Aircraft may be the object of attack only if they constitute military objectives.
- This Rule flows from the general rule restricting attacks to lawful targets (see Rule 10).
- The primary purpose of Rule 25 is to emphasize that attacks against civilian aircraft, civilian airliners, State aircraft that do not qualify as military aircraft, medical aircraft and cartel aircraft are forbidden, unless protection is lost as explained in Rule 27 (for enemy aircraft, other than military aircraft, except enemy civilian airliners); Rule 63 (for civilian airliners, enemy or neutral) and Rule 174 (for neutral civilian aircraft, except neutral civilian airliners), or the aircraft otherwise constitutes a military objective.
- As for military aircraft, see Rule 22 (a) and Rule 26.
- State aircraft, such as law-enforcement aircraft, may be armed for purposes other than military operations. They nevertheless do not constitute military objectives unless used for military purposes or incorporated into the armed forces of a belligerent (for details, see Rule 27). That said, they are subject to treatment as booty of war or to capture as prize (for details, see Section U, in particular Rule 136 (a)).
- Rule 25 is not limited to enemy aircraft. In particular circumstances, neutral aircraft can also become military objectives (see Rule 174 pertaining to neutral civilian aircraft, and paragraph 1 of the Commentary on the chapeau of Rule 174 pertaining to neutral State aircraft).
- In a non-international armed conflict, non-State organized armed groups may have aircraft at their disposal. However, such aircraft do not constitute military aircraft (see Rule 1 (x)). They are civilian aircraft, but they may be attacked because of their use for military purposes. See paragraph 8 of the Commentary on Rule 1 (x) and paragraph 7 of the Commentary on Rule 17 (a).
Categories: E: Specifics of Air or Missile Operations