Four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 354th Fighter Squadron and the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing landed on a state highway as part of Northern Strike 21, a large-scale training exercise, in Alpena, Aug. 5.
This is the first time in history that the Air Force has purposely landed modern aircraft on a civilian roadway in the U.S.
The 355th Wing participation in this exercise demonstrates the unit’s continued effort to refine its agile combat employment capabilities and Dynamic Wing concept, which improve its Airmen’s ability to operate from austere locations with limited infrastructure and personnel. The A-10’s ability to land on a variety of surfaces, like highways and unimproved landing strips, allows the Air Force to project combat airpower closer quickly.
“This proof of concept proves that we can land on any highway and continue to operate,” said Capt. John Renner, 354th FS flight commander and one of the pilots who participated in the highway landing. “The A-10 allows us to land a lot more places to get fuel, weapons and other armament so we can operate anywhere, anytime. This will allow us to get away from using built-up bases that our adversaries can target by moving much more rapidly.”
Two C-146A Wolfhounds assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command also executed highway landings as part of the exercise, highlighting the service’s ability to integrate and employ diverse missions in austere environments. These landings align with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” strategic approach by testing and proving innovative tactics that are not typically trained to, which positions the force to outpace any potential adversary.
“This is a small step toward increasing our confidence in operating from austere locations,” said Lt. Col. Gary Glojek, 354th FS commander. “We are increasing the number of areas we can operate from to generate and deliver attack airpower by operating from dirt and pavement runways. Accelerating change is all about seizing every opportunity to move forward to increase your readiness.”
Air Force senior leaders have emphasized that ACE will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s fight as the nation’s focus shifts to near-peer competition. Training like this is critical in ensuring the 355th Wing and the total force is prepared to deter and, if necessary, defeat would-be adversaries.
“We are ready to get within striking range, and we are ready to go generate and deliver attack airpower from thousands of locations across the world,” Glojek said. “We are going to continue to get lighter, faster, more maneuverable and more flexible as we do that.”
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Story by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens, 355th Wing Public Affairs
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan