For the first time in decades, US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft have practiced landing on highways, a tactic they originally developed in the 1980s for operations in Germany. This time, the exercise took place in Estonia. (EPB photo)
By: Wording OD
Michigan National Guard attack aircraft practiced landing on and taking off from the Jägala-Käravete Highway, a portion of the longer road known as Piibe Highway, in Northern Estonia on Monday. The maneuvers were conducted as a part of international military operation Saber Strike wherein pilots practiced operating in a region with few actual airstrips and where alternatives would have to suffice. At approximately 2 p.m. on June 20, four A-10 Warthogs from the Michigan National Guard arrived in the vicinity of the Jägala-Käravate Highway from Lielvārde Air Base, located southeast of the Latvian capital of Riga, reported ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.” As it turned out, landing an attack aircraft on a highway was not exactly an everyday activity for the American pilots.
“No A-10 as far as we know has done this since the 1980s,” explained Brig. Gen. Doug "Odie" Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge. “We practice short-field landings, we practice landing in 'austere locations' — is what we call it — but this is the first time in a long time that A-10s have landed on a highway strip." The process involved one attack aircraft landing on the highway while its partner aircraft circled over the area and kept watch. After five to ten minutes, the A-10 which had just landed would take off again, after which it was the next plane’s turn to land. In order to prepare for the maneuvers, the highway first had to be closed and roadside brush cleared.
“I’d like to thank all landowners whose land is located on the side of the highway here — they were very accommodating,” said Commander of the Air Force Colonel Jaak Tarien. According to the commander, the landowners agreed to take some trees and brush down on their own property in order to guarantee a large enough safety area for the planes landing on and taking off from the highway. The A-10 Warthog, whose official name is the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, was designed by Fairchild Aircraft for the US Air Force specifically to provide close air support for ground forces. It entered service exactly 40 years ago, in 1976. Its primary built-in weapon, a 30 mm GAU-A/8 Avenger Gatling-type cannon, can fire 3,900 rounds per minute, or 65 rounds per second, making the Warthog especially effective in the destruction of tanks and bunkers.