Russian aviation will make a splash at this year’s Paris Air Show with the fourth-generation-plus Su-35 multirole fighter flying unrivaled by anything comparable from the U.S. military. In fact, there will be no U.S. government-owned military airplanes either flying or on static display because of the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts roiling the Pentagon. This is the first time since 2001 that a Russian fighter will take part in the Paris flying display and the first time that a U.S. fighter is absent from the event since 1991.
The budget-cutting process took effect on March 1 after political parties in the U.S. Congress failed to agree on measures to reduce the national debt. Some $85 billion in spending authority must be reduced across all government agencies by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, divided roughly between civil agencies and the Department of Defense (DOD). If the parties fail to change or reverse the process, sequestration will require similar annual cuts through 2021.
When sequestration became law, the DOD canceled the participation of military aircraft at air shows, flyovers and public events across the U.S., and now internationally.
“The impact of sequestration has placed enormous pressure on U.S. Air Force operations, and we have implemented a number of measures to assure we can meet our commitments to ongoing operations around the world while preserving readiness to support other contingencies,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col John Dorrian said in a statement sent to AIN. “As a result of sequestration, approximately one-third of our active duty combat-coded fighter squadrons have stopped flying, we have reduced weapons system sustainment for more than 30 types of aircraft and we’ve notified more than 170,000 Air Force civilian employees that they will be subject to furlough for up to 11 days. In addition, the Air Force has cut back participation in hundreds of public events, including the Paris Air Show.”
The French aerospace industries association GIFAS, which organizes the Paris Air Show, confirmed that the DOD will not provide aircraft for either the aerial demonstrations or for static display. But GIFAS noted there will be “huge participation by American industry,” exceeding that of the 2011 airshow. The U.S. Pavilion in Hall 3 lists 193 participating exhibitors, and the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has a chalet (Static I, 502).
“It was very unfortunate that DOD was unable to send aircraft to the Paris Air Show as a result of sequestration budget cuts,” AIA president and CEO Marion Blakey told AIN. “As the oldest and largest airshow in existence, Paris is an important opportunity for industry to work with our government partners to showcase the best aerospace and defense products in the world.
“However, industry is doing its best to bridge the gap by bringing a number of unmanned aircraft systems to display. But that effort has been greatly complicated by the late timing of DOD’s announcement, licensing restrictions and the reduced footprint of our U.S. government partners. We sincerely hope that sequestration is overturned and DOD is able to take advantage of this unique opportunity in the future.”
Senior Boeing executives said here in Paris yesterday that they were disappointed that the DOD had not provided aircraft for the show. But they said that government and armed forces officials were still fully supporting the company’s export drives. “In fact, their FMS involvement with us is at an all-time high,” said Chris Raymond, v-p business development and strategy for Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS). Jeff Kohler, vice-president international business development, said: “It doesn’t affect our ability to sell–our diaries for the week ahead are pretty full.” But, he added: “I hope the policy changes in time for the Dubai and Singapore shows, where we need aircraft present more than we do here.”
Last week, the DOD released a budget reprogramming report to Congress with details on how $37 billion in required reductions through sequestration affects fiscal year 2013 line-item appropriations. According to an AIA analysis of the report, the Pentagon’s procurement account is reduced by $9.5 billion, or 9.6 percent, and the research and development account by $6 billion, or 8.6 percent.
“The impacts of these cuts will be felt broadly across the economy, triggering layoffs and lost investment in industrial plant, training and research and development,” the association warned.