It marks a boost in firepower for the air show, which has usually seen Frank Kendall, the head of Pentagon acquisition, there as the most senior official. Kendall will hold several press briefings before and during Farnborough. One of his prime goals during the show, I hear, is to help sell the F-35 to new customers, with an eye to lowering the plane’s overall cost and boosting US influence. It’s been a part of his job for some time, but the simple fact of the F-35 aircraft flying at RIAT and at Farnborough will greatly increase the perception that the plane is becoming a standard part of the US and allied arsenals.
In addition to Work, the head of the Department of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, is expected to attend, along with Charlie Bolden, the head of NASA. A senior State Department official is attending as well.
The F-35’s first appearance at one of the two big airshows is expected to dominate much of the news. Only the three F-35Bs, flown by both the US Marines and the Royal Navy, will fly at Farnborough itself. The three F-35As will fly only at the Royal International Air Tattoo, with an F-22 and at least one P-51 as part of the so-called Heritage Flight Group based at Luke Air Force Base.
Work’s appearance, combined with the US aircraft set to fly, mark a sharp turnaround in America’s participation from the Paris Air Show last year, when no US military aircraft flew.
No actual F-35s will be on static display at Farnborough. Lockheed will have a full-scale model that demonstrates all three variants on display across from the Press Centre (note spelling). It will have its own display area next to the US aircraft, which include at least the P-8 Poseidon and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. They will also be flying.
China has doubled the size of its presence at Farnborough this year, according to show organizers. However, no Chinese aircraft are listed for display or for flight. Neither are the Pakistanis displaying their JF-17 aircraft, as they did at Paris last year. We can only guess how many of the Chinese delegation will be gathering information for the security and military services.