The US is preparing for an Independence Day parade that Donald Trump promises will be an “incredible” display from the “strongest military anywhere in the world”.
The scale of the 4 July “Salute To America” event will be relatively new for a country that has traditionally not held such massive military parades on the streets.
Mr Trump’s determination to throw such an event in the US came after he saw the Bastille Day parade in Paris two years ago.
Initial plans were scrapped due to the cost, objections from local officials in Washington DC and reluctance from then defence secretary Jim Mattis. But Mr Trump never quite gave up on the dream.
On Thursday, the US capital will find itself home to a massive military arsenal set to include:
- An Air Force B-2 stealth bomber
- Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets
- The Navy Blue Angels aerial acrobatics team
- Army and coast guard helicopters
- Marine V-22 Ospreys
- Bradley fighting vehicles
- 60 tonne Army Abrams battle tanks
- The presidential Air Force One and Marine One aircraft
Mr Trump insisted military leaders were “thrilled” to be part of the event, writing on Twitter that they would be “showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced military anywhere in the world. Incredible flyovers and biggest ever fireworks!”
Pentagon officials appeared to be hiding their enthusiasm well, referring parade-related questions to the White House and declining to confirm whether General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, would attend.
Retired marine colonel David Lapan, a former senior spokesman at the Pentagon, said troops should be allowed to enjoy the holiday instead of being paraded.
“After 18-plus years of war, we have asked a lot of our military and their families, and they have sacrificed. Let’s give them a day off rather than a day on for this holiday,” he said.
The Pentagon has not released the cost of the parade but Mr Trump has his own cost prediction: “Very little compared to what it is worth.”
The president wrote: “We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
However, the Air Force has said a B-52 bomber costs $122,311 (£97,300) an hour to fly and this one has to travel from its home in Missouri and back.
The parade has been designated a training event so the cost is already budgeted for, they said.
The cost for every hour the F-22 is in the air is $65,128 (£51,800) and it is unclear whether this is covered.
Angry officials in the District of Columbia are also worried about the damage a tank could do to city roads.
Some Trump critics have described the parade as a costly way of playing politics, using the military as a prop.
Minnesota Democrat representative Betty McCollum said: “Mr. Trump is hijacking the celebration and twisting it into a taxpayer-funded, partisan political rally that’s more about promoting a Trumpian cult of personality than the spirit of American independence and freedom.”
Source: SKY NEWS