US military practices landing A-10 jets on highway for the first time since 1984


By THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF | The Washington Post | Published: June 21, 2016

In another episode ripped from the U.S. military's Cold War training manual, four Air Force A-10 jets landed on an isolated highway in Estonia on Monday, the first time the aircraft has practiced highway landings since 1984.

The iconic ground-attack aircraft were from the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, which was participating in a U.S. Army-led, 14-nation exercise known as Saber Strike. According to a news release online, the jets had just finished a close air support exercise before being guided onto the highway in Jägala, Estonia, by a detachment soldiers on the ground, known as joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs.

Highway landings were a very real possibility if the Cold War ever went hot. According to the Aviationist, highway landing strips were developed because the locations of airfields were by-and-large public information, and they would be wiped out during the first salvo of warheads.

While the United States doesn't have any strips of road officially designated as expedient runways, the German Autobahn had sections that could support a variety of aircraft, as did certain roads in Poland, according to the Aviationist.

Though training for highway landings was a staple of the Cold War era, those exercises died out after the Soviet Union collapsed. Lately, however, there appears to be a renewed interest in the old ways - a growing trend as NATO and the United States become increasingly wary of a reinvigorated Russia to the east.

In 2015, Finnish and Swedish F/A-18 and JAS-39 Gripen multi-role fighters, landed and took off from Highway 924 in Finland during a training exercise.

Last week, the United States, along with 23 other countries, concluded the largest multinational exercise in Poland since the end of the Cold War, called Anokanda 2016. More than 30,000 troops participated. The 10-day event involved airborne exercises bridging operations and simulated air-defense drills meant to emulate what could happen in the event of a Russian attack in the region.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post.