It was hardly the kind of exhibit most folks would expect to see at a U.S. military air show. Over there, just past the fighter planes, vendors were hawking obscene song books, plastic models of women's breasts and suggestive T-shirts.

"Is this really the public image that the U.S. Air Force wants to project?" asked a Fleet Street columnist in a London newspaper after the Air Force open house at a British base in Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, last week.

Apparently not, according to the Air Force.

"The T-shirts and artificial breasts were sold by British vendors," said Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. James Reinhard. "They were inappropriate for sale at such an event and in obvious poor taste.

"Appropriate steps," Reinhard said, "have been taken to ensure that such materials are not sold at future open houses or any other event for that matter."

But that declaration didn't come in time to keep at least one London columnist from poking fun at U.S. blue-suiters.

"The U.S. Air Force's open day at its base . . . last weekend was a strange affair," wrote Francis Wheen, who pens the Diary for The Independent, a London daily newspaper. "It was billed as an 'Air Pageant' but it was all about sex."

But Wheen, in his June 9 column, leveled his most vehement outrage at the song book sold by members of one of the U.S. tactical fighter squadrons: "50 pages of more or less continuous obscenity . . . . "

"The song books were sold by a base organization and they too will not be sold at subsequent events in the future," said Air Force spokesman Reinhard, who discussed the issues with officials of the Third Air Force, which hosted the open house.

Wheen noted that not all of the songs in the book were overtly sexual, however. Some were just in poor taste. For example:

"Phantom flyers in the sky,/Persian pukes prepare to die,/Rolling in with snake and nape,/ Allah creates but we cremate."