U.S. pares presence at air show
The Pentagon has issued guidelines that bar generals from attending June’s Paris Air Show and cut the number of military aircraft on display, a move some see as retaliation for France’s stand against the war in Iraq, the Boston Globe reported Tuesday.
The Paris show is the world’s largest showcase of aviation technology, and defense contractors count on sales made during the exposition.
The Globe said the new policy, described by a Pentagon spokesman Monday, splits the difference between congressmen seeking a complete boycott and the U.S. defense industry.
The Pentagon blamed the decision on logistics, the Globe said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has decided that “in light of the press of other events and the pace of Department of Defense activities, that U.S. participation will be more limited than in previous years,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Humm, who declined to comment on whether animosity toward France contributed to the decision.
However, the Globe reported that defense analysts say French opposition to the war played a big role.
“The way I would think about this is if it were the Madrid Air Show, what would be the level of U.S. participation, given Spain’s contribution to the U.S. effort in Iraq,” said George Perkovich, an arms-control specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Washington, D.C. “I think the answer is self-evident that it would be high.”
The United States traditionally sends a dozen or so military planes to Paris or to Farnborough, England — where the show is held in alternate years — according to past attendees.
This year’s U.S. contingent will be six planes, including one from each of the four uniformed services, plus an Air Force B-1 bomber and a C-17 transport plane, Humm said.
He added the planes won’t give any flying demonstrations, as in past years, and no officers ranked higher than colonel would attend.