Days after an F-35B went missing and crashed in South Carolina, a pair of Lightning II aircraft made a landing on a highway halfway around the world. It wasn’t an emergency landing, however, and the two Norwegian F-35As touched down on the roadway in Tervo, in central Finland.
Both nations are now members of NATO, and the F-35s had been training with a Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighter.
“The Air Forces in the Nordic countries have shown great initiative for increased Nordic cooperation and have come a long way,” said Norwegian Defence Chief, General Eirik Kristoffersen. “This landing is a very good example of this – and it shows that the Nordic countries soon can operate together as one coordinated force.”
Though the U.S. military has landed some of its F-35Bs – the short/vertical takeoff and landing (S/VTOL) variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter – on remote roadways, this marked the first time that the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) model has a highway.
“This is a milestone, not only for the Norwegian Air Force, but also for the Nordic countries and for NATO,” added Major General Rolf Folland, chief of the Norwegian Air Force. “This demonstrates our ability to execute a concept of dispersal. Fighter jets are vulnerable on the ground, so by being able to use small airfields – and now also highways – increases our survivability in war.”
The Norwegian F-35s are equipped with a distinguishing special fairing on the upper rear fuselage between the vertical tail, which houses an aircraft’s drag chute. The chute can be used to rapidly decelerate the plane after landing on icy runways under windy conditions. However, as TheAviationist.com reported, it doesn’t appear that the aircraft employed the chutes in Thursday’s landing.
Life on the Highway
Earlier in the week, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon also conducted a roadway landing. These operations were part of this year’s BANNA 23 exercise, which began Monday.
“F-35A’s operating out of Tervo road base verifies that the #F35 is suitable for the #FinnishAirForce’s dispersed operations combat method, says Major General Juha-Pekka Keränen, the Commander of the @FinnishAirForce,” the Finnish Air Force (@FinnishAirForce) announced via a post to X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter – on Thursday. It shared images of the fifth-generation stealth fighters on the remote highway.
BAANA is an annual road-based exercise conducted by the Finnish Air Force.
This year, it has seen aircraft from Finland, Norway, and the UK conduct highway strip take-offs and landings in day and night conditions to test the readiness of the aviators and abilities of ground crews in remote settings.
“The lead responsibility of the exercise rotates every year among the Air Force units and now it is the Karelia Air Command’s turn,” the service said in a release.
These training operations are conducted so that units can be capable of a quick dispersal across the country, when necessary, while operations at road bases are part of the training for all Finnish Air Force pilots.
Just last month, a United States Marine Corps F-35B successfully landed on a remote highway in Southern California, was refueled and rearmed, and then took off again. It was part of training for potential future operations in the Pacific.
These recent exercises have further highlighted the capabilities of the Lightning II and its ability to truly operate anywhere in the world in almost any conditions.
– ????????F-35A’s operating out of Tervo road base verifies that the #F35 is suitable for the #FinnishAirForce‘s dispersed operations combat method, says Major General Juha-Pekka Keränen, the Commander of the @FinnishAirForce. #ilmavoimat #baana23 pic.twitter.com/kz1W0RLazg
— Ilmavoimat (@FinnishAirForce) September 21, 2023
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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