Pentagon planning Thunderbirds, Blue Angels flyovers to 'champion national unity': report

The Pentagon is planning to fly Blue Angels and Thunderbirds over multiple U.S. cities next week to "champion national unity" and thank first responders amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. 

The flyovers are intended to serve as a thank-you to first responders, essential personnel and military service members as part of the collective fight against the spread of COVID-19, the Post reported, citing a memo about the plan. 

The mission, named Operation America Strong, is meant to be a nonpartisan show of resolve, a senior military officer in the Pentagon told the Post. 

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“This is just a sincere thank-you,” the senior military official said. “It’s one way to acknowledge those who are pitching in.”

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds will fly jointly over Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Newark and Trenton, N.J., Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston and Austin, Texas, the Post reported, citing the memo. 

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds will also fly separately over several other cities. 

The cost of the flights will come from money already in the Pentagon's budget, the official told the Post. 

A spokesperson for the Pentagon was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Hill. 

The senior military official told the outlet that the appearance will not feature air-show stunts and that the teams will avoid flying over areas where people can congregate, as public health experts have warned against large social gatherings to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

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The official told the news source that White House officials have been briefed and said the program still needs final approval from service secretaries. 

Another defense official told the Post that congressional staff were briefed about the plan this week, and officials for offices of Democratic and Republican senators on the Armed Services Committee confirmed to the Post they had been notified. 

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), whose state is home to the Blue Angels, told the newspaper he’s “thrilled” about the plan. 

“I’m thrilled to see our military honoring the front-line health care workers who have been fighting every day against this silent killer,” he said. “They are all heroes deserving of our gratitude and honor.”

Across the U.S., there are more than 844,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 46,609 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.