Pascal Rossignol | Reuters
A U.S. soldier stands guard as a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft is moved, on the eve of the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 18, 2017.
The U.S. Department of Defense says the presence of the world’s most expensive fighter jet in Paris is a clear sign of the U.S. commitment to NATO.
The F-35A took to the skies above the French capital on Monday, wowing the crowd with a series of high- and low-speed maneuvers.
Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said the exhibition was an example of the willingness of the U.S. Air Force to work with allies.
“The presence of the U.S. F-35A at this Paris Air Show shows a degree of cooperation with our partners. And the NATO region will very soon further embrace the F-35Bs in the United Kingdom,” he said in a panel presentation Monday. “The more we sit together side by side and think through ways to better integrate the better. That is exactly what is happening at this air show.”
Wolters added that training allies in the operation of the F-35 was part of the wider goal to create a strong NATO force.
“I’m the NATO air chief. We wake up and our goal is to train and exercise like there is no tomorrow and our purpose is to take that NATO force and with each and every hour, minute, second we want a gradual improvement in our readiness.
“And that means that we will be ready for every occurrence that could take place in the region with the aim of protecting the sovereign land and skies of NATO members,” he added.
The F-35 has been criticized for being too expensive, but news agency Reuters is reporting that people familiar with the matter say the plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is on the brink of a huge $37 billion deal to sell 440 F-35 fighter jets to 11 nations.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called NATO obsolete and has rebuked European allies for not spending enough on defense.
Speaking at the same presentation, Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, said it is clear that NATO countries have been getting the message for some time.
“My observation is that years ago many countries depended on the U.S. but I think that in the last several years our partners are realizing that our stocks and munitions aren’t what they used to be,” she said.
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