The United States Presidential Motorcade, How It Works (Photos)

What’s the composition of a presidential motorcade?

It entails dozens of vehicles, in a very specific configuration.

It’s no secret that the President of the United States is one of the most protected people in the world, whoever is in office.

This remains true even when they are out for a jog, but especially when they are out for a drive.

See, the POTUS can’t just hop in a car and head on over to the store like that.

There are massive security and safety protocols to ensure the President’s safety.

The US Presidential Motorcade may be simultaneously the safest AND the riskiest way for anyone to travel in the United States of America.

It’s essentially a whole fleet of vehicles that make up a mobile and armoured White House.

Far from being a simple lineup of cars, things are little more complicated.

The US Presidential Motorcade is made up of a pretty big fleet containing nearly every vehicle class.

For the most part, the exact formation is dependent on the “mission” (destinations) and who exactly is travelling with POTUS.

It also changes for security reasons, to keep things less “predictable” and thereby safer.

Oftentimes, one will see extra cars and vehicles coming in and out of the motorcade and at different positions.

Another neat fact is that even with the presidential vehicles on the move, there is a chance POTUS won’t actually be on board one of them.

The Secret Service has a reputation for being masters of protective details, and just because the Presidential limousines are in motion, the President isn’t necessarily inside one of them.

And depending on the situation, this motorcade can be re-formed to optimize the level of safety and efficiency required of the President when they are on the road.

A police presence precedes the beginning of the presidential motorcade.

These cars and motorcycles usually drive ahead to clear the way and block traffic.

The motorcade for the president is made up of two parts, the first being the “secure package.”

In the event of an emergency, the secure package breaks off from the rest of the group.

It includes two limousines, is heavily guarded by local law enforcement and Secret Service, and all cars are driven by professional drivers.

The second part is made up of vans that transport White House staff members and selected members of the press.

In the rear is a communications van that records the president’s movements, an ambulance, and additional police vehicles.

Route Car & Pilot Cars.

These are the vehicles you see at the front of the pack.

The Route Car runs minutes ahead of the Presidential Motorcade, presumably checking the route and providing guidance for inbound.

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These cars go ahead of the entire motorcade to check the scheduled route in real time.

They help provide additional navigation to the fleet in case they need to make any changes.

They are in contact with the rest of the motorcade.

The distinction between the route and pilot cars is that the route car is minutes ahead of the fleet while the pilot car is only mere seconds ahead so as to stay in better contact with Secret Service and other law enforcement.


Law enforcement gets involved with the motorcade and in the case of “sweeper” vehicles, these are mostly police-issue motorcycles and patrol cars towards the front of the motorcade.

The flashing lights and occasional sirens are meant to keep the road clear so that the whole motorcade can remain at a consistent speed (the President has to get to where they are going on time after all) and generally unencumbered by road traffic and other obstructions.

If you want to blame anyone for why traffic is jammed when the president is in town, blame the sweeper vehicles.

Lead Cars

It sounds weird considering the route & pilot cars are 1st in line but the “Lead” car is the actual brain of the operation.

That means the route and pilot cars are the “eyes.”

This is the car that is the main guide and decision maker for the total commute.

It even acts as a sort of “buffer” between what’s up ahead and the president’s cars.

Most of the time this can be identified as the secret service’s “Suburban”, but it has also been a local marked police car as well, depending on where the president is.

Presidential Limousine

The actual code name for the president’s car, “Stagecoach” is sometimes called “Spare.”

Typically this car (or cars) is snuggled right in the middle of the entire motorcade.

Though it may be styled like an oversized Cadillac limousine it’s actually closer to an elongated SUV, built for luxury, survival and security.

“The Beast,” as it has become known as, is equipped with all sorts of unique gadgets, modified capabilities and enough classified countermeasures to make even James Bond or Batman seem unimaginative.

Do you remember the times you’ve seen the presidential motorcade being driven someplace?

You were probably watching it on television like the rest of us.

Think back to what you were actually seeing. Yes, you saw police officers on motorcycles and in patrol cars, you saw the actual armoured limousine the president rides in, and, more than likely, you saw a handful of conspicuously dark and unadorned SUVs.

Every time the president’s limousine stopped, you also saw a number of Secret Service agents jump out of those SUVs to quickly run up and surround the president’s vehicle.

To be precise, they jumped out of all but one of those SUVs.

The one they didn’t exist, the one with the very dark tinted windows, contained something you would not have seen, unless, of course, that motorcade came under attack.

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The SUV’s roof would have opened up, and a weapon would instantly be raised up through that open space, a weapon of such awesome capability.

The M134D is probably the very finest small calibre, defence-suppression weapon in the world.

It is an electrically driven, six-barreled gun, that spews out ear-shattering rounds at an incredible rate, approximately 3,000 round per minute.

