WASHINGTON — Facing the prospect of dramatic budget cuts, the U.S. military may skip the Paris air show this year for the first time, Air Force officers said Friday.
The move is among an array of cost-saving measures the Air Force has drawn up in case Congress fails to clinch a budget deal by March 1.
Without an agreement in Congress to avert automatic spending cuts, military funding would be slashed by roughly $50 billion from March to the end of September, when the current fiscal year ends.
For the Air Force, the cuts would amount to about $12.4 billion, according to Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force.
If the automatic cuts go into effect, the Air Force plans to cancel a third of its flight hours through September, furlough 180,000 civilian employees and scrap deployment plans for some squadrons, among other steps, officials said.
In addition, “aircraft participation in airshows could be cancelled,” said Tonya Racasner, spokeswoman for the Air Force.
The Pentagon has always made a point of sending warplanes to major air shows, including the Paris showcase at Le Bourget and the Royal International Air Tatoo in Britain.
Even during the bitter row over the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, when relations frayed between Washington and Paris, the Americans still took part in the Paris air show.
Alternating year-by-year with Britain’s Farnborough, the Le Bourget aviation show is the industry’s showpiece event and the most recent exhibition attracted 145,000 people.