July 4th ‘Salute to America’ Will Mainly Feature Military Aircraft, Not Tanks: Report

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The Blue Angels fly over the Washington Monument during a Fourth of July celebration.
The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, fly over the Washington Monument during a Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2019. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ian Cotter)

The Trump administration's 'Salute to America' Fourth of July celebration that will span five U.S. cities will largely be an aerial demonstration this year, Politico reports.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that some 1,700 troops will support celebrations in Washington, D.C. as well as military flyovers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

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"The details are still being worked out at this time," Defense Department spokesman Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said Monday in a statement.

"Each of the services are providing their service bands for musical support," he added. "The Old Guard will be involved, as always, [as well as] the color guards, and the Golden Knights demo team."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Politico on Sunday reported that, while last year's events involved tanks in the nation's capital, the second annual 'Salute to America' will largely leverage fighter jets and helicopters instead of static displays of large military equipment.

Some of the aircraft expected to fly over D.C. include the Air Force's F-16 Thunderbirds demonstration team; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor fifth-generation jets; the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber; V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft; CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters; some Coast Guard aircraft; as well as a presidential aircraft -- either Air Force One or Marine One, Politico said.

The Navy's Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet demonstration team, meanwhile, will conduct a flyover near Mount Rushmore.

The list largely mimics the majority of aircraft used last year, although the Blue Angels had taken part in the D.C. flyover; two Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 37 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia also participated in the D.C. events in 2019.

"The flyovers provide an opportunity for DoD to demonstrate the capabilities and professionalism of the United States Armed Forces," Mitchell said in the statement Friday.

While the Pentagon described the aircraft as a mix of "current DoD and heritage aircraft," it has yet to announce what units will be involved in the flyovers and other demos.

"Flying hours are a sunk cost for the Department of Defense, and these aircraft and crews would be using these hours for proficiency and training at other locations if they were not conducting these flyovers," Mitchell said.

"The flyovers will begin in Boston and proceed to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. From there they will join other Department of Defense and heritage aircraft in the Salute to America over our nation's capital," he said.

Officials in D.C., however, have canceled the annual 4th of July parade amid coronavirus concerns.

Despite air shows canceled amid the coronavirus response, the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds recently concluded multi-city flyovers meant to act as a morale booster during the ongoing pandemic.

Operation America Strong featured F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18 Hornets flying over hospitals, medical facilities and major metropolitan areas in more than a dozen events across the U.S. throughout the month of May.

But the events were not without scrutiny: People took to social media to question the flight costs amid the pandemic, with many businesses shuttered and millions of people out of work.

According to fiscal 2017 data, it costs $20,423 per hour to fly an F-16.

B-2s, B-52 Stratofortresses and B-1B Lancer bombers took part in their own community flyovers between April and May.

The announcement of the Independence Day festivities follows a Government Accountability Office report that found the 2019 demonstrations ordered by President Donald Trump cost $13 million, twice as much as those of previous years.

GAO calculated the annual parade on average cost $6-7 million annually between 2016 and 2018.

One reason for the price hike was due to "the cost for DOD to transport several vehicles to the National Mall," GAO said.

The Pentagon comptroller last year originally calculated that the Fourth of July parade cost $1.2 million.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: 1,700 Troops Will Support July 4 'Salute to America' Demonstrations, Pentagon Says

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