Jet-powered flyboard soars over Paris for Bastille Day parade

France’s annual Bastille Day parade showcased European military cooperation and innovation on Sunday, complete with a French inventor hovering above Paris on a jet-powered flyboard. The former jetskiing champion and military reservist Franky Zapata clutched a rifle as he soared above the Champs-Élysées on his futuristic machine, which the French military helped to develop. The board, which was first created to fly above water, can reach speeds of up to 190km/h and can run for 10 minutes. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, flanked by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other European leaders, nodded in approval and applauded the 40-year-old Zapata, who was referred to by astonished French TV commentators as “James Bond”. The French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, said before the parade that the flyboard could “allow tests for different kinds of uses, for example as a flying logistical platform or, indeed, as an assault platform”. Macron had invited Merkel and other leaders to the parade as part of his drive for deeper European defence cooperation. “Never, since the end of the second world war, has Europe been so important,” the French president said. But as Macron opened the parade by being driven down the Champs-Élysées in an open-topped military vehicle, waving to a flag-carrying crowd, a few gilets jaunes anti-government protesters, who had mingled with onlookers despite tight security, inflated yellow balloons and booed the president. Later, riot police fired teargas to disperse masked protesters from the Champs-Élysées after the parade ended. Hours after the military parade was over, groups of men – some masked and dressed in black – briefly tried to block roads with metal barricades, setting fire to bins. The men were not wearing the signature yellow vests of the gilets jaunes protests of the past eight months. Riot police units used teargas to clear the roads and hundreds of police were stationed on roads near the Arc de Triomphe. Some 152 people – among them some yellow vest protesters – were arrested earlier on Sunday morning, before the military parade, as they tried to stage a demonstration. Two key figures from the gilets jaunes were arrested near the parade route in the morning. The parade’s focus on European military cooperation meant it included troops and hardware from several different European nations, including British Chinook helicopters. Paris has stressed that British-French defence cooperation will remain tight even as Brexit looms. But while the departing British prime minister, Theresa May, was expected to attend, she did not and the UK was represented by the senior cabinet minister David Lidington. Macron had announced on Saturday he would create a national space force command that would eventually be part of the French air force.

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