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Open Skies

By Sgt. Maj. Patrick van de Poele
First published in
SFOR Informer #71, 29 Sept, 1999.

Sarajevo - The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission to Bosnia and Hercegovina organised for the fifth time aerial observation flights in BiH airspace which took place on September 21 and 22 1999. This mission was rendered possible due to the technical assistance of the OPEN SKIES Department of the French Verification Centre who sent out a mission led by Col. Bertrand Binnendijk.

The OSCE in organising these flights is pursuing the same end result as SFOR, that is ensuring a safe and secure environment for the benefit of all citizens of BiH. These flights are conducted with the approval of BiH and the collaboration of all of the Entity Armed Forces (EAF). "The EAF collaborated fully in the preparation of this mission, they each designated the objects of interest in the others territory they wanted overflown. They will have observers aboard the flights and will be sending a representative back with the aircraft to attend the processing of the film. Each of the Entities will be receiving a complete copy of the film to analyse." explained Col. Goetz Sperling the OSCE Director General for Regional Stabilisation in BiH.

Colonels Dragan Janko and Mirzan Secic represented the BiH while Col Tomic Dragan was present for the Croatian Element of the Federation Armed forces and Brigadier General Sulijc Nedzad for the Bosnian element. Lt Col Brane Luledzija was representing the Republika Srpska. The flights covered two segments. One to the North, including 15 objects to be overflown in both the Federation and in the Republika Srpska which meant flying 908kms. The Southern segment covered the same number of objects but was only a 708km flight.

The aircraft flying the missions operated under the "Open Skies" regime which calls for unarmed fixed wing aircraft belonging to either the Observing or the Observed States equipped with observation devices, that is optical or video cameras, with representatives from both parties on board. In this case the aircraft is a Hercules C-130 made available by France with both Flight crew and the Technicians to run the equipment. The aircraft and its material were presented to the press and the EAF on September 20th. by the mission chief Lt. Col. Dominique Bonneau.

The Observation Pod is a unique piece of equipment built especially by Lockheed in the United States for "Open Skies" missions. It belongs to a group of 10 countries, Belgian, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain. The equipment is based centrally, in Belgium and when one of the nations needs the observation pod it flies a C-130 to Melsbroek airbase. There the 15th Wing, Belgian Air Force replaces the left wing fuel tank by the observation pod and places the control consoles in the cargo hold. The system is modular and the installation can be done in a day. The pod has the same shape as a fuel tank and contains 6 cameras, two of them video and the others using film, one of them being panoramic.

The cameras were controlled in this aircraft by a team of operators under Capt. Jean-Marie Bouillaud, with the EAF and OSCE representatives flying with them.

"These flights are a major step forward, we hope the EAF will get ready to create their own system of "open skies". Simple equipment could be enough, a light aircraft and hand held video cameras for instance." Concluded Col Sperling.