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Commentary - Signals and procedures for the interception of medical aircraft
    [p.1279] Annex I, Article 13 -- Signals and procedures for the
    interception of medical aircraft


    4275 Following serious incidents in the air involving civil and military aircraft, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) at its March 1973 meeting in Tokyo noted that the visual signals for the interception of civil aircraft laid down by ICAO in Annex 2, "Rules of the Air", Section 3.4 and Appendix A, were inadequate.

    4276 The view held by IFALPA was that pilots, who were constantly flying over national frontiers, were not able to keep themselves fully informed about the visual signals and procedures for interception described by ICAO and the modifications which might be adopted by some States in that respect. Those [p.1280] purely visual interception procedures disregarded the main method of communicating with an aircraft, namely, radiotelephony.

    4277 The Federation requested ICAO and national aeronautical authorities to study ways and means of standardizing visual signals and also to consider procedures involving the use of radiotelephony in cases where civil aircraft had to be identified or intercepted. In particular, it proposed the following:
      -- that flight plans informing the authorities about the operations
      of aircraft should be closely co-ordinated between military
      aeronautical units and civil air traffic control;
      -- that, given the hazardous nature of the operation, civil aircraft
      should only be intercepted in case of absolute necessity and when
      other means have failed;
      -- that a civil aircraft which has to be identified in spite of the
      information provided in the flight plan should first be contacted
      by radio. Only if the radio connection cannot be set up should
      physical air-to-air or ground-to-air interception involving
      visual methods be attempted;
      -- that interception should under no circumstances entail opening
      fire on a civil aircraft.

    4278 In June 1973, together with its proposals, the Federation transmitted to ICAO a draft set of interception procedures which were supplemented and improved in October. At that juncture the ICRC approached the Federation with a view to investigating the possibility of using the proposed procedures for the interception of medical aircraft in time of armed conflict. However, it was too late at that stage to include any provisions on that matter in draft Annex I to the Protocol.

    4279 The issue was nevertheless discussed at the first session of the Diplomatic Conference by the Technical Sub-Committee, which was given information about the ICRC's contacts with IFALPA and ICAO. i The text of Article 13 was adopted by the Technical Sub-Committee and Committee II at the third session of the Diplomatic Conference in 1976.

    4280 All the ICAO provisions and special recommendations relating to the interception of civil aircraft were consolidated in a single document, the Manual concerning Interception of Civil Aircraft, published by ICAO in 1984, (2) the contents of which are drawn from a number of ICAO annexes and procedures. The foreword contains the following request:

    "[...] Contracting States are requested to ensure that the material in this manual is brought to the attention of all civil and military administrative or operational personnel who may be concerned with the development and/or application of national practices and procedures relating to the identification and interception of civil aircraft."

    [p.1281] 4281 The manual is an excellent source of information for military authorities required to monitor medical aircraft operations in time of armed conflict. The provisions proposed for the interception of civil aircraft should therefore be studied with a view to making advance arrangements for their application in a situation of armed conflict. Full particulars are given about the radio frequencies to be used, radar code display, message transmission, etc. The table of contents of the manual, reproduced ' infra, ' p. 1282, gives some indication of the scope of the provisions required should it prove essential to intercept medical aircraft.

    4282 Chapter 2, "Elimination or reduction of the need for interception", to mention only one example, would need to be studied specifically from the standpoint of medical aircraft missions in time of armed conflict, in the cases contemplated in Articles 25 to 29 and 31 of the Protocol.

    4283 The recommendations and instructions contained in the manual should also be adapted for use in the case of flights by medical aircraft based on hospital ships. The aircraft concerned are medical helicopters used for medical missions in naval, air and sea or amphibious operations. The bases for co-ordination between the navy and the air traffic services military authorities should be established in peacetime.

    4284 This article contemplates action by an intercepting aircraft pursuant to Articles 30 ' (Landing and inspection of medical aircraft) ' and 31 ' (Neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict) ' of the Protocol. Those two articles, while recognizing that medical aircraft may be ordered to land, give no indication as to how this order should be given. It may be issued either from the ground or by a warship.

    4285 In such cases too, the interception procedures described in the manual should be used in order to avoid hazardous undertakings such as opening fire in the direction of medical aircraft, which are entitled to respect and protection and should therefore not be threatened by fire when ordered to land. (3)

    4286 If for any reason the Parties to the conflict are not able to comply with the procedures set out in the ICAO manual for the elimination or reduction of the need for interception and for application of the ICAO radio and visual interception procedures, they should notify one another of the situation and provide information on the substitute procedures they intend to use.

    4287 The present Article 13 might usefully be brought up to date when the Annex is revised, by including a reference to both the ICAO manual and ground-to-air interception. The question whether the safety of medical aircraft over both land and sea would be enhanced by more detailed provisions concerning interception during armed conflicts would have to be given very careful thought.

    ' Ph. E. '


    [p.1282] Document annexed (cf. ' supra, ' p. 1280, note 2, and p. 1281)

    Manuel concerning Interception of Civil Aircraft

    (Consolidation of Current ICAO Provisions and Special Recommendations)

    (Doc 9433-AN/926)

    FIRST EDITION - APRIL 1984

    (extract)

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    1. - General principles ............................................ 1

    2. - Elimination or reduction of the need for interception ......... 2

    2.1. - Identification of civil aircraft ........................ 2
    2.1.1. - Submission of flight plans ........................ 2
    2.1.2. - Air-ground communications and position reporting .. 2
    2.1.3. - Co-ordination between ATS units ................... 3
    2.1.4. - Transmission of flight plan messages .............. 5
    2.1.5. - Transmission of departure messages ................ 7
    2.1.6. - Facilities for communications between ATS units ... 7
    2.1.7. - Co-ordination between military and ATS authorities/units ................ 9
    2.1.8. - Facilities for communications between ATS unitsand military units .... 9
    2.1.9. - Action by ATS units in respect of unidentified aircraft ......................................... 10
    2.1.10. -Identification by means of radar ................. 10

    2.2. - Navigation aspects ..................................... 14
    2.2.1. - Airborne navigation equipment .................... 14
    2.2.2. - Adherence to flight plan ......................... 15
    2.2.3. - Prohibited and restricted areas .................. 15
    2.2.4. - Navigational assistance by ATS units ............. 16
    2.2.5. - Navigational assistance by military units ........ 17

    2.3. - Availability of information ............................ 17
    2.3.1. - Promulgation in aeronautical information publications (AIP) ............................... 17
    2.3.2. - Depiction on aeronautical charts ................. 18

    3. - Elimination or reduction of hazards in the event of interception................................................... 19
    3.1. - Interception ........................................... 19
    3.1.1. - Action by States ................................. 19
    3.1.2. - Action by intercepting aircraft .................. 20
    3.1.3. - Action by intercepted aircraft ................... 22
    3.1.4. - Air-to-air visual signals ........................ 23
    3.1.5. - Air-ground communications ........................ 24
    3.1.6. - Action by intercept control units ................ 26
    3.1.7. - Action by ATS units in the event of interception . 26

    3.2. - Availability of information ............................ 27
    3.2.1. - Promulgation of information in aeronautical information publications (AIP) ................... 27
    3.2.2. - Carriage of information on board aircraft ........ 27


    NOTES (1) [(1) p.1280] O.R. XIII, p. 31, CDDH/49/Rev.1, para. 52;

    (2) [(2) p.1280] ICAO Doc. 9433-AN/926, ' Manual concerning Interception of Civil Aircraft ', ICAO, Montreal (with Amendment No. 1 of 19.3.1985);

    (3) [(3) p.1281] On 10 May 1984 the ICAO Assembly decided unanimously to supplement the Convention by an Article 3bis which embodies the principle, already recognized in international law, of non- recourse to the use of arms against civil aircraft;