The rising growth, development, and prosperity of countries in the Asia-Pacific has led to an increase in maritime and air traffic in the region. Specific to the air domain, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that commercial air traffic will double to 7.2 billion passengers in 2035, with more than 50% of this growth – or an additional 1.8 billion passengers – coming from the Asia-Pacific. With prosperity, regional countries are also modernising their militaries, including air forces, both for their own upgrading as well as to meet the demands arising from new regional security challenges. Looking ahead, defence expenditure in the Asia-Pacific is projected to rise by 23% to more than US$530 billion in 2020. These trends will increase congestion in the air.
Since its establishment in 2006, the ADMM has made significant progress in promoting strategic dialogue and cooperation against common regional security challenges. Today, the ADMM cooperates in wide ranging areas from HADR to crisis communications, and crossed a milestone last year when we commemorated the 10th anniversary of its establishment.
Recognising that the safety and security of air lanes are important for the growth and prosperity of countries, it is important to consider developing a set of guidelines that military aircraft can practise. These guidelines will help reduce the likelihood of encounters or incidents spiralling into conflict in the event of a miscalculation. Such guidelines would help reinforce the spirit of the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025, which calls on all ASEAN Member States to promote shared values and norms as well as principles of international law, in building a rules-based community. Such guidelines will also adhere to the existing aviation standards promulgated by the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the International Code of Signals (ICS) which all ADMM-Plus countries have subscribed to, and observe recognised international principles concerning military and state aircraft governed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Such guidelines will also complement the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) adopted by the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, which naval aircraft of ADMM-Plus countries already observe.
This paper puts forth a broad set of principles for guidelines on air encounters between military aircraft, as well as operational guidelines.
The guidelines shall be non-binding, voluntary, and serve as a practical confidence building measure for the militaries to improve operational safety in the air.
The guidelines shall be applicable for unintentional encounters in flight between military aircraft over high seas, ensuring safe separation to avoid creating a safety hazard. To determine safe separation, military aircraft should comprehensively consider their own national rules, and relevant international guidance.
The guidelines shall reaffirm the principles of Article 2 of the ASEAN Charter.
The guidelines shall respect the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity of all States.
The guidelines shall be based on ASEAN principles of transparency and mutual trust, and shall be in accordance with relevant national laws, rules, and regulations, and international laws.
The guidelines shall reaffirm States’ commitment to resolve disputes through peaceful means without resorting to the threat or use of force in accordance with internationally/universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The guidelines shall uphold all existing maritime and aviation arrangements between States, as well as between States and other organisations including, but not limited to, UNCLOS and CUES.
Adoption and Review
The above framework consisting of principles for the air guidelines, as well as operational guidelines on abiding by existing aviation conventions and rules, safe and professional communications, standard flight procedures, encouraging mutual trust and confidence in the air, and contingencies and emergencies will be submitted for the ADMM’s adoption through the ADSOM WG and ADSOM.
This set of guidelines is also available for implementation by non-ASEAN Member States’ military aircraft.
The framework as well as operational guidelines are evolving documents, and may be reviewed and revised with the consensus of the ADMM. Any derivatives, or annexes, to operationalise the guidelines are to be negotiated at a later stage with thorough consideration to applicable situations.
As key stakeholders in the region, it is the responsibility of militaries among ASEAN Member States, to ensure the safe and smooth conduct of encounters between our military aircraft, particularly in light of increasing air traffic in the region. This will help to promote a safe, secure, and peaceful operating environment in the region to allow the benefits of the global commons to be shared and enjoyed by all.
Annex on Observing Existing Aviation Conventions and Rules
Annex on Safe and Professional Communications
Annex on Standard Flight Procedures
Annex on Encouraging Mutual Trust and Confidence in the Air