Recently we took a look at a video of Russian Air Force Sukhoi SU-25s and MiG-29s operating off of a highway, demonstrating their ability to land operate from paved surfaces other than runways. These Russian-made aircraft are rugged by design (the MiG-29, for example, has retractable engine intake covers to reduce FOD ingestion).
There is another aircraft we are particularly fond of here in the US, one whose rugged design and reliability are the things of legend: the mighty A-10 Thunderbolt II. The Hawg Drivers with the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron have just upped the ante with their latest operations in Europe, showcasing just how capable they – and their aircraft – are when forward-deployed.
Working with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron out of Royal Air Force Mildenhall, the 354EFS A-10s conducted both day and night flying at Nowe Miasto, a former Polish Air Force base that was closed around the turn of the century. The elements have since taken their toll on the concrete at the airfield.
With many surfaces now significantly cracked and in a state of severe disrepair, it allows the A-10 pilots experience operating in an austere location without their usual ground support personnel, facilities, and equipment – not something you’d typically see during routine operations from their home station at Davis-Monthan AFB.
The pilots had a large 8000 foot runway (however unkempt and full of weeds it might be) all to themselves, but at night there was no one home to turn the lights on for them at the airfield, necessitating the use of Night-Vision Goggles (NVGs) to be able to see the runway as combat controllers from the 321STS talked them down.
Though there weren’t massive columns of Soviet tanks rolling across Poland as feared during the days of the Cold War, that doesn’t make the A-10 pilots any less prepared for combat.
The 354EFS commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Hayde, explains: “In a real-life scenario, combat controllers and pilots with austere landing capabilities could land aircraft anywhere in enemy territory without leaving a large footprint.”
Currently though, the only fixed-wing tactical aircraft in the inventory with the ability to operate in such an environment is, you guessed it, the A-10.
The Bulldogs are expected to return home sometime in August at the end of their 6-month Theater Security Package (TSP) deployment to Europe. Their tour of Europe has included Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, and now Poland, all in an effort to reassure our NATO partners as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
(Featured photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)