An A-10 Warthog belonging to the Michigan Air National Guard landed and then took off from a highway in west Alpena, Michigan on Thursday, marking what is believed to be the first time in history that modern U.S. Air Force aircraft intentionally landed on a civilian roadway on U.S. soil.
Michigan Air National Capt. Cammy Alberts told American Military News that two A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots of the 127th Wing, two A-10 pilots of the 355th Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and six C-146 Wolfhounds aircrews from the Air Force Special Operations Command, Duke Field, Florida, landed their aircraft on a closed portion of Michigan State Highway M-32 as part of a training event named “Thunder Landing Zone (LZ).”
“Thunder LZ gave the pilots the opportunity to land in an austere environment that they’re not used to,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Wyrzykowski, the mission commander for Thunder LZ and a KC-135 Stratotanker instructor-pilot at the 127th Wing. “But it’s also a first in the nation, as this is the first time that modern combat aircraft have landed on U.S. soil, on a highway.”
“Our adversaries have advanced weapons systems and advanced technology that they can use against us, so we need to be able to operate efficiently in austere situations and gain proficiency in those operations,” Wyrzykowski added.
In a Thursday Facebook post, the 127th Wing said, “We did it! We made history! We successfully landed and generated an A-10 Thunderbolt II from a U.S. Highway today!
The Michigan Air National Guard said Friday that the training exercise is meant “to demonstrate how active duty and reserve-component units can integrate to project combat airpower in austere environments.”
The A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft were specifically designed to be able to operate from an austere location and have exercised the ability to do so in the past, according to the National Guard statement. Prior to Thursday’s tests in Michigan, an A-10 had conducted highway landings in Estonia in June 2018.
According to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet, the A-10 has been in service since 1976.
The aircraft, with its iconic 30mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun that can fire 3,900 rounds a minute was developed for use as a close air support designed to destroy ground vehicles including tanks and other armored vehicles.
Along with its 30mm GAU cannon, the A-10 can also carry up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of various ordnance including 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 and 2,000 pound (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, combined effects munitions, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, laser-/GPS-guided bombs, unguided and laser-guided 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; illumination flares and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Those ordnance can be mounted on the A-10’s eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations.