Aircraft carriers have the right to be anywhere as long as they stick to international waters. But as soon as a plane leaves the deck, that's somebody's FIR.

Granted they can fly low, or even know where the radars are pointed. But that's not good for exercises and other missions. Do they coordinate, ask permission, pay a certain fee, or just simply show up. What about clandestine missions?

I've also seen before on Jeppesen en-route charts rectangular areas marked as air refueling corridors, if my memory serves me well, such example was near Malta. Same question, how does that work?

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    $\begingroup$ See page III-4 of Joint Airspace Control. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 1, 2016 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ You may also find good results searching on AAR track codes (non authoritative site). I believe the interlock between NATO and ICAO civilian ATC is well defined, and likely public, but operations may also be conducted in radio silence. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 1, 2016 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ An FIR is not a nation's airspace. Until air boat or plane is within (usually) 12 NM of the coast, it is in international waters or international airspace. The FAA has authority for US aircraft, and those who want to enter the US, farther out, but a Soviet aircraft isn't bound by US Warning Areas or etc while it is in international airspace, nor are USN aircraft bound by other nations' rules over the middle of the ocean. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jul 1, 2016 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ The title is a bit misleading, if the aircraft is not over territorial waters, it is not in any nation's airspace. FIRs are for civilian traffic only (but see disputes between Turkey and Greece). $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


Sovereign airspace begins at the 12-mile nautical limit.

In international airspace noone can legally interfere with a flight except the authorities of the country in which the aircraft is registered (see What restrictions apply in international airspace?).


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