Tanks arrive in D.C. for Trump's Fourth of July celebration

NBC News spotted the tanks in the southeast section of the city on Tuesday, just days before the event.
Image: M1A1 Abrams tanks and other military vehicles sit on rail cars in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 2019. President Trump requests military hardware for Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall.
M1A1 Abrams tanks and other military vehicles sit on rail cars in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 2019. President Donald Trump has requested military hardware for Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

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By Lauren Egan and Mosheh Gains

WASHINGTON — Tanks for President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” Fourth of July celebration were seen arriving in Washington on Tuesday morning, just days before the event is scheduled to take place.

NBC News captured video of the tanks — two Bradley and two Abrams tanks — purportedly en route to the National Mall for Thursday’s event. Also in transport are support vehicles, including an M88, used to help recover heavy armored vehicles.

A photographer for the Associated Press also spotted two M1A1 Abrams tanks along with four other military vehicles on a freight train in southeast D.C. on Monday night.

On Monday, Trump told reporters that tanks would be stationed outside of the Fourth of July celebration, but gave no further details.

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Two U.S. defense officials familiar with the planning confirmed that Trump's remarks at Thursday's event are expected to be roughly 20 minutes long, with approximately four minutes dedicated to each service of the military.

The defense officials also said that different branches of the military are expected to provide air assets for the the Fourth of July celebration: the Army will bring four Apache helicopters; the Navy will bring two F-35s and two F/A-18s; the Air Force will supply a B-2 bomber, two F-22s, and the Air Force One plane; the Marine Corps will bring the new Marine One that is still in test and evaluation phase, as well as two V-22 Ospreys; the Coast Guard will have a Jayhawk and a Dolphin helicopter as well as a turboprop plane; and the Navy's Blue Angels will close out the aerial review with six F/A-18 Hornets, featuring as many as 16 pilots.

The military hardware will be transported from bases around the country, ranging as close as Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to as far away as the Naval Air Station in California.

With the increased air traffic in Washington on Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it would suspend operations at the Ronald Reagan National Airport, the closest commercial airport to D.C., from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET. Operations at the airport will also be impacted from 9:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. ET, during the fireworks show.

Trump has spoken about hosting an event here in Washington that would display military prowess since he attended a similar event in Paris in 2017. Previous plans were scratched after concerns were raised about the cost and infrastructure impact, with critics raising similar concerns about his plans for this week's holiday event.

Local officials and residents have pointed to the damage such massive military equipment could cause to area roads. And Democrats in Congress have criticized the president for putting on an unusually large production at taxpayer expense.

Others have charged Trump with turning a decades-old nonpartisan celebration into a political event.

Trump has promised that his speech, which he plans to deliver on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is aimed at all Americans and not only his supporters.

But on Monday, the Republican National Committee said they had received tickets to the Fourth of July event for distribution. Although the event is free and open to the public, the RNC tickets can get people access to better viewing areas and seating.

An official from the Democratic National Committee confirmed to NBC News that, as of Tuesday morning, they had not received any tickets to the Independence Day celebration.

Courtney Kube contributed.