WASHINGTON: If you want to know how important the F-35 program is to American strategy and to American business note that Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Frank Kendall, the czar of Pentagon acquisition, top the list of senior American officials going to the Farnborough Air Show this year, making this the largest and highest-ranking contingent to attend a major air show in several years.
The F-35’s debut in the United Kingdom is bringing out the highest levels of the British military too — not to mention the presence of Queen Elizabeth at the christening of her eponymous ship when the F-35 is expected to fly on the Fourth of July.
Among the other top US procurement officials and military officers going to either Farnborough or the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), where the F-35 will fly after the christening:
Al Shaffer, principal deputy to the assistant Defense Secretary for Research and Engineering;
Elana Broitman; deputy assistant Defense Secretary for manufacturing and industrial base policy;
Keith Webster, the Pentagon’s director for international cooperation;
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Marine Deputy Commandant for Aviation, will attend RIAT.
The Joint Strike Fighter Program’s top man, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, will be in the UK leading his team to maintain, monitor and help explain the three US Marine F-35Bs and, hopefully, the one British plane, which my colleague Amy Butler reports is “still on the ground” after the fire hit a US Air Force F-35A. The Navy and Air Force have kept their planes on the ground since the fire. The Marines flew three of the Bs to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland after the fire to have them ready to fly the Atlantic. But the Marine aircraft have not yet left for the UK, Marine aviation spokesman Capt. Richard Ulsh said in a brief phone interview today from the UK.
“We are continuing to plan for our deployment” to the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough Air Show, he said.
Editor’s note: Our RIAT and Farnborough coverage begins July 10 at RIAT and continues through Wednesday, July 16. Sydney will be in Washington.