By TSgt Ryan Crane U.S. Air Forces in Europe
Department of Defense representatives and aircraft were on hand at the 51st International Paris Air Show, the largest aerospace event in the world, at Le Bourget Airport June 15-21. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James along with Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of Air Force international affairs, Dr. William LaPlante, assistant secretary of the Air Force (acquisitions) and Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, attended the air show to meet with foreign defense officials, air chiefs and industry CEOs.
While the flying demonstrations at the air show are expected to draw a crowd of more than 139,000 over the three days it is open to the public, the main attraction for the DOD is the opportunity to build partnerships with their European allies and reaffirm their commitment to a secure and peaceful Europe. James spoke to many of those partners during the U.S. pavilion opening ceremony. “It takes all of us working in a very synchronized fashion to reach our goal,” James explained. “We in the Air Force like to talk about global vigilance, global reach and global power, but we can’t get any of that done without our partners. In fact, I would submit that our joint success in the future will depend on those very partnerships.”
The air show provides a collaborative opportunity to share and strengthen the U.S. and European strategic partnership that has been forged during the last seven decades and is built on a foundation of shared values, experiences and vision. “Its important to show American equipment and American Airmen,” Gorenc said, “and it’s important that we describe how those Airmen and equipment operate together. We need to highlight our ability to interoperate with our partners.”
While these meetings with foreign military officials and industry executives are the main focus for the DOD representatives, the crowd pleasers are the aircraft the U.S. flew in to showcase. Eleven aircraft make up the DOD corral of static displays which feature the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16C Fighting Falcon, CH-47 Chinook, RQ-7 Shadow UAV, UH-72 Lakota, UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, WC-130J Weatherbird and the P-8 Poseidon.
Many of these aircraft are vital components supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing mission led by U.S. European Command. OAR is the all-encompassing mission to demonstrate commitment to NATO allies and partners for peace in light of on-going Russian intervention in Ukraine.
Events like this highlight the importance of working together to take on future challenges. “Last year the biggest thing on the plate was how are we going to transition in Afghanistan,” Gorenc said in a recent interview. “This year, we deal with Russia, we’re dealing with ISIS [the Islamic State group], and we’re dealing with ebola. So, it reinforces the fact that despite all of our efforts, we cannot predict the future. However, what we can predict is when there are challenges in the world, air power will be part of that solution. Oftentimes, air power is the first to respond.” That responsive airpower is on display at Le Bourget.
Nearly 100 U.S. personnel, who are familiar with these aircraft, were on hand to meet guests, answer questions and give tours. They also had the chance to channel their inner celebrity and strike a pose for their fans.
“Every time we come to an air show the best part is just interacting with the crowds and people,” said Col. Dave Pollmiller, DOD air boss. “To be able to share our story and what our airplanes do, that is always the best part.” For most of the U.S. military here, it is the first time exhibiting their aircraft at an airshow, and it’s not a time they will soon forget. “I like seeing people from other countries and all of their aircraft and the items that they have here,” said Chief Warrant Officer Gerry Smith. “They are very friendly, and it’s great to be able to see things in person that we could normally only see on TV. It has been a great experience here in Paris.”