RAF MILDENHALL, England — The U.S. Air Force presence at the giant Moscow air show next week will have a decidedly European flavor.
Most of the 100 airmen attending will be from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, as will five of the eight aircraft being sent to the International Aviation and Space Salon, which begins Tuesday and ends Aug. 21.
For Col. Scott Nielson, who will lead the Air Force contingent leaving over the weekend, the trip still represents a journey into what was once enemy territory.
“If you are looking for proof that this is a new world, this is it,” he said in a telephone interview from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he is the USAFE reserve forces adviser.
American aircraft making the journey include two F-15E Strike Eagle fighter aircraft from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England; one KC-135 Stratotanker air-refueling aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England; two F-16 Falcon fighter jets from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; two B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.; and one KC-10 Extender advanced tanker and cargo aircraft from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.
The air show is a huge affair with more than 600 exhibitions displaying everything from safety equipment and training simulators to the latest in comfort and security for commercial travelers. More than 30 nations will be represented.
“It’s a huge deal for them. It is their version of the Paris Air Show,” said Nielson, “and they see it as that important.”
The Paris Air Show is a long-standing affair held every other year that is considered the largest and most significant air show in the world. The Moscow version began in 1992. It was held again in 1993 and has been held every other year since then, also billing itself as the world’s largest.
America’s flying service first took part in the 2003 version, even sending a B-52 Stratofortress long-range bomber, along with other aircraft.
“We’re there to show the flag a bit,” Nielson said, “but mostly to demonstrate international cooperation.”