At a time when international partners are skittish about rising costs for the Joint Strike Fighter program and allies have complained about access to program information, the Pentagon has decided that not a single Joint Strike fighter will head to the Farnborough Air Show and no one from the JPO will attend the show.
We confirmed the JSF and Joint Program Office rumors late this afternoon with a Pentagon spokeswoman. Separately, we hear that the head of Pentagon acquisition, Ash Carter, may attend the show though we have been unable to confirm this. Carter's presence would at least give the JSF partners a senior official to grill and would demonstrate that the U.S. -- at least symbolically -- values our allies sufficiently to send a top official to speak with them at the world's biggest aerospace venue this year. Rumor has it that Air Force Secretary Mike Donley will attend, but that has not been confirmed.
The first time a new military aircraft appears at an air show is always a major news event and is a palpable demonstration to the world that the plane is ready to demonstrate its stuff in front of a potential audience of millions. The F-22 made its first appearance at Farnborough in 2008 and it was the talk of the show.
A congressional aide we spoke with had little to say about the effects of the JPO absence but did say that Pentagon officials are very wary in tight budget times of being accused by the general media of skylarking at an air show. Of course, for those who have worked at air shows, little about them is terribly glamorous, certainly not the workload nor the working conditions. And representatives of several large international defense companies have told me of cost-benefit analyses they have done that show air shows are incredibly productive because you don't have to travel all over the world. Instead, the world comes to the air show and you can meet with industry and government officials from both the major producers and from the major buyers.