This Tuesday, January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will assume as president of the United States of America, and the role of the USAF during the inauguration ceremony will be completely different from previous occasions.
Their main role will be tactical, supporting the unprecedented deployment of security, leaving the ceremonial in the background.
The air force established a massive airlift that brought in thousands of the 25,000 National Guard troops (more than the troops currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan) deployed to protect the Capitol and surrounding areas.
According to the specialized site Air Force Magazine (associated with the USAF) the Air National Guard has carried out a historic airlift, which until noon on January 19 included 155 departures, transporting a total of 6,838 passengers and 607 tons of cargo with units of the 31-state Guard flowing into Washington DC.
C-17, C-130, KC- 135, and other aircraft were used, constantly coming and going from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, bringing personnel from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico to contribute to the security operation.
Also deployed to Andrews Base, F-16s from the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia National Guard, “Capitol Guardians,” will be ready for air sovereignty protection missions, along with KC-135s from the 459th Refueling Wing. Air for in-flight refueling support.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement that its support for the National Special Security Event, led by the United States Secret Service, will protect DC airspace, although the inauguration will not be that different from the regular operations.
“NORAD’s support will be within its regular application of the Special Flight Rules Area, which is established in the nation’s capital 24/7/365,” the command said in a statement.
But during today’s presidential inaugurations, NORAD and the USAF will have to make a titanic effort to coordinate the massive number of aerial vehicles of all kinds accompanying the historic security operation. It will be like kicking a hornet’s nest.
The swarm is expected to be made up of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft and drones, not just from the USAF, but from a huge number of government security and intelligence agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard, etc.
To which must be added the air resources of a multitude of state and departmental police agencies , mainly made up of various models of helicopters.
And we cannot rule out the newborn Space Force, which should be in charge of providing satellite intelligence during the event.
About 400 USAF staff members will support the inaugural events, including VVIP air media crews, honor and gang guards, and communications and other support.
This is less than the 1,000 who participated in front of and behind the scenes of Trump‘s inauguration in 2017.
There is also no scheduled ceremonial overflight. For the 2017 event, an F-15E, an F-16, an F-22, and an F-35 flew over the Capitol during the inauguration.
It is clearly not going to be a showy presidential inauguration, but for all the glamor it lacks, it will have plenty of security, surveillance and intelligence. It will be a real test of airspace control and management.