Ten US military aircraft to touch down on Michigan highway this summer

A10 land Michigan highway
A-10 Thunderbolt II lands on a Michigan state highway.

From June 27-29, the Michigan Air National Guard (ANG) will partner with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the Michigan Department of Transportation, and local agencies to host exercise “Northern Agility 22-1,” which prepares military aircrews for operations in austere environments under the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) doctrine. Northern Agility 22-1 will showcase A-10 Thunderbolt II, AFSOC MC-12W and U-28A aircraft conducting agile combat employment at Sawyer International Airport and on a closed portion of M-28 east of Munising. Northern Agility 22-1 will focus on contested logistics and the ability to conduct Integrated Combat Turns (ICTs) in an austere environment.

The temporary landing zone in Alger County will occur June 28 on a closed, 9,000-foot section of four-lane highway. The landing zone, named “Hawk LZ” in honor of F-16 pilot Maj. Durwood “Hawk” Jones from the Wisconsin ANG’s 115th Fighter Wing who lost his life in a training accident in Michigan in 2020, will operate for six hours on June 28. Staging and additional training activities will precede and follow the highway landing June 27 and 29 at Sawyer International Airport.

“Northern Agility 22-1 supports the Air Force’s directive to ‘accelerate change or lose,’ testing the inherent innovation of our Airmen and their ability to face any challenge, any time, anywhere.” said Brig. Gen. Bryan Teff, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Michigan Air National Guard. “The Northern Agility exercise series proves Michigan as a champion for ACE, leveraging our state’s unique partnerships, training environment, and resources to prepare the Joint Force for today’s fight, posture for future missions, and stay one step ahead of our adversaries.”

AFSOC’s 1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, Florida; the Michigan ANG’s 127th Wing, Selfridge ANG Base; the Oklahoma ANG’s 137th Special Operations Wing, Will Rogers ANG Base; and the Maryland ANG’s 175th Fighter Wing, Warfield ANG Base, will land eight A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, one MC-12W aircraft and one U-28A aircraft on a closed-off portion of M-28 to demonstrate engine-running refueling and inert munitions loading in austere environments. Additionally, an MQ-9 Reaper from the North Dakota ANG’s 119th Wing, Fargo ANG Base, crewed by Airmen from the Michigan ANG’s 110th Wing, Battle Creek ANG Base, will provide overwatch for the event.

A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft were specifically designed to operate from austere locations if necessary and have done so safely on multiple occasions. In August 2021, A-10s from the Michigan ANG and U.S. Air Force landed safely on a closed portion of M-32 near Alpena during the Michigan National Guard’s signature exercise, Northern Strike.

Northern Agility 22-1 is a progressive milestone in the Air Force’s strategy to project combat power through ACE. Dynamic exercises like this demonstrate the Air Force’s ability to deploy rapidly from anywhere, any time – a critical edge the Air Force maintains over its adversaries. While military aircraft have landed on U.S. highways before, this will be the first time maintenance crews perform ICTs during highway-based operations. An ICT enables the quick rearming and refueling of a running jet to reduce the aircrew’s ground time and get them back into the air.

“This is the second time the Air Force has purposefully landed fighter aircraft on a civilian roadway in Michigan because it makes sense to do it here (Here is our post on previous exercise),” said Teff. “The proximity of numerous civilian airports to Michigan’s unique training airspace and ranges help make northern Michigan a premier ACE training location.”

Source: Michigan Government
Image: USAF/Senior Airman Alex M. Miller

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