//On toes: mighty military machine

On toes: mighty military machine

Tuesday, February 28, 2006, The Telegraph,

New Delhi, Feb. 27: President George W. Bush’s visit to New Delhi and Hyderabad this week will be the most sophisticated US military operation on Indian soil.

The logistics, the technology and the security apparatus created around the American President is on a scale that is unprecedented for the visit of any foreign dignitary to the country.

A visit by an American President anywhere is the responsibility of the US military and in the visit to India it involves coordination among the expeditionary forces that make up the US military machine, specifically the US Central Command and the US Pacific Command, apart from the secret service and the cloak of security that shrouds the White House.

Delhi’s airspace will be blocked for about an hour each time Bush lands and takes off on Air Force One. But even before he lands, the paraphernalia for his security is being flown in.

Among the Air Force One fleet of the Presidential Airlift Group of the 89th Airlift Wing of the Air Mobility Command based at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington DC are two C-5 Galaxy heavy lift transport aircraft.

The Lockheed Martin-produced cargo aircraft will land in New Delhi and in Hyderabad with a fleet of cars that includes two bulletproof Presidential limousines. One of the aircraft may even be ferrying a helicopter, apart from an equipped ambulance and vehicles that may or may not be part of the presidential convoy and could be used to confuse real and imagined adversaries of the route Bush will take.

The exact number of aircraft that will make up the Air Force One fleet is not being disclosed by the Indian Air Force authorities who are helping in coordinating the visit. But a source said fighter aircraft escorts are not expected to land in Delhi. One source said there were likely to be seven aircraft.

Air Force One — the call sign of the aircraft that the President will be flying in — is usually a Boeing 747-200B aircraft dubbed in the American press as a “flying Oval Office” that its manufacturers claim is designed to withstand even a thermonuclear explosion. The Presidential Airlift Group has two such aircraft. Both may be used in a long tour, as in the current voyage to India and Pakistan. In the Presidential aircraft, there will be, apart from secret service agents and diplomats a small team of journalists but more journalists are likely to follow in a separate aircraft.

On his flight, the presidential fleet will be escorted by aircraft from the Central Command and from the Pacific air forces. The protective ring around the President may comprise about 800 secret service agents. Delhi Police and security agencies like the National Security Guard will deploy personnel for outer security.