Whenever feasible, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) ought to be issued by Belligerent Parties, providing information on military operations hazardous to civilian or other protected aircraft and which are taking place in given areas including on the activation of temporary airspace restrictions. A NOTAM ought to include information on the following:
(a) Frequencies upon which the aircraft ought to maintain a continuous listening watch.
(b) Continuous operation of civilian weather-avoidance radar and identification modes and codes.
(c) Altitude, course and speed restrictions.
(d) Procedures to respond to radio contact by the military forces and to establish two-way communications.
(e) Possible action by the military forces if the NOTAM is not complied with and if the civilian or other protected aircraft is perceived by those military forces to be a threat.
- This Rule is derived from Para. 75 of the SRM/ACS.
- The procedures set forth in Rule 55 are largely based on Section 3 of the ICAO Manual concerning Interception of Civil Aircraft. The construct of Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is based on ICAO procedures, as established in Annex 15 to the Convention. State practice confirms the use of NOTAMs in recent armed conflicts.
- For the purpose of Rule 55, the term “military operations” includes training exercises, practice firings or testing of weapons (see Para. 75.1 of the Commentary on the SRM/ACS).
- The issuance of a NOTAM by a Belligerent Party does not relieve it of the obligation to comply with the requirement to take feasible precautions in attack. In this regard, see also Rule 57.
- The category of “other protected aircraft” is meant to encompass all aircraft — be they enemy or neutral — which do not constitute military objectives.
- In a non-international armed conflict, a State retains responsibility for issuing NOTAMs also with regard to hazardous activities of which it is aware in territory under the control of non-State organized armed groups. The feasibility of providing detailed NOTAMs in such cases may however be impaired by the constraints of the situation.
- In a non-international armed conflict, a non-State organized armed group is not in a position to issue formal NOTAMs. Analogous warning procedures ought, however, to be provided when it is within the capabilities of that group to do so, in particular when the latter is able to exercise a measure of physical control over a portion of airspace.
- Para. 75 of SRM/ACS: “Belligerent and neutral States should ensure that a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is issued providing information on military activities in areas potentially hazardous to civil aircraft, including activation of danger areas or temporary airspace restrictions. This NOTAM should include information on: (a) frequencies upon which the aircraft should maintain a continuous listening watch; (b) continuous operation of civil weather-avoidance radar and identification modes and codes; (c) altitude, course and speed restrictions; (d) procedures to respond to radio contact by the military forces and to establish two-way communications; and (e) possible action by the military forces if the NOTAM is not complied with and the civil aircraft is perceived by those military forces to be a threat.”
- Manual concerning Interception of Civil Aircraft (Consolidation of Current ICAO Provisions and Special Recommendations), Second Edition, 1990, Doc 9433-AN/926.
- ICAO, Aeronautical Information Services, Annex 15 to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.
- Para. 75.1 of the Commentary on the SRM/ACS: “This paragraph obliges belligerents and neutrals to issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) providing detailed information on military activities in areas potentially hazardous to civil aircraft. These activities could include training exercises, practice firings or testing of weapons in addition to armed conflict at sea. This NOTAM procedure follows the long-standing practice by the military forces of belligerents and neutrals. The NOTAM issued during naval operations in the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf are recent examples. NOTAMs are also prescribed in the ICAO procedures for planning and coordinating military activities potentially hazardous to civil aircraft. Subparagraph (e) warns civil aircraft that if the NOTAMs are not adhered to and the civil aircraft flies in a manner perceived to be threatening by naval forces, such as flying an attack profile, the civil aircraft could be fired upon in self-defence by the naval forces.”
- Belligerent Parties are entitled to give instructions to civilian aircraft flying in the vicinity of hostilities (see Rule 54). They may also interrogate an aircraft in order to identify it and, if necessary, to direct warnings to it.
- Experience shows that civilian aircraft have been shot down due to misidentification. It is therefore of paramount importance that a constant listening watch be maintained to avoid such incidents.
Civilian identification modes and codes are useful means of identifying civilian aircraft (see Rule 40 (f)
). Their correct use is conducive to reducing the risk of civilian aircraft being shot down due to misidentification in the vicinity of military operations.
Flight profile is one of the factors that may indicate that an unidentified aircraft could pose a threat. For this reason, it is important that civilian aircraft behave in a manner that is not perceived as threatening by military forces in the vicinity. Altitude, course and speed restrictions may be given, with a view to avoid any misunderstandings in this respect.
As communication between military forces and civilian aircraft in the vicinity of military operations is essential to ensure the safety of flight, NOTAMs ought to set forth precise procedures by which the military forces and civilian aircraft can communicate with each other. In particular, the radio channel which is being monitored by military forces for this purpose has to be included.
Rule 55 (e) emphasizes that if a NOTAM is not adhered to, and the civilian or other protected aircraft flies in a manner perceived as threatening by military forces — e.g., by flying in an attack profile or by approaching militarily sensitive facilities without permission — it puts its safety in peril (see also Rule 27 (d)