Stunning MiG-21 Highway Operations in the Polish equivalent of Top Gun

Mar 09 2013 - 14 Comments
By Jacek Siminski

Regarding the last post about the Korean MiG-21s’ highway operations here’s another interesting thing.

It is a fragment of a Polish movie Na Niebie i Na Ziemii (In the Sky & On the Ground) which is an excellent example of Cold War propaganda. The given fragment of the 90-minute movie shot in 1973 shows a group of MiGs landing on the highway strip somewhere in Poland.

The production was to be an eastern equivalent of the Top Gun mixed with The Right Stuff.  It tells a fictional story about a young military pilot who wanted to become a test pilot but health problems prevent him from flying.

In opposition to Top Gun, where MiGs were played by F-5 Tigers painted in black color scheme with red stars, the Polish movie introduces us to the whole range of the authentic People’s Republic of Poland‘s Air Force airplanes.

Some scenes in the movie are very similar to those from the French contemporary production Skyfighters featuring Mirage 2000s, as the one showing the MiGs flying over the sea.

The camera work in the film is excellent, with various shots filmed with cameras mounted on different parts of MiGs and other planes.

Mig-21 landing gear

Image Credits: Tomasz Sowiński, Polish Air Force

The historical context imposed by the Cold War made the tactical experts wonder how to get rid off one of the basic drawbacks of an airplane – runway dependency. The reality of nuclear war to come was brutal; airstrips and their coordinates were not secret, neither in the West nor in Soviet Russia. Obviously they would be destroyed in the beginning of any conflict. Polish Highway strip

The air superiority could be achieved by destroying the infrastructure needed for the airplanes to operate. Dispersing the aircraft was an idea which was often talked about after the WWII and some countries developed a concept of highway strip.

The Polish Top Gun-like movie was shot in various locations, and makes extensive use of so called DOLs which stands for Drogowy Odcinek Lotniskowy, which is a Polish name for highway strips.

Poland had 21 highway strips. Usually these improvised runways are section of road with wider ends to provide parking spaces for the planes and ground crew.

The only DOL which still serves the initial purpose is located near Stettin (Szczecin). It is located north of the city nearby non-existent village named Rzęśnica on the Voyvodeship Road 142 nearby the S3 State Road on the German-planned highway towards Kaliningrad.

This highway was bulit in the 1930s by Adolf Hitler and was a part of the Reichsautobahn network which emerged before the WWII.

The remaining ones present different conditions, but they are mostly out of use due to the technical state.

Poland and Sweden were among the countries that trusted the idea of highway strip extensively. The picture here shows DOL in Przeździęk Wielki – Rustkowo (Wielbark Municipality).

Anyway, here’s the fragment of the movie.


Jacek Siminski for


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  • Swede

    Have You seen this, “En svensk väg” / “A swedish road”?

    • Very interesting material, but it is totally different in the aspect of genre. While the Polish material has a bit of entertainment value, the “A swedish road” movie is pure propaganda I reckon.

  • One thing that is peculiar and I forgot to mention writing this post – note the high landing speed of MiG-21 stemming from the fact, that it had short wings, similarily to the NATO counterpart – F-104.

    • Raider,

      Good job, Jacek :) I had no idea this video exists. Nice article. I hope the guys here realize how different our Air Force is nowadays :)

      • Spartak

        Yeah we know. It’s much smaller and less well equipped

        • Could argue with that – We do have the most modern set of 48 Block 52+ F-16s in Europe.

  • blacklab53

    Long time reader first time posting…
    I know the Taiwanese Air Force has done some drills recently using their highway system too

  • Swede

    I thought it world be of public interest to see solen orter soulotions of highway strips. Here’s avnotering one, this time Finnish AF conducting an exercise with Hornets

  • hwilker

    The German Autobahn network also had a relatively large number of prepared emergency airfields – this Wikipedia article has a good overview (in German, but map and images are self-evident):

    I remember driving on the newly opened A29 near Ahlhorn in northern Germany, some time in the mid-80s, where the black strips from landing trials before opening were still visible for some time.

    Youtube has videos of exercises on the German strips as well –

  • Trallala

    Well You all can’t have missed this? Swedish “Top Gun” at least the scene, the rest of the movie is crap :)

  • Further to hwilker (to whom thanks for the post), when Hitler built the world’s first motorways, he and his staff had the dual (i.e. military) use in mind from the outset.

    At that time, of course, Szczecin, a.k.a. Stettin, was part of Germany – as was, for instance, the industrial and mining city of Breslau (Polish = Wroclaw), even farther to the east than today’s German-Polish border.

    You need read only the prologue to ‘Microcosm’, the city history by Norman Davies and James Moorhouse, to get a feel for the place.

  • Thanks for bringing us this clip. ‘Top Gun’ was produced in 1986, while this Polish movie was produced in 1973. Makes one wonder who was copying whom …

  • Here’s an RAF Jaguar demonstrating rough field operations, by taking off across the airfield at right-angles to the runway:

  • Jonathan Miller

    I’ve seen roads like this in Argentina. Miles of gravel, then a fewthousand meters of tarmac, then back yo gravel. All in the south, in striking range of the Falklands. Or Chile, depending on the enemy du jour.