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Air Platforms

Paris Air Show 2017: Lightning II makes Le Bourget debut

19 June 2017
Seen during its recent operational and training deployment to Europe, the F-35A is performing at this year's Paris Air Show for the first time. Source: US Air Force

After much deliberation of 'will it, won't it?' leading up to the event, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is making its Le Bourget debut at this year's Paris Air Show running from 19 to 25 June.

Following the type's debut at the Farnborough Air Show last year, the US Air Force (USAF) has dispatched a pair of its conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-variant F-35As to the biennial event in Paris, though service commitments mean that they will be flown by industry rather than military pilots.

Speaking ahead of the show, USAF officials said that one aircraft from Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Utah and another from Luke AFB in Arizona would perform flying displays at the Paris show, after it had initially been reported by show organisers that the F-35 would not appear.

The United Kingdom is the only Tier 1 partner in the international F-35 programme, so the aircraft's eventual appearance at Farnborough was always assured. However, France is not a partner and so has no vested national interest in showing the aircraft. It was also anecdotally reported that the USAF was wary of displaying its premier fifth-generation fighter at the event owing to security fears (the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber performed a flyover without landing in the 1990s, while a planned visit of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor in 2009 was cancelled), though the USAF has said that any such concerns are not a factor this year.

Regarding the Paris debut, USAF Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said, "The F-35A strengthens partnerships and improves regional stability. We welcome the opportunity to further demonstrate the revolutionary capabilities of this aircraft."

The arrival of the F-35A in Paris follows shortly after the type's first operational and training deployment to Europe, which took place in April.

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