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A-10 Warthog Refueled And Rearmed For The First Time On A U.S. Highway

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Image: Creative Commons.

On June 29, Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, or the A-10 Warthog, Air Force Special Operations Command MC-12W, C-14A, and U-28A aircraft along with several airframes from the Air Force Reserves, made history when they landed, took off, and demonstrated operations on a public highway. This unprecedented exercise aimed to better prepare aircrews for missions in challenging environments. 

One year ago, A-10C Thunderbolt IIs and C-147A Wolfhounds conducted the country’s first-ever highway operations in Michigan. These drills demonstrating the Agile Combat Employment doctrine piggy-backed off the successful first highway operation.

Testing New Scenarios and Capabilities

While last year’s mission served as the Air Force’s first to take place on a highway, this exercise marked the first time quick rearming and refueling of a running jet had been carried out on a highway. 

The Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment doctrine essentially instructs aircrews to be ready to execute missions “quickly and in unpredictable ways.” Being able to safely land and refuel at a fast pace on a public highway bodes well for the potential of these airframes to successfully conduct unorthodox missions. The Northern Agility 22-1 exercise commenced at the Sawyer International Airport, where KC-135 airframes carried out wet-wing refuel operations to prepare for the drills. 

Primarily used for contingency operations, wet-wing refueling allows aircraft to land in atypical environments. During this type of refueling, fuel is moved from an aircraft’s wings to a secondary fuel truck or fuel batter while its engine remains running.

A-10 Gaining Experience Through Atypical Exercises

The exercise’s Director Lt. Col Brian Wyrykowski told The Aviationist that “If we can generate combat airpower from a public highway, we can do it from almost anywhere. If we can operate from a highway, we are very unpredictable and very agile. That’s what we demonstrated here today where you saw the first integrated combat turns for modern combat aircraft on a public highway.”

According to a press release published by Capt. Andrew Layton, industry partners worked with The Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center to provide some of the technologies used by the airframes during the exercise. The Michigan-based innovation center provided enhancements for systems ranging from the Synthetic Aperture Radar to the Advanced Threat Detection among other capabilities. 

During the exercise, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, MC-12W Liberties, C-145 Combat Coyotes, U-28A Dracos, and C-146A Wolfhounds practiced landing on a closed 9,000-foot section of Michigan highway M-28. The press release details that the temporary landing zone represents one of several different training scenarios held the same week by Michigan Air National Guard’s exercise Northern Agility 22-1 in northern Michigan. Additionally, the touchdown zone was dubbed “Hawk LZ” to honor a fallen pilot from the Wisconsin ANG’s 115th Fighter Wing in 2020.

The Air Force’s ability to land and refuel quickly and in austere conditions is a significant asset needed in today’s global climate. This exercise makes U.S. forces more aptly prepared to conduct missions against adversaries that are positioned further away from allied air bases.

Additionally, the Air Force’s continual drills aimed at increasing aircrew’s confidence in achieving more challenging mission sets will serve as a deterrent to U.S. adversaries.

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Arnfinn Rong

    July 5, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    Love the A-10 Thunderbolt! I saw this on the news, very cool and reassuring in these evil days with Hitler-Russia waging World War 3 against us.

    I’m from Norway and I love America.

    Happy birthday yesterday, America!!

    • Tim

      July 8, 2022 at 12:12 am

      WHY CAN’T THE A-10 Warthog Thunderbolt REFUL IN AIR?AND NOT BLOCK CIVILIAN TRAFFIC?

  2. Tiki

    July 6, 2022 at 3:36 am

    WRONG!!! “During this type of refueling, fuel is moved from an aircraft’s wings to a secondary fuel truck or fuel batter while its engine remains running.” THAT is DE-fueling, the very opposite of REfueling.

    Otherwise, very nice article! 👍

  3. Bill D

    July 6, 2022 at 9:08 am

    Perhaps you meant to write fuel _bladder_ ?

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