ICAO’s conflict zone operations guidance has been updated

What is it?

ICAO Doc 10084 is officially titled ‘Risk Assessment Manual for Civil Aircraft Operations Over or Near Conflict Zones’. It was originally published in 2017, as a result of the MH17 shoot down and recommendations made by the Dutch Safety Board (and the whole industry really!)

The Third Edition of this has been published (October 2023) and contains some informative and critical changes which have come about as a result of discussions following the shoot down of PS752 in 2020.

It is available here.

What are the changes?

Well, if you need to use the document you should really read it properly because it is an important document, but to help here is a heads up on the changes this contains which stood out to me:

  • Clarity on intentional, unintentional and air-to-air attack risks

The higher risk is from unintentional targeting, particular by non-state actors with limited training, or through misidentification.

This risk has increased because of the increase in access to weapons by non-state actors, as well as an increasing use of UAS and weaponised drones operating beyond line of sight.

  • Focus on emerging risk from weapon advancements (longer range and hyper speed SAMs)

Advancements in technology of weapons has increased the potential risk areas beyond the ‘conflict zone boundaries’.

  • Growing risk of proliferation of weapons to non-state actors

A major challenge in assessing the risk in conflict zones is rooted in the difficulty in obtaining credible and reliable information on intent and capability.

Changes to the geo-politics of conflicts and support of different factions has further complicated this.

  • Focus on current risk assessment methodologies and risk of underestimating risk level due likelihood

Earlier assessment methodologies focusing too greatly on likelihood may have underestimated the level of risk because while likelihood remains low, this fails to consider the consequences and impact if a ‘worst foreseeable situation’ does occur.

  • Emphasis on the unpredictable and rapidly evolving nature of conflict zones

Conflicts are increasingly complex and the secondary impacts often extend far beyond the initial conflict and its zone. Greater awareness of the potential for rapid escalation and evolution is needed, with States, authorities and operators taking more consideration of this within their risk assessments.

In order to achieve this, better information promulgation is required at all levels.

  • Greater emphasis on ATM standards/service and importance for mitigating risk

Ineffective ATM or a loss of services or control of airspace greatly increases the threat of attack on aircraft. ATM is a primary mitigation for this so there are more in-depth guidelines on ANSP responsibilities, as well as more focus within the risk assessment guidelines for considering this.

  • More consideration of consequences of mitigations

Residual risk requires an assessment of how mitigations change the risk level and threat picture.

  • New Chapters on conducting conflict zone airspace closures and reassessing post conflict zone airspace

Airspace should not only be closed when an immediate risk is identified. Factors such as an incident driven increase in military alarm level, violent attacks (occurring or anticipated), loss of effective command over military equipment/weapons (or anticipated ie a coup) and loss of effective ATC are primary indicators of an emerging conflict and increasing risk level.

Criteria for assessing of a conflict has stabilised and the risk level may have decreased enough to warrant a further assessment with the view to reopening airspace is provided.

  • New Appendices including risk mitigation inventory, compendium of guidelines for info sharing and harmonisation of risk assessments.

From a pilot and flight operations perspective, the mitigation inventory is incredibly informative. It provides in-depth guidelines to mitigation measures to apply during flight planning and during operations.

The other annexes contain detailed information for all stakeholders for the purpose of improving information sharing and understanding of risk and risk assessments.

Any other info?

This links to the ICAO e-Library where Doc 10084 can be purchased for download or accessed online for free.

While a lot of it is high level information, I strongly recommend pilots give the mitigations appendix a read as it is really good information.

This IFALPA document provides some useful guidance .

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