November 29, 2017: One of our biggest missions in OPSGROUP is to share risk information and keep operators aware of the current threat picture. The lastest Unsafe Airspace Summary is now published, and available to members here as a PDF download (Unsafe Airspace Summary 29NOV17, edition JULIETT).
The main changes since the last summary are below. For a current risk map, refer to the Airspace Risk map in your member Dashboard.
North Korea. On November 3rd, the FAA published Notam 23/17, which now prohibits US operators from entering any of the Pyongyang FIR. replacing SFAR79 and previous advice to ‘exercise caution’. The situation remains tense, and as highlighted by FSB in September, the western portion of the Japan FIR is a risk area due to multiple missile re-entries into the same portion of Japanese airspace.
The conflict in Mali is onging. Germany added a new specific warning for GAKL/Kidal on 15 Nov, in addition to GATB/Timbuktu and GAGO/Gao.
Saudi Arabia is now at Level 2 – assessed risk. Due to military activity related to the involvement in Yemen, it is suggested to avoid the southwestern region of the Jeddah FIR. On Nov 4 a missile launched from Yemen reached Riyadh Airport. Saudi sources say missile was intercepted, this is not yet confirmed. Threats have been made by Yemen of further strikes.
The situation in Afghanistan remains similar. On November 15, Germany removed wording to maintain FL330 or higher, no altitude advice now exists, but they recommend against landings at Afghan airports.
Most conflict zone guidance from Aviation Authorities is based on the risk posed by MANPADS – Man Portable Air Defence Systems, or more descriptively – Shoulder Launched Surface to Air Missiles (SAMS).
Large-Unit SAM attacks on aircraft are uncommon – MH17, removed from the sky by a Russian-made Buk missile, was the first aircraft to be shot down by a large SAM unit since a Siberia Airlines Tupolev in 2001. These large units – requiring a radar system as part of the mechanism – have never been used by terrorists. Almost all incidences involving large-unit SAMs have involved misidentification. There is no safe altitude from a large SAM.
MANPADS, on the other hand, represent a greater threat to aircraft in 2017. These shoulder-launched systems are very portable, and far more likely to fall into the wrong hands. Common ranges are in the 10,000 – 15,000 ft range. The most dangerous is the FIM-92 Stinger, which has an operational ceiling of 26,000 ft (and there is concern that these have reached anti-government rebels in Syria)
The internationally promulgated standard safe altitude for overflight has now become about 25,000 ft AGL. Most CAA/State guidance is issued based on this number. There are two important points for aircraft operators to note:
- That is 25,000 feet Above Ground Level. A missile could easily be launched from a mountain, or higher ground, so if you take 25,000 feet as your safety margin, make sure to add the terrain elevation beneath. In South Sudan, for example – Juba is at 2,000 feet – most of the country is at about this height. So 27,000 feet should be the minimum safe level, and you can work with FL270.
- This is based on the assumption that we’re not worried about Stingers. Especially in the Middle East, a higher safe altitude might be better. FL300 seems like a good place to start.
Germany has issued fresh warnings on the airspace of Egypt, South Sudan, and North Korea, in three separate Notams issued in the last week. Germany is one of four states that provides Aircraft Operators with conflict zone and risk advice. We have updated the SafeAirspace.net country information pages with the specifics.
The current Flight Service Bureau summary of each country follows:
Egypt Since the Arab Spring, Egypt’s stability and security situation as a state has declined. In October 2015 a Russian A321 was brought down over the Sinai peninsula by a bomb loaded at HESH/Sharm El Sheikh. In the aftermath, it was initially feared that a missile had caused the crash. Multiple warnings still in place from that fear. 19 May 2016 EgyptAir Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo disappeared over the Mediterranean, cause unknown. GPS jamming reported at HECA/Cairo several times in 2016. High threat from terrorism in Egypt. Further attacks are likely. Not recommended as a tech stop. [Read full country information]
South Sudan Conflict Zone. South Sudanese Civil War since 2013. The security situation in Juba has been relatively calm since the July 2016 crisis. Daily reports of fighting throughout the rest of the country. The security situation is especially unstable in the Equatorias in the south. MANPADS risk to overflights. In addition, the South Sudanese army has declared intention to shoot down Aircraft without permits. Most Authority guidance recommends min FL260. We think FL300 is a better minimum for overflights. [Read full country information]
North Korea The level of tension on the Korean peninsula can change with little notice. Multiple missile launches in 2016, increasingly without prior notice to ICAO. The range of these has increased – previously safe airways B467 and G711 are now at risk. Over 1000 reports of GPS jamming issues reported by operators in the vicinity of the North/South Korean border. SFAR79 prevents US operators from operating west of 132E, other Authorities restrict operations east of that line. [Read full country information]
Today Flight Service Bureau has published ION05/16 – an updated Unsafe Airspace Summary, with new warnings for Turkey, and Iran, and a new map at safeairspace.net. This replaces 04/16 issued in August.
Turkey: 23SEP16 Germany B1289/16 Do not plan flights to LTAJ due potential ground to ground firing in the vicinity of LTAJ/Gaziantep Airport.
Iran: 09SEP16 FAA Notam KICZ 19/16 Exercise caution within Tehran FIR due military activity.
New information in the PDF is marked with a I beside it. Please distribute the PDF to anyone you like, we are keen to make sure as many operators as possible are aware of the risks.
With the events surrounding the shootdown of MAS17, risk assessment of potentially unsafe airspace has given far greater weighting to the situation on the ground. Access to reliable information to determine the ever-changing risk level, is by nature of it’s inherent uncertainty, challenging.
Today we published International Ops Notice 02/16 – “Unsafe Airspace”.
Three levels of airspace risk are used in our assessment.
- LEVEL 1. Moderate risk – No Fly
- LEVEL 2. Assessed risk
- LEVEL 3. Caution
The countries that issue the most relevant updates for unsafe airspace are: The US (FAA) – through FDC Notams and SFARs, the UK (NATS) – AIP and Notam, Germany (DFS) – Notam, France (DGAC)- AIC. In general, the Civil Aviation Authorities of the countries whose airspace is determined to be unsafe are unlikely to issue reliable guidance.
Five countries are currently included in the LEVEL 1 – Moderate Risk category: Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.
The basis for inclusion is the highly unstable current events on the ground, and in all cases the ground factions having access to RPG’s, Surface-Air missiles. We strongly recommend avoiding this airspace entirely. All countries have multiple warnings, and your country of registry is likely to have issued specific instructions not to penetrate these airspaces.
Download the full notice.