The car that thinks it's a tank: Inside Obama's 'Beast' Cadillac that is being flown from the U.S. to drive down the Mall
Last updated at 12:52 AM on 23rd May 2011
An extraordinary entourage will accompany President Obama and his wife Michelle when they sweep into London tomorrow.
The team of at least 500 will include White House aides, a six-doctor medical team and a squad of personal chefs. There will be more than 200 secret service agents, many of them armed.
The President will travel in ‘The Beast’, his gigantic bomb-proof General Motors Cadillac with eight-inch thick armour-plating on its doors. The limousine will be accompanied by a motorcade of at least 20 vehicles plus a dozen police motorcycle outriders.
MR PRESIDENT, THE LITTLE PIRATE
Such is the emphasis on security that Mr Obama’s team has even asked to fit bomb-proof double glazing to the windows of his guest suite at Buckingham Palace.
The moves to increase the First Couple’s safety come in the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden three weeks ago.
Also joining the President on the trip will be one military officer carrying a suitcase containing America’s nuclear missile launch codes, plus representatives of six departments of state.
Mr Obama himself will fly on Air Force One, which doubles as a flying luxury hotel and command post complete with an operating theatre and gym.
The customised Boeing 747-200B, which is accompanied by a decoy aircraft, is said to cost around £110,000 an hour to run. The President and his wife, who are visiting Ireland today, will arrive at Stansted Airport tomorrow to be greeted by Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall.
After lunch with the Queen, the President will lay a wreath at Westminster Abbey before attending an evening banquet hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. On Wednesday Mr Obama will meet David Cameron and then address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. Meanwhile Mrs Obama will join girls from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School – the North London school she visited in 2009 – on a visit to Oxford University.
That evening Mr Obama will host a dinner for the Queen at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Britain, before leaving on Thursday.
Buckingham Palace staff have left nothing to chance in anticipation of the high-profile trip.
Aides admit, however, they were slightly taken aback a few weeks ago when Mr Obama’s security team demanded to be allowed to bring along their own portable double glazing-style glass to cover the windows in his bedroom as a temporary measure.
The Obamas will stay in the opulent Belgian Suite, which has hosted leaders including Nelson Mandela and President Kennedy.
A source said: ‘The Household does everything to make palace guests feel comfortable and there is little that we baulk at. That said, special requests are normally restricted to a certain type of tea or coffee or wheat-free bread for breakfast.
‘We like to think that our security measures would suffice, but if the President of the United States wants his own windows, then that is what he will have.’
By all accounts, so many Obama aides want to stay at the palace that some of the Queen’s own staff have to be kicked out of their rooms to accommodate them.
Another source said the U.S. team was setting up military-style beds in the basement and installing their own communication hardware.
‘The President’s team are running around the palace brandishing their guns as if they own the place – it’s like something out of that TV programme 24,’ they said.
‘They are also setting up a kind of mini clinic with hospital machines, including supplies of the President’s blood in case of emergencies.’
But sources say the White House team is ‘not nearly as demanding’ as those working for George W. Bush, who stayed at the palace in 2003.
His security team apparently wanted all 760 palace windows be replaced, while the helicopters Mr Bush used were, said the source, ‘so large that they shook the trees and plants to smithereens. The Queen was furious’.
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