Residents living in the northern portion of Michigan's southern peninsula are used to seeing low-flying military jets from time to time, but they don't usually get this low. On August 5, aircraft from the Michigan Air National Guard landed and departed from a stretch of two-lane highway in the northeast portion of the state. It's the first time such military activity has occurred on a public highway.
The historic touchdown was captured on video and in photos by the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard, based from Selfridge Air National Guard Base northeast of Detroit. According to MLive.com, four A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft and two C-146 cargo aircraft used a stretch of highway M-32 near Alpena, Michigan, that was closed for five hours to accommodate the training exercise. It's part of the annual Northern Strike training mission, though aircraft have never landed on public roads before.
At least, they never landed on public roads in the United States. A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard participated in a similar exercise in Estonia back in 2018, and many countries have conducted similar exercises involving public roads over the decades. There's a legend that says the U.S. highway system was actually designed with required straight sections to accommodate aircraft in the event of a war, and while there are plenty of straightaways on American roads that could serve such a purpose, designing roads with that in mind is just an urban legend.
Landing on a stretch of road may not seem like a big deal, but from a pilot's perspective, it's quite challenging. At airports, pilots have specific reference points and procedures for entering the air traffic pattern around the runway, circling, and touching down. Markings on runways are similar at all airports, and runways are generally wider than two-lane highways like M-32. Exercises like this give pilots experience in unfamiliar situations that could prove valuable during emergency situations.
And also, it's totally cool to watch.