Musings about above-ground sovereignty

(This is totally not based on research about the actual legal situation; mere thoughts.)

Airspace sovereignty is an interesting and unsatisfactory topic for most countries. Almost no country in the world can police its airspace well. Even countries with an air force and supersonic fighters usually don't have some on station 24/7. It's much more common to have at least two planes on 15 minute readiness; that's (up to) 15 minutes till take-off. This means two air crews (and some ground crew) are in readiness rooms, and run to the aircraft if there's an alert, prepare take-off, taxi to the runway and take-off with the control tower's permission. 
15 minutes is almost enough for an airliner to cross Germany from east to west. Hijackers would need only about two minutes to take over a cockpit and ram an airliner into a nuclear power plant on some routes, of course.

NATO's air policing over the Baltics is quite symbolic as well. Violations of Tallinn's (Estonian capital) air space could not be countered timely without a sortie every time a Russian aircraft flies over the international waters of the Gulf of Finland. NATO might try to do exactly this, but this could be countered by desensitizing flights over international waters every hour or so until the air policing flight isn't responding any more. Real world air policing simply doesn't meet high expectations.

There is nevertheless an almost universally respected recognized national sovereignty over the airspace, rarely restricted by UNSC-authorised no-fly zones or violated by aggressive countries.

Exoatmospheric vehicles (satellites) on the other hand are not considered to be subject to this kind of sovereignty. 

Finally, there's a third kind of vehicles, and they keep causing occasional troubles: Ballistic and quasiballistic missiles (example; North Korean missile tests). In some cases, even gunshots could overfly a country entirely. This category includes vehicles (rockets) which propel exoatmospheric vehicles into orbit.

I would like to describe these three groups as

(a) Object which stay above ground due to lift (lighter than air, wing effect, rotor effect or soaring).
(b) Objects which stay above ground not due to lift, but due to kinetic energy (satellite orbital mechanics).
(c) No-reuse objects which fly supersonic, but for no more than a few minutes at most.

Category (a) is well-established, and there's no need for changes. We know the concept of sovereignty and its extension up to and including the Stratosphere. The practical problem is how to enforce it.

Most of category (b) couldn't be used by mankind without a universal right of passage. Non-geostationary satellites depend on the permission to fly over basically any country. It's in their kinematic nature. There's thus no point in restricting vehicle movements in the thermosphere or exosphere. They have to be commons for all of mankind in order to be usable without conflicts.

Category (c) is the trickiest. I suppose this should have mixed rules.
Countries may need to make use of quite long-range missiles in legitimate defence preparations (such as prototype or readiness/decay tests). These tests should be done in a manner which guarantees the least irritations, though. This means the missile should preferably be fired over international waters or over countries which gave permission. Only if neither is possible should a missile flight over a non-agreeing country be legitimate, but even then a prior announcement a while ahead should be required.
Launch over a non-consenting country should be illegal if an alternative launch from a ship in international waters or from a friendly country is possible.*

My idea is that a sensible, working set of rules should be agreed on and then be published. Missile launches should not be used for provocation (without UNSC having a well-defined offence that it can sanction) and legitimate launches should no longer be exploited for scaremongering (since their legal and legitimate nature would be written and published already).

Above-ground overflights of countries with manned or unmanned vehicles should be arranged in a way that threatens peace the least and still respects sovereignty as much as possible within this objective. The arrangement should also be practical and allow much non-aggressive utilization of flight.
There is really no good reason why incidents such as missile flight tests should be allowed to cause major irritations. It should neither be left without sanction if they are used to provoke nor should hysterical reactions and accusations be considered legitimate.


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