In a serious breach of security, an intruder entered the highly secured Joint Base Andrews that houses the presidential plane, Air Force One, and access an aircraft used by US Vice President and other top officials.
Following the incident, the US Air Force announced on Friday that it will conduct a global security review.
In a statement, Joint Base Andrews (JBA) confirmed a male individual with two outstanding warrants accessed one of the C-40B aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing on Thursday night. The unarmed intruder was arrested by authorities in Maryland.
The base, 24km from the White House in Washington, DC, is home to the unit responsible for Air Force One and other aircraft reserved for the country’s elected leaders and top military brass.
There was no indication the suspect, who was not named, had links to extremist groups, base officials said.
A US official told CBS News that the security breach did not impact the presidential fleet.
President Joe Biden flew from the base to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday evening. This was first time he was flying on Air Force One after being sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20.
After gaining access to the airfield, the unarmed intruder then entered a C-40 aircraft from the 89th Airlift Wing, known as the “presidential wing,” officials said.
“I think everybody’s taking this very seriously, and the acting secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force chief of staff are going to order the Air Force inspector general to fully investigate this issue,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Friday.
Commanders also ordered additional security measures at the base, Kirby said.
The C-40 plane the intruder walked into is the Air Force equivalent of a 737 airliner, painted in the US government’s blue and white colour scheme, and is designed as an “office in the sky” for senior military, government leaders and members of Congress, NBC News reported.
The plane is outfitted with secure communications, sleeping quarters and work tables, according to the US Air Force.
The Air Force’s inspector general will conduct an investigation into the break-in, the Air Force said in its statement. It will also conduct a “comprehensive review of installation security and trends” on its bases around the world.
“The security of our installation is paramount,” said Col Roy Oberhaus, a commander at Joint Base Andrews in a statement.
“This was a serious breach of security,” Oberhaus added.
The break-in comes nearly one month after the January 6 riots at the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump, which has left stricter security protocols in place.