A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets landed and took off from a US highway on August 5, in a one-off maneuver during the annual Northern Strike 2021 exercise.
The Michigan National Guard worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to close a portion of Michigan State Highway M-32 for five hours to test its ability to land aircraft on roadways designed for cars and trucks.
This is widely believed to be the first time US Air Force aircraft have operated on public roads. In June 2018, A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard conducted highway landings in Estonia as part of the multinational exercise Saber Strike. The concept of operations from public roads is not unfamiliar to other countries either, as the UK is weighing doing similar evaluations this year in a revival of a Cold War practice.
In addition to the A-10s, the maneuver on August 5 saw at least one C-146A Wolfhound tactical transport aircraft take off from the runway.
According to a previous announcement, the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing, the Air Force’s 355th Wing, and the Air Force Special Operations Command planned to land four A-10 aircraft and two C-146 aircraft on a closed-off portion of the road near the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.
The maneuver was designed to demonstrate how active duty and reserve-component units can integrate to project combat airpower in austere environments.
This landing operation is part of the annual multi-national, large-scale military training event, exercise Northern Strike, hosted by the Michigan National Guard at the National All Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC), which encompasses the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
Northern Strike is Michigan’s largest and longest exercise designed to validate readiness of the joint reserve force. Held between July 31 and August 14, this year’s iteration will feature approximately 5,100 participants.
“This is believed to be the first time in history that modern Air Force aircraft have intentionally landed on a civilian roadway on U.S. soil,” said U.S. Air Force Col. James Rossi, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center commander. “Our efforts are focused on our ability to train the warfighter in any environment across the continuum so our nation can compete, deter, and win today and tomorrow.”
The Air Force is shifting its operations concepts to project power through Agile Combat Employment (ACE) and has been applying ACE tactics to train and sustain its agility.
“This year’s Northern Strike exercise includes testing the rapid insertion of an Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) into a bare-base environment when the 127th Wing from Selfridge (ANBG) deploys up to the Alpena CRTC,” said US Air Force Brig. Gen. Bryan Teff, Michigan Air National Guard adjutant general for air. “They will establish logistics and communications in order to receive follow-on forces, generate mission employment including the austere landing on M-32, and project combat power across all domains.”