Editor's note: This post was delayed due to network problems at Le Bourget. It was originally filed around 3:30 pm Paris time.
PARIS -- This morning's defense industry briefs have mostly ended to make room for the afternoon's flight demonstrations -- it's difficult to keep anyone's attention when a Dassault Rafale is cutting hairpin turns overhead. Even the eye-catching aerial displays include concessions to today's military reality, though: Although my Italian is non-existent a little rusty, the English translator seemed to say this when the C-27J flew over earlier: "It's ready for the 2nd, the third, and yes, the 4th world."
The twin-engine light cargo plane we Americans call the Spartan then dropped precipitously down for a simulated landing on a short runway; its pilots reversed its engines after only a few hundred feet and brought the aircraft to a stop. Then, in a classic air show move, they showed how easily the bird could reverse and maneuver -- all useful, we were told, for when your military is engaged in what we Americans call "stability operations" or humanitarian and disaster relief and needs to get in and out of an austere field.
If NATO's Libyan intervention is the exception that proves the rule, these aerospace companies seem to be betting that their government customers want as many aircraft like the C-27 as they do Typhoons. (One also did a brief demonstration earlier, just after the rain let up, and successfully deafened most of Paris' northern suburbs.) For another example, Lockheed Martin's display for its latest-model C-130J Hercules is just as big and prominent as its billboard for the F-35 -- much more on that tomorrow -- and Lockheed is even offering journalists a ride on its newest Herc later this week.
Sure, the Paris Air Show is as much or more for the commercial aviation world as it is for us defense types, but several aircraft are conspicuous for their absence: No F-35s, no F-22s, no flight demonstrations by the newest MiGs, and even the Typhoon has been around for some time. The newest American aircraft to fly here so far today, in fact, was an F-16.
Here's another exception that proves this rule: The buzz among the commercial aviation show-goers has been about this year's ambitious goals for supersonic and hypersonic passenger aircraft. Get a load of this announcement today from a company called HyperMach Europe Aeronautics, announcing what it describes as a revolutionary new aircraft for the elite biz-jet set:
HyperMach’s new supersonic aircraft SonicStar incorporates revolutionary aerodynamics and propulsion technology to overcome the environmental and economic challenges that have stopped the development of supersonic aircraft in the past. SonicStar will achieve the speed of Mach 3.5, while meeting requirements for high thrust to weight ratio engine designs, reduced emissions and the dramatic reduction of sonic boom overland. You’ll be able to fly supersonic from New York to Sydney in 5 hours with no sonic boom overland – changing the way in which the world does business... forever.You'll be wheels-up in your new hyper-jet around 2021, the company says, so start saving your pennies.
Meanwhile, many defense show-goers have much more modest goals, like just trying to find out when the F-22 will be able to fly again.