US Air National Guard 127 Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II Makes Historic Highway Landing
US Air National Guard 127 Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II Makes Historic Highway Landing

Michigan Air National Guard and Air Force Special Operations Command to Host Exercise Northern Agility

From June 27-29, the Michigan Air National Guard (ANG) will partner with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the Michigan Department of Transportation, and local agencies to host exercise “Northern Agility 22-1,” which prepares military aircrews for operations in austere environments under the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) doctrine. Northern Agility 22-1 will showcase A-10 Thunderbolt II, AFSOC MC-12W and U-28A aircraft conducting agile combat employment at Sawyer International Airport and on a closed portion of M-28 east of Munising. Northern Agility 22-1 will focus on contested logistics and the ability to conduct Integrated Combat Turns (ICTs) in an austere environment.

The temporary landing zone in Alger County will occur June 28 on a closed, 9,000-foot section of four-lane highway. AFSOC’s 1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, Florida; the Michigan ANG’s 127th Wing, Selfridge ANG Base; the Oklahoma ANG’s 137th Special Operations Wing, Will Rogers ANG Base; and the Maryland ANG’s 175th Fighter Wing, Warfield ANG Base, will land eight A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, one MC-12W aircraft and one U-28A aircraft on a closed-off portion of M-28 to demonstrate engine-running refueling and inert munitions loading in austere environments. Additionally, 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, will provide overwatch for the event.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, 127th Wing, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, departs after taking off from a pubic highway here, August 5, 2021. The training event marked the first time in U.S. history that a modern military aircraft landed on a U.S. public highway designed only for automobiles. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Chelsea FitzPatrick/127th Wing Public Affairs)

The landing zone, 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 Michigan in 2020, will operate for six hours on June 28. Staging and additional training activities will precede and follow the highway landing June 27 and 29 at Sawyer International Airport. A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft were specifically designed to operate from austere locations if necessary and have done so safely on multiple occasions. In August 2021, A-10s from the Michigan ANG and U.S. Air Force landed safely on a closed portion of M-32 near Alpena during the Michigan National Guard’s signature exercise, Northern Strike.

Northern Agility 22-1 is a progressive milestone in the Air Force’s strategy to project combat power through ACE. Dynamic exercises like this demonstrate the Air Force’s ability to deploy rapidly from anywhere, any time – a critical edge the Air Force maintains over its adversaries. While military aircraft have landed on U.S. highways before, this will be the first time maintenance crews perform ICTs during highway-based operations. An ICT enables the quick rearming and refueling of a running jet to reduce the aircrew’s ground time and get them back into the air.

Michigan is home to two key facilities that are fueling rapid innovation across the Department of Defense: the Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center, a living laboratory where new ideas and technologies are born, tested, and evaluated for the future war fight, and the National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC). The NADWC, comprised of Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, encompasses nearly 148,000 acres of ground maneuver area and 17,000 square miles of special use airspace, making it one of the most versatile training areas of its kind in the Department of Defense.

To facilitate the exercise, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will close M-28 east of Munising from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 28. During the closure, eastbound traffic will be detoured on H-58 to H-15 and back to M-28. The route will be reversed for westbound traffic. There will be no civilian access to the M-28 landing zone during this period. Viewing low-flying aircraft will be possible from the city of Munising. This closure will be posted on MDOT’s travel information website and detour route signs will help guide travelers through the area. Portable message boards will be posted leading up to the date of the closure as well. Hanley Field, the Alger County airport, will be closed to all civilian air traffic June 27-29. To ensure public safety, there will be no civilian foot traffic allowed on the airport property during this period.

A special tactics operator from the 24th Special Operations Wing guides an A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing as it lands on a closed public highway Aug. 5, 2021 at Alpena, Mich., as part of a training exercise during Northern Strike 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan)