U.S. warplanes make history on a highway

THE WATCH STAFF

A closed section of Michigan highway recently transformed into a United States military runway as aviators trained for agile combat employment (ACE).

The 9,000-foot section of Michigan Highway M-28 was the landing strip for five types of warplanes from the Air National Guard (ANG), Air Force Reserve (AFR) and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). In all, an A-10, U-28A, C-145, C-146 and MC-12W landed and took off June 28-29, 2022, from the highway in the state’s upper peninsula, according to a July 4 news release from the Michigan National Guard.

(Pictured: An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 107th Fighter Squadron, 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, lands and takes off from a highway June 29.)

The operations were part of Northern Agility 22-1, an exercise staged by the Michigan ANG. The landings marked the first time that integrated combat turns, which enable the quick rearming and refueling of a running jet, have been conducted on a U.S. public highway, according to the news release.

“Northern Agility 22-1 is an historic exercise that supports the Air Force’s directive to ‘accelerate change or lose,’ as well as the ability of our Airmen to generate combat power anytime, anywhere,” Brig. Gen. Bryan Teff, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Michigan ANG, said in the news release. “Michigan is a champion for agile combat employment, so when it comes to leveraging our state’s unique partnerships, training environment and resources to ensure the Joint Force stays one step ahead of our adversaries, today was a huge success.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. announced his overarching vision — “accelerate change or lose” — for a more flexible and capable force upon starting his job in August 2020, according to a September 21, 2021, Air Force Times story.

The Air Force’s ACE doctrine calls for warplanes to execute missions quickly in unpredictable ways. The Michigan highway landing zone was 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 the state in 2020, according to the news release.

Staging and additional training activities for contested logistics, sustainment and multi-capable Airmen concepts were held at other locations that included local airports.

Participating units include AFSOC’s 1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, Florida, and 6th Special Operations Squadron, Duke Field, Florida; AFR’s 119th Special Operations Wing, Duke Field; Michigan ANG’s 127th Wing, Selfridge ANG Base; Oklahoma ANG’s 137th Special Operations Wing, Will Rogers ANG Base; and Maryland ANG’s 175th Fighter Wing, Warfield ANG Base. Also, 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, took part, according to the newsletter.

“Northern Agility 22-1 would not be possible without the long-term partnerships that exist between the Michigan National Guard and the Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Transportation, Alger County Sheriff’s Office, and of course, support from our neighbors in the Upper Peninsula,” Lt. Col. Brian Wyrzykowski, the lead operations planner for the exercise, said in the news release.

 IMAGE CREDIT: MASTER SGT. DAVID KUJAWA/AIR NATIONAL GUARD