What To Watch For at the 2015 Paris Air Show
Aviation trendsetters and seekers converge on Le Bourget.
The Paris Air Show is under way in Le Bourget, and while defense takes a backseat to commercial aviation at the venerable aviation event, arms makers nevertheless spend millions to be there. (Who won’t be shelling out for pricey chalets this year? Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Saab.)
One burning question — What will United Technologies do with its Sikorsky unit, which builds the ubiquitous Blackhawk helicopter? — was answered this morning: UTC says it will shed the Connecticut-based business by the end of September. The Wall Street Journal reported that Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are all interested in acquiring the Connecticut-based helicopter maker. The announcement will likely generate lots of discussion throughout the week in Paris, where the majority of the world’s aviation executives are meeting.
Via Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners, here are some other items investors will be watching: Will the Air Force certify as airworthy Textron’s self-developed Scorpion attack plane, which could boost the small jet’s international prospects? Will Lockheed Martin detail the Pentagon’s recently announced plans to buy 450 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters over three years beginning in 2018? How will Dassault manage production of its Rafale fighter jet in the wake of orders from Egypt, Qatar and India? And what will be the fallout from the May crash of Airbus’ A400M transport in Spain?
The Russians are at Paris in force, as announced by Moscow’s state-owned manufacturing lobbyist Rostec late last week, showing off fighter jets, attack helicopters, trainers, transports and the sophisticated surface-to-air missiles that Defense One told you about a little earlier this year. (Planes your correspondent would check out include the Ukrainian-built Antonov An-178 cargo plane, on display just weeks after its maiden flight. When was the last time a company sent such a nascent plane to an air show?) The large presence is a bit of a surprise, given that Moscow remains annoyed that Paris reneged on a deal for two amphibious assault ships after Russia annexed Crimea and moved into eastern Ukraine. And as Russian jets arrived in Paris, warships of the U.S. and 16 other countries plied Baltic waters in a major exercise.
What is the U.S. showing in Paris? Led by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, the Pentagon delegation is bringing Army Apache, Chinook, Blackhawk and Lakota helicopters; a Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane; and Air Force F-15E and F-16 fighters, A-10 attack planes, and a WC-130J “Hurricane Hunter” plane. (Meanwhile, you can now use the words “airliner” and “vertical takeoff” in the same sentence, thanks to this video of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner practicing its Paris demo. It’s gone viral: 7.3 million views at press time.)
And while the C-17 Globemaster is not expected to make an appearance, the airlifter remains in the news: production is wrapping up in coming months, and Boeing is auctioning off manufacturing equipment at its factory in Long Beach, Calif.
The tight airspace around the Le Bourget airport makes the Paris show a great place to watch the flight demonstrations. Unlike in Dubai, where the planes can disappear over the desert horizon, they’re in front of you the whole time in Paris — except when rain cancels the whole shebang. On Monday, the Pakistani Air Force JF-17 Thunder and French Air Force Rafale fighter jets are slated to show off their aerobatic skills. Also, don’t be surprised if an Air Force B-52 bomber makes a flyby, since they’re already in Europe for military exercises.