A Quick Look at the Boeing C-32A Flying as Air Force 2 Into Detroit And The Vice-Presidential Motorcade

Air Force 2
Air Force 2, a Boeing C-32A, on the ground at Detroit's Wayne County Metro Airport with Vice-President Kamala Harris on Monday, July 12, 2021. (All images: Author)

Vice-President’s Aircraft And Motorcade Are Smaller And More Mobil Than President’s.

Keen-eyed aviation photographers got a rare, up-close look at Air Force 2 during its visit to Detroit’s Wayne County Metropolitan Airport (DTW) in Romulus, Michigan on Monday, June 12, 2021, when U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris visited Detroit for a series of speeches and meetings. Thanks to members of a local aircraft spotting Facebook group and the U.S. Secret Service, TheAviationist was able to take some up-close photos of this interesting aircraft on the ground Monday at DTW and photograph the Vice-President’s motorcade up close.

The U.S. Vice-President’s aircraft, as you know, uses the callsign “Air Force 2” when the Vice-President is on board. And while this callsign applies to any aircraft the Vice-President may be flying on, it is most commonly a U.S. Air Force C-32A transport from the 89th Airlift Wing based at Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Boeing C-32A flying as Air Force 2

The C-32A VIP transport is a heavily modified Boeing 757 airliner used for the U.S. Vice-President, the Secretary of State and the First Lady or Gentleman.

Air Force 2
The Boeing C-32A flying as Air Force 2, at Detroit’s Wayne County Metro Airport with Vice-President Kamala Harris on Monday, July 12, 2021.

Interestingly, a second variant of the Boeing C-32, called the C-32B, is used to transport, “U.S. State Department Foreign Emergency Support Teams (FEST), which deploy in response to terrorism incidents around the world. They may also fly in support of CIA Special Activities” according to an article on AmericanSpecialOps.com. Photos of the C-32B show that it is painted in a non-descript white paint scheme. The aircraft is also equipped with special long-range fuel tanks and midair refueling capability. There are reportedly only two of the C-32B special operations variants, one is based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and operated by the 150th Special Operations Squadron, while the other, even more fascinating aircraft is flown out of Eglin AFB in Florida and operated by the shadowy 486th Flight Test Squadron.

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Crew members of Boeing C-32A at Detroit’s Wayne County Metro Airport with Vice-President Kamala Harris on Monday, July 12, 2021.

The C-32 we saw on Monday in Michigan operating as Air Force 2 had the fairly new satellite communications dome on the top of the forward fuselage housing a Jetwave Ka band satcom unit for secure airborne communications.

The Motorcade

The Vice-Presidential motorcade was smaller than the Presidential motorcade we saw at DTW earlier this year during a visit by U.S. President Joe Biden. This motorcade still appeared to use two nearly identical VIP vehicles that were heavily up-armored. The vehicles change places frequently while en route as a security measure.

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A pair of up-armored U.S. Secret Service SUVs, one of which is carrying Vice-President Kamala Harris to meetings in Detroit on Monday, July 12, 2021.

A new (to us) vehicle did appear in the Vice-Presidential motorcade that was not apparent in the Presidential motorcade we saw earlier this year. This vehicle looked like a cross between an ambulance and a utility service truck. The all-black vehicle, built on a heavy-duty Ford pick-up truck chassis, had a panel box rear end with four interesting external doors or unusual shapes on the right side, an array of interesting antennae on the roof, and a number of other apparently heavy-duty accessories installed. Some sources report this vehicle as a, “U.S. Secret Service Protection Division Ford F550 Tactical Unit”.

A somewhat mysterious U.S. Secret Service utility vehicle in the Vice-President’s motorcade on Monday.
A police SWAT vehicle was in evidence near Air Force 2 during the Vice-President’s visit.

After the Vice-President left the airport for her meetings in downtown Detroit, a two-man security contingent could be seen providing overwatch on the parked aircraft in addition to a strong Secret Service presence near the aircraft. The USAF flight crew could also be seen after they deplaned.

At least two law enforcement personnel provided overwatch for the Vice-Presidential Boeing C-32A at Detroit’s Wayne County Metro Airport.

Acknowledgements: TheAviationist would like to thank the U.S. Secret Service for escorting our correspondent to photograph Air Force 2 and Mr. Robert Helms for his kind and informed assistance in covering this story.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.