The Legal Status of Military Aircraft in the High Seas

  • Received : 2017.06.12
  • Accepted : 2017.06.25
  • Published : 2017.06.30


The main subject of this article focused on the legal status of the military aircraft in the high seas. For this the legal status of the military aircraft, the freedom of overflight, the right of hot pursuit, the right of visit and Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) were dealt. The 1944 Chicago Convention neither explicitly nor implicitly negated the customary norms affecting the legal status of military aircraft as initially codified within the 1919 Paris Convention. So the status of military aircraft was not redefined with the Chicago Convention and remains, as stated in the 1919 Paris Convention, as a norm of customary international law. The analyses on the legal status of the military aircraft in the high seas are found as follows; According to the Article 95 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) warships on the high seas have complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any State other than the flag State. We can suppose that the military aircraft in the high seas have also complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any State other than the flag State. According to the Article 111 (5) of the UNCLOS the right of hot pursuit may be exercised only by warships or military aircraft, or other ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service and authorized to that effect. We can conclude that the right of hot pursuit may be exercised by military aircraft. According to the Article 110 of the UNCLOS a warship which encounters on the high seas a foreign ship, is not justified in boarding it unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that: (a) the ship is engaged in piracy, (b) the ship is engaged in the slave trade, (c) the ship is engaged in an unauthorized broadcasting and the flag State of the warship has jurisdiction under article 109, (d) the ship is without nationality, or (e) though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, the ship is, in reality, of the same nationality as the warship. These provisions apply mutatis mutandis to military aircraft. As for Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) it is established and declared unilaterally by the air force of a state for the national security. However, there are no articles dealing with it in the 1944 Chicago Convention and there are no international standards to recognize or prohibit the establishment of ADIZs. ADIZ is not interpreted as the expansion of territorial airspace.


Supported by : Kangwon National University


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