A small number of M1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles will participate in President Donald Trump’s July Fourth celebrations in Washington on Thursday, US defense officials have confirmed to CNN.
However, they will not parade down Pennsylvania Avenue due to the need to protect roads and bridges.
Trump later confirmed tanks would be present during remarks in the Oval Office.
“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,” Trump said while also acknowledging that measures would need to be taken to protect infrastructure.
“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 Abrams tanks,” Trump added.
While the US continues to operate the M1 Abrams tank the US military has not used World War II-era M4 Sherman tanks since the 1950s.
“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new. And we’re very proud of it,” Trump said.
The event is being referred to as a “Salute to America,” and will feature fireworks and a speech from Trump.
A US defense official said that the current plan is to have a very small number of armored vehicles participate as part of a “static display” at the event on the National Mall. The vehicles will not be moving thereby reducing the chance of damaging local infrastructure. The number of vehicles will be very small with the current plan to have two M1 Abrams tanks, two Bradley fighting vehicles and an armored M88 Recovery Vehicle, along with an “appropriate” number of accompanying personnel.
Multiple US military aircraft will participate in the celebrations as well, according to two defense officials, including the B-2 stealth bomber and F-22 fighter jets.
CNN had also previously reported that the Blue Angels demonstration team, which typically flies F/A-18s, would be present along with F-35 stealth jets and that the VC-25, the aircraft that serves as Air Force One when the President is on board, also will participate.
Earlier in his administration, Trump had announced his intent to hold a military parade on Veterans Day in Washington, DC, however he canceled those plans following estimates that put the cost of such a parade at tens of millions of dollars.
Trump blamed local Washington officials for the high costs of the canceled parade.
Military planners had determined that the now-canceled parade was not going to feature tanks or other tracked vehicles due to concerns they could damage infrastructure.
A Pentagon memo said the parade will “include wheeled vehicles only, no tanks,” adding that “consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.”
By not having the tanks and Bradleys drive on DC streets as part of the July 4th festivities, planners hope to avoid any potential damage. As there are currently no armored vehicles stationed in DC, the vehicles are likely to be brought into DC via trains and transported to the location on the back of trucks.
The Washington Post was first to report Trump wanted tanks to take part in the July 4 event.
Other military assets will participate including the US Navy’s flight demonstration team the Blue Angels and ceremonial units such as the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the US Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”), and the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team.
One military official told CNN that F-35 stealth jets will also likely participate.
The Pentagon declined to comment on any costs associated with the July 4th celebration and with the units associated.
A spokesperson for the military’s National Capital Region/US Army Military District of Washington referred CNN to the Department of the Interior, which did not respond to questions.
Officials told CNN that the White House has been actively involved in the planning of the celebration and had asked the Pentagon not to discuss details prior to the event.
A US military official told CNN last week that the cost of using military assets in this year’s July Fourth celebration was estimated to be less than $1 million and that the military personnel involved are to be drawn from units based in the Washington area, helping to drive down costs.
The Department of Interior previously confirmed that Trump will give his “Salute to America” address on the National Mall this July Fourth, an unusual move by the President.
Trump and other presidents have previously held events at the White House to celebrate the nation’s birthday, but typically have not been present at the traditional large celebrations on the Mall.