You Really Have To Watch This 1980 Documentary About Czechoslovak Air Force’s Highway Operations

Screenshot from the "Dálnice" documentary filmed in 1980 showing a Flogger taxiing after landing. (Image credit: YT).

Awesome footage straight from the Cold War.

After WWII and through the Cold War some countries (especially in eastern Europe) developed the concept of highway strips: a section of a highway, motorway or other form of public road used as a runway to get rid off one of the basic drawbacks of combat planes – runway dependency. In fact, airstrips and their coordinates were not secret, neither in the West nor in Soviet Russia and they would be destroyed or at least targeted at the beginning of any conventional or nuclear conflict.

As we have already explained in the past, the German Autobahn, designed in the 1920s and 30s, had sections that could be used as runways by tactical jets as well as military cargo planes: for instance, the A-29 between Ahlhorn and Groβenkneten is one example of highway where, during the Cold War, NATO planners built a road to accommodate NATO aircraft in case of war.

In that period, even Warsaw Pact countries had several highway strips: Poland had as many as 21 DOLs, Drogowy Odcinek Lotniskowy, which is a Polish name for highway strips: improvised runways made of hightway section with wider ends to provide parking spaces for the planes.

One of these is still located near Stettin (Szczecin) on the Voyvodeship Road 142 near the S3 State Road on the German-planned highway towards Kaliningrad. This highway was built in the 1930s by Adolf Hitler and was a part of the Reichsautobahn network which emerged before the WWII; the remaining ones are mostly out of use.

Highway operations were part of the standard training conducted mainly in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe during the Cold War until the collapse of the Warsaw Pact made highway take-offs and landings less frequent. Actually highway operations have been carried out in Asia too, for instance in Singapore and North Korea.

Fortunately, some pretty cool footage filmed when highway operations were still pretty relevant has survived. “Dalnice” (Highway) was shot by the Czechoslovak Army Film in the fall of 1980 during a military exercise between the 136th and 139th kilometers of the D1 motorway connecting the two largest Czech cities, Prague and Brno. That section of the highway was deliberately built so that it could be used as a take-off and landing runway for military fighters that were in service with the Czechoslovak Air Force.

A MiG-21 of the Czechoslovak Air Force (Image credit: YT).

The documentary below shows MiG-21R Fishbed, MiG-23BN Flogger and Mi-8 Hip operations on highway strip during the drills conducted near Stránecká Zhoř to the northeast of Brno. Although in Czech language, it is particularly interesting, especially if you think that footage from eastern Europe air arms were pretty rare (and secret) in the Cold War age!

Anyway, training for operations from dispersed places, including public roads, has gradually resumed in recent times: we have reported about Finnish and Swedish planes performing highway operations as well as U.S. A-10 Warthogs in the last few years. And we have also reported about public road landings that ended somewhat badly…..

H/T to Michał Piekarski for the heads-up about this great video!!

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.