The result is around 300,000 to 1,000,000 of total rounds.

Presidential Security Detail SUV: Code Named “Halfback”

Halfback is the following car for Stagecoach and Spare(s), and it carries the President’s Secret Service protective detail.

Usually, this vehicle is a specially outfitted Chevrolet Suburban with police lights mounted on a light bar, in the interior windows, and in the grill.

This is basically the President’s first line of backup should something occur while en route, and it will follow a pre-planned set of defensive driving and VIP protection tactics based on a long list of contingencies.

Rear-facing third-row seating usually has at least one overtly armed Secret Service Agent sitting with the window or tailgate open.

Electronic Countermeasures Vehicle Code Name: “Watchtower”

This vehicle has large vertical aerials and domes on its spine and actively jams communications and remote detonating devices.

In some configurations, it may also work at detecting incoming projectiles and small unmanned aircraft via short-wave radar.

This vehicle, along with others in the motorcade, may also provide laser warning (used by some anti-tank guided missiles) and radar warning for the convoy.

If a threat is detected, such as one using a laser for designation and ranging, or if a threat radar were detected, IR smoke, chaff and targeted jamming could be deployed, disrupting such an attack.

Control Vehicle & Support Vehicles

Support Vehicles usually transport high-value staff, such as parts of the President’s cabinet and their security detail, as well as additional security personnel and the President’s doctor.

The Control Vehicle carries a top military aid with the highest level of clearance, who would assist the Commander-in-Chief during a major military incident, giving operational guidance, and if need be, activating the Nuclear Football.

These vehicles are usually modified SUVs, such as Chevrolet Suburbans with enhanced communications and low-profile police lighting, or rented vans.

Counter Assault Team Vehicles

These vehicles are also usually black Suburbans or some other large SUV, with police lights, rails and running boards for external transport of agents, and they always have their rear gates ajar with a heavily armed and armoured commando hanging out of the back, assault rifle at the ready.

The Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team, known as the ‘CAT,’ gives the Presidential Motorcade its heavy-hitting combat punch.

These elite Secret Service operators, selected from a tiny fraction of those who apply, carry state-of-the-art arms, including assault rifles, night vision goggles, expendables like flashbangs and concussion grenades, and sometimes heavy body armour.

The CAT is the direct action unit that rapidly counter-attacks if the convoy is ambushed, or it sets up a defensive buffer if the convoy were about to be attacked. Meanwhile, the President’s Security Detail would work to rapidly evacuate the President from the scene.

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They get to the destination before the POTUS.

Intelligence Division Vehicle: The “ID Car”

This vehicle works as a ‘big picture’ intelligence node, communicating with over-watch and surveillance units, local police, and other intelligence sources about possible threats or obstacles along the motorcade’s route.

The agents in this car try to identify problems before they occur.

Hazard Materials Mitigation Unit

This black work truck carries sensors to detect, and gear to respond to, nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) weapons attacks that threaten the Motorcade.

It also works as a roving storage vehicle, carrying supplies and other classified capabilities.

Press Vans

These vehicles are usually large vans that carry the White House Press Corps in the motorcade.

Obviously, this space is reserved for major news outlets and the White House media team.

This includes a camera, wire and general press vans.

The White House Communications Agency Vehicle: Code Name “Roadrunner”

Roadrunner, also known as the Mobile Command and Control Vehicle, is one of the most conspicuous vehicles in Motorcade.

A beefed-up Suburban, it houses a large satellite communications array and posts an antenna farm along its roof-line.

This vehicle keeps the President and White House officials securely connected to the world, providing encrypted voice, internet and video communications via the Pentagon’s constellation of hardened communications satellites.

This vehicle may also be able to handle communications for nuclear arms release.

Roadrunner also helps facilitate secure communications within the Motorcade itself.

Think of it as a big rolling data encryption centre, wifi hotspot, radio repeater and doomsday communications control centre.


An ambulance is a constant feature at the rear of the Presidential Motorcade.

It is there to treat injuries that may occur following an attack, a wreck or an unexpected biological event.

This resource is primarily reserved for the President.

Rear Guard

This is usually a phalanx of local police vehicles, such as motorcycles and marked patrol cars.

Their job is to provide early warning and a defensive buffer for the rear of the motorcade.


When the President travels, the Secret Service gets access to a Department of Homeland Security helicopter that provides intelligence, planning and over-watch for presidential movements.

Depending on where the President is headed, this mission can be executed using a Coast Guard, Border Patrol, US Customs or another federal government chopper.

Vice president Pence’s asssault team in Australia

The two-SUV motorcade that takes Barron Trump to school.

Secret service agent on standby, watching him in school.



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This is truly helpful, thanks.

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