Four A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft of the 107th Fighter Squadron, 127th Wing, Michigan National Guard, have landed on an Estonian Highway. The operations involving a highway strip are a part of the Saber Strike exercise. It is a significant event, since last use of a highway strip by the A-10 took place back in 1984, in Germany.
The historic landing of the US tankbusters took place on 20th June in Northern Estonia, on a specially prepared highway. The jets involved in the NATO Saber Strike 16 exercise took off from the Latvian Lielvārde airbase, close to Riga.
According to one of the officers of the 107th Squadron, from which the aircraft which have been using the Estonian highway strip come, the operation is the first one of this kind since the end of the Cold War. Despite the fact that the A-10 has been designed with such operations in mind, more than 3 decades have passed since a highway strip operation took place.
Not only did the whole operation require a high level of training from the pilots and the ground crews, as special preparations were also a must here. The owners of the surrounding parcels have accepted an idea to cut some of the bushes and trees located close to the road section selected to become a temporary landing strip. The road has been closed and thoroughly inspected for FOD.
Four A-10 aircraft of the US National Guard have used this highway strip, proving that the Warthog is still a capable CAS aircraft, even though it is 4 decades old. Meanwhile, the procedure involving use of a highway strip may be a relevant element of exercises which would provide training related to a conventional armed conflict, during the scenario of which airfields always constitute the priority targets for the cruise missiles, rockets and air force of the adversary.
In Poland, highway strip operations have been quite common during the initial period after the country has joined NATO. In March this year, Spokesman for the Polish Ministry of Defence, Bartłomiej Misiewicz informed us that further training involving the highway strips in Poland is not being planned at the moment.