The president of the United States is considered the most powerful and influential person in the world. With great power comes great responsibility—and also significant risk.
Since the 20th century, US presidents have been using designated vehicles for transport. The US Secret Service, the agency behind the president's security, considers the president to be in his most vulnerable position while he is travelling.
The most risks come from being in transit, most notably the assassination of 35th President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
This is why the US Secret Service leaves no stone unturned to ensure the maximum security possible and provides the president with the most secured land and air vehicles in the world: Cadillac One and Air Force One.
Although the brief details of the presidential transports are top secret, there are a lot of speculations about their security details based on their public appearances.
The Cadillac One is the US president's official state car. Nicknamed 'The Beast', it is a specially-designed vehicle created by the General Motors luxury brand.
The car is heavily modified for security and protection purposes. It is equipped with 8-inch armour plating, 5-inch bulletproof glass, and a hermetically sealed cabin to protect against chemical and biological attacks.
It also has a variety of communication systems to maintain contact with the White House and other government officials. The exterior design of the Cadillac One is customised to meet the requirements of the Secret Service.
The vehicle is also equipped with various emergency equipment, such as necessary weapons, oxygen tanks, fire-extinguishing systems, and a blood supply of the same blood group as the president.
The car is driven by Secret Service agents and is usually part of a convoy of vehicles. The presidential limousine remains in the middle of the motorcade. On the front, there is an armada of vehicles and motorbikes to clear out the route, look for any danger, and guide the beast.
Some of the vehicles are occupied by armed secret agents, who act as the first wave of security and will face any threat that approaches the beast.
'The Beast' is not the only car that's been the centre of the motorcade. To confuse the attackers, the presidential car is accompanied by two other identical limousines that act as decoys. In case of a severe security risk, all of the vehicles in the motorcade might be identical Cadillacs.
Behind the secured package, aka presidential vehicles, there is a hazardous materials mitigation unit truck that responds to chemical, nuclear, and biological attacks against the president.
There are more cars behind the presidential limousine, which are occupied by secret agents, doctors, military personnel, press members, and police officers, and most of them create a buffer for the president's car.
Due to the high level of customisation and security features, the cost of the Cadillac One is not publicly disclosed.
However, it is estimated that an hour of using the presidential motorcade costs over USD 150,000. The secret service prefers to transport the president via air (Air Force One and Marine One) if the road trip requires more than 30 minutes.
Air Force One
Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign of any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. The history of Air Force One dates back to 1943 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew in a military plane for the first time.
The first plane specifically designated as Air Force One was a Douglas VC-54C aircraft that began service in 1945 during the Truman Administration.
Since then, several presidential aircraft have been used and modified to meet the president's needs. The current aircraft is typically a specially-configured Boeing 747-200B or 747-8, although the President can fly on any aircraft that meets the necessary security and communication requirements.
Air Force One is also called the 'Flying Fortress' due to its highly specialised defence systems despite being a customised commercial aircraft.
Some of the unique characteristics and specialisations of the Air Force One aircraft include:
- Advanced security systems: Air Force One is equipped with state-of-the-art security systems to protect the President and other passengers from potential threats. These systems include radar jamming, radar detection evasion, missile detection equipment, and a self-defence system that can fire flares to distract heat-seeking missiles.
- Communication capabilities: The aircraft is equipped with advanced communication systems that allow the President to stay in contact with key government officials, military leaders, and other important personnel while in flight. This includes secure voice and data communication systems and satellite communication capabilities that allow the President to stay connected even when flying over remote areas.
- Self-sufficiency: The aircraft is designed to be self-sufficient and able to operate independently of ground-based support. This includes the ability to refuel in mid-air, generate its own power, and carry its supply of food and water.
The aircraft also ensures the highest comfort for the president and other passengers, is always equipped with a medical team and the latest medical technologies and has the ability to accommodate special equipment and vehicles, such as a presidential limousine, as well as the ability to make changes to the aircraft as needed to meet changing requirements.
The cost of the two 747-8s currently in use is estimated to be around USD 3.2 billion, and the cost of flying the aircraft for an hour is estimated to be USD 206,000.
In conclusion, Cadillac One and Air Force One are two of the most iconic and recognisable symbols of the President of the United States.
Both vehicles are a testament to the advanced technology and engineering capabilities of the United States. They are a symbol of the country's commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its leaders.