Le Bourget, France The US Air Force sent a high powered delegation to the Paris International Air Show this week, leading US efforts to engage European allies on matters ranging from foreign military sales to expanded training initiatives. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James visited Paris on June 15, along with US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa boss Gen. Frank Gorenc, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs Heidi Grant, and the Air Force’s top civilian acquisition official, William LaPlante. James said her primary mission was to reassure allies in the face of continuing distress with a revanchist Russia in eastern Europe. “I would say the biggest threat on my mind is what’s happening with Russia,” James said. In fact, the security situation in Europe and worries about Moscow from American allies are a “big part of why I’m here in Europe,” she added. During a brief meeting with reporters at the air show, James said she planned to visit US airmen on the continent, first at RAF Fairford in England, where USAF B-52s and B-2 have deployed on exercise rotations, then to Sigonella, Sicily, where USAF is operating unmanned aircraft assets to support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance demands, and to Cyprus, where U-2 airmen are flying sorties. In addition, James will attend bilateral meetings in Poland with senior government officials and visit the USAF detachment at Lask AB, Poland, air bases in Germany, and meet with NATO officials in Brussels, Belgium.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.