VIDEO: National Guard completes historic highway landing in Michigan

'It's a first in the nation, as this is the first time that modern combat aircraft have landed on U.S. soil, on a highway.'

Photo of Angela Mulka
Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing made history on Thursday, Aug. 5, by successfully landing and generating a A-10 Thunderbolt II from a U.S. highway for the first time.

Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing made history on Thursday, Aug. 5, by successfully landing and generating a A-10 Thunderbolt II from a U.S. highway for the first time.

Photo provided/Capt. Cammy Alberts

On Thursday, Aug. 5, members of the Michigan National Guard’s 127th Wing made history when they successfully landed and generated modern military aircraft from a United States highway for the first time.

They landed the aircraft on a closed portion of Michigan State Highway M-32, as part of a training event named “Thunder Landing Zone,” according to a press release issued by the Michigan National Guard. See the video of the historic landing below. 

“Thunder Landing Zone gave the pilots the opportunity to land in an austere environment that they’re not used to,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Wyrzykowski, the mission commander of the Thunder Landing Zone and a KC-135 Stratotanker instructor-pilot at the 127th Wing. “But it’s also a first in the nation, as this is the first time that modern combat aircraft have landed on U.S. soil, on a highway.”

Two A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots of the 127th Wing, two A-10 pilots of the 33th Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and six C-146 Wolfhounds aircrew members from the Air Force Special Operations Command executed the mission. Wyrzykowski made the first call to initiate the planning process a year ago. For leaders of the 127th Wing and the Michigan National Guard, staying ready to fight while being progressive will continue to be one of their top priorities, according to the release.

Giving participating units the chance to practice posturing forces in a combat scenario, Thunder Landing Zone was established on a four-lane stretch of M-32 approximately 3 miles west of the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

“Our adversaries have advanced weapons systems and advanced technology that they can use against us, so we need to be able to operate efficiently in austere situations and gain proficiency in those operations,” Wyrzykowski said.

Additionally, this training event allowed participants to practice the forward-arming and refueling concept of the Air Force's agile combat employment, taking a small aircraft crew, returning the aircraft to these strict locations and then generating the aircraft back into the fight.

From the local utility companies to municipal emergency management agencies, Michigan Department of Transportation and even residents played a key role in the event.

“We actually met with those homeowners directly and the level of support we received from the direct interactions has been, in my mind, unprecedented,” said Col. Jim Rossi, commander, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. “They’re such a patriotic group of Americans that are up here, willing to support and are as excited as we are to make this happen.”

Interested in more? The next open house and air show for Selfridge Air National Guard Base is scheduled for July 9 and 10, 2022.

The Michigan National Guard provides trained, combat-capable forces in support of the national security strategy worldwide and defense support of civil authorities in response to federal emergencies within the United States and state emergencies within Michigan. For more information, visit here.