THE AIR SPACE OVER THE TERRITORIAL SEA
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AIR SPACE OVER THE TERRITORIAL SEA:
Since so many relatively small naval and and coast guard craft are "aircraft capable", it is vital that naval professionals develop a basic understanding of the law of air space early in their careers. This is especially important as regards air space over the territorial sea. Here are some enduring basic principles of the law of maritime air space.
1. Sovereign states control their navigable air space absolutely to an as yet undermined height including air space over the territorial seas. The height of this controlled air space is a matter of some debate. There is agreement that it ends at the point where man can orbit space vehicles and satellites (about 90 miles). There are arguments pro and con for somewhat lower limits. However, at this point, no clear limit is recognized in international law. So the best rule is , if you are at peace with a coastal state do not overfly their territorial waters without permission.
2. The only restriction to flight over the high seas is the rule that such flight must not impede the legitimate use of the international air space by other aviators. By contrast, no right of innocent passage exists for aircraft over the territorial sea. In addition , there is no right of innocent passage of military aircraft within established and publicized Air Defense Identification Zones. Such Air Defense Identification Zones (ADZs) are lawful and may extend a considerable distance over international waters. Aircraft-capable warships should refrain from air operations over the territorial seas or ADZs without permission of the coastal state in peace time.
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