Two U.S. Army M1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be on display on the National Mall on Thursday as part of President Donald Trump's plan to highlight the U.S. militaryin this year's Independence Day celebration.
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The tanks and armored personnel carriers were at a railroad yard in Washington on Tuesday morning, awaiting transport to their still unannounced final location. This would be the first time tanks were made part of the July Fourth event.
Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that "our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this" after critics raised questions about whether he was using the military for political purposes,
Big 4th of July in D.C. “Salute to America.” The Pentagon & our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World. Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2019
"We're gonna have a great Fourth of July in Washington D.C.," Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. "I'm going to be here and I'm going to say a few words and we're going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes, too."
"And we're gonna have some tanks stationed outside," said Trump. "You've got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas. But we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abram tanks."
While Trump described both the Abrams and Sherman tanks as "brand new" the M1 Abrams tank has been in use since the early 1980s and the M4 Sherman tank was developed during World War II and went out of service in the 1950s.
M1 Abrams tanks form the backbone of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps' armored tanks and are built at a facility in Lima, Ohio.
According to a defense official, there will be two M1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley Fighting Vehicles on "static display" at the National Mall. Ever since seeing the 2017 Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, Trump has been taken with the idea of seeing armored vehicles parading through the streets of Washington as part of a similar military review.
Plans to use military armor as part of a called-off 2018 Veterans Day parade were stymied after local D.C. officials said the treads on armored vehicles could eat into the city's paved roads. That parade was canceled by Trump after cost estimates had ballooned to $92 million.
HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
The Department of the Interior announced last week that military bands and the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team will also participate in this year's celebration.
While the announcement referred to flyovers, the details of what aircraft will be involved have been closely held by White House officials.
According to multiple defense officials each of the military services will be contributing aircraft as part of the flyovers in the nation's capital.
The list includes two Marine MV-22 Ospreys, the new VH-92 Marine One aircraft -- which is not yet on active duty -- one of the Boeing 747s that serves as Air Force One, a B-2 stealth bomber, F-22 fighters, two Navy F/A-18E’s and two Navy F-35C Joint Strike Fighters.
Like the military aircraft used at national or sporting events, the aircraft participating in the flyovers above the National Mall will officially be on training flights.
The military services include the costs of training flights into their annual budgets, so no extra costs will be incurred, even for those aircraft flying to the Washington area from installations across America.
For example, the entire B-2 Stealth bomber fleet is stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. The aircraft's round-trip flight to Washington will be covered by training budgets, including the plane's $122,000 per-hour flight cost, which includes the cost of fuel, the flight and overhaul costs for the aircraft.