Most highway landings are unplanned but there’s a lot of preparation going on for a military exercise in Michigan next month. The military is planning to set four A-10s and two C-146 (military Dornier 328s) down on a stretch of State Highway M-32 near the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in northern Michigan on Aug. 5. It’s part of a demonstration on how reserve and active duty units can work together to keep aircraft in the air in challenging environments. 

The road will be closed for five hours and is part of Exercise Northern Strike, a big multifaceted operation involving a lot of different military elements. “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.” A-10s have landed on a highway in Estonia in an exercise there in 2018.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. They will take some time to find a place without overpasses, wires, signs, and guardrails. Then they will work with local PD to announce the road closing and prepare barricades and signage for the closure.

    Basically it will be 100% UNREALISTIC for the task that they want to simulate. What a waste.

    • Nope. Train as you’ll fight and it’s muscle memory. Better to do a few dry runs than invent the path in a time crunch. Tes, the myth about Eisenhower’s push for freeways that could be runways is likely true. But, why make a big deal about it when the roads are obviously engineered and built so there’s no doubt they’re capable of multiple purposes. Had the runway potential shown up in the debate we can be sure someone would have ‘found it upsetting’. That ‘ol general had no need to ever mention what coulda been a big distractor.

  2. It is perfectly realistic up to the part about having to replace a cooperative civilian law enforcement with a cooperative military law enforcement. “We just militarized your highway” And now we know what we need to do in order to do it again….

  3. How much runway does it need? With a straight wing and gobs of power I’m thinking not as much as we would expect.

    • Thanks.

      One of the Scandinavian countries does that, when not in operation they also shelter the airplanes under overpasses.

      Mention of hot refueling reminds me that several years ago International Submarine Engineering company used its robotics expertise to propose robotic hot refueling to USAF. Not adopted AFAIK.

      (Publicity from that led to trial of robotic car refueling at two gasoline retailing stations in the capital city of California. Use of Shell SmartPump was not expanded AFAIK. Safeguards included vision system watching for intrusion into space around car, and to locate and verify fueling port location, which was also in data on a transponder card but vehicle position might vary. IIRC driver did not have to open window once card set up, a security and cleanliness feature. Seemed well thought out.

      Vision and other sensing systems might keep ground vehicles off of the motorway when fighters need it, but there are Darwin Candidates who try to run through RR crossing gates at the last minute – do n
      ot want such to disable an air asset.)

  4. This is still standard procedure in Sweden. And for those who actually remembered their US history, these types of operations were used by the Germans in 1944-45. When General Eisenhower saw how the road system the Germans had built, he decided to do the same for the US when he was President, the interstate freeways. They were originally built to be able to rapidly move military items including operating airplanes on some of the long straight stretches in case of invasion.

    • Very true. The original justifications offered for the interstate system prominently featured “defense” uses, including ad hoc use as airstrips. It’s actually encouraging to see the military, or someone in it, exploring the unconventional once in a while.

    • The U.S. Federal Interstate system was specifically DESIGNED to use as runways in the event of war or other major disaster. The requirement was that ONE mile of every 5 was supposed to be straight enough to use as a runway, without overpasses or power lines. Over the years there may have been some compromises made, but then the system was proposed and laid out, those were the original requirements.

      • Polkovnik, the “one in five” requirement is an urban legend which just won’t die. Google “interstate highways as runways” for numerous links debunking this myth, many of which link to the Federal Highway Administration’s own website which refutes it. [Snopes also has a nice article on why it wouldn’t be viable or necessary in the first place].

    • Ah, interesting about US Interstate highways for moving big/heavy military loads.

      I-405 east of Lake Washington had to be lowered under 124th Street NE in Kirkland, to meet standard for military loads.

  5. Hmm… Why now? It’s never been done in the US before. When you put this together with Biden’s comments “If you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons….” It really makes me wonder…

  6. The media and USAF having fun with this but in reality doing nothing more than what the aircraft was designed, to operate off short rough unimproved landing strips and we’re not talking pavement or cement! Any 2-lane road suitable as the A-10 which weighs half of a semi tractor trailer and with a wingspan of 60’ will clear most obstructions. Landing on roads a daily activity in Alaska for any bush pilot and well within the capabilities of a Warthog A-10 driver. 357th TFW, USAF Ret.

  7. The F-111 was designed to operate from dirt roads but never did. It had slotted flaps and slats so it could land at about 120 kt. It had fat 32 ply main tires and huge 13 or 14 rotor brakes and vortex destroyers to prevent sucking up dirt. With the wings swept you could hide it in your tool shed. We junked them because we wanted something slower with less range that carried fewer weapons.

    • Here in Australia, we didn’t just “junk” our F-111’s….we buried 23 of them in 2011 ! R.I.P. “PIGS”.

  8. I did a touch and go on US 31 west of Niles in my Weedhopper UL. Of course, it hadn’t been opened up to traffic yet. But it was a hoot.