaints about Russia’s conduct and argued that satellite imagery is a better option.

“Six months having elapsed, the U.S. withdrawal took effect on Nov. 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a state party to the Treaty on Open Skies,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown said.

The Air Force has used a pair of six-decade-old OC-135B jets equipped with wet-film cameras for those flights, but canceled plans to replace the planes with newer airframes amid its withdrawal. That follows another modernization effort to install digital cameras on the fleet.

Many details of how the U.S. military will wind down its participation are still murky. The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 22 the government has started the process of offering the jets up to other countries.

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