Tag Archives: Estonia

U.S. Air Force A-10 Attack Aircraft Practice Landings And Take Offs From Rural Highway And Austere Runway In Estonia

U.S. A-10s Thunderbolt II aircraft deployed to Europe to take part in Sabre Strike 18 have conducted “rough field training” in Estonia.

Thanks to its engines mounted far from the surface of the runway, the A-10 attack aircraft is practically immune to FOD (Foreign Object Damage) caused by debris flying up from unprepared runways. For this reason, the Warthog (one of the most popular A-10 nicknames) often practice austere landing and take off operations, especially when they are deployed to eastern Europe, a theater that is scattered with highway strips as well as abandoned Warsaw Pact military airfields, which have not been in use since the Cold War, that are perfectly suited for such kind of training.

Since the beginning of the month, eight A-10C from the 107th Fighter Squadron, from Selfridge ANGB Michigan, have deployed to Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to take part in Exercise Saber Strike 18, “a longstanding U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training, designed to enhance readiness and interoperability among allies and regional partners.”

On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II attached to the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to practice landings and take offs, during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

In order to test and train unimproved surface operations while training with NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroups, on Jun. 7, the A-10’s have practiced operations on Jägala-Käravete Highway in Jägala, a rural highway in northern Estonia. That is the very same unprepared landing strip where, on Aug. 10, 2017, one of the A-10C (assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard) hit and damaged a road sign while performing landing and take off training.

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge, Mich., practice landing at Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18 June 7, 2018. The aircraft is loaded with dummy bomblets and a Litening targeting pod (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

The training also involved practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia.

Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge, Mich., practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

Interestingly, among the aircraft conducting the austere landing operations in Estonia there as also the special-colored A-10C 81-0994/MI, that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron, with a livery inspired to the P-51 (F-6A) of the 107th TRS, that flew the Mustang over Normandy during WWII. Before deploying to Latvia, this aircraft, from RAF Mildenhall, flew over the beaches of Normandy, France, as part of the commemoration ceremonies for D-Day 74.

The special colored A-10C Thunderbolt II #81-0994 practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18 June 7, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

 

When Highway Landings Go Wrong: A-10 Demolishes Road Sign During Exercise In Estonia

Beware of road signs when you land your combat aircraft on a public road!

On Aug. 10, one of the ten A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard, performing landing and take off training from an extension of Jägala-Käravete Highway, a portion of the longer road known as Piibe Highway, in Northern Estonia, hit and damaged a road sign at roughly 3.15 PM local time.

Although the Warthog, carrying a dummy AGM-85 Maverick missile and a Litening ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) did not suffer significant damage (the Thunderbolt II is an extremely sturdy plane, able to survive much more than a few scrapes) and was able to take off again later on, the highway remained closed until the following morning.

The incident is under investigation; based on the photographs it seems that the aircraft (AF 79-0108) may have approached the extension a bit too low and hit (with the right hand wing) the road sign along with a plastic barrier that marks the beginning of the highway section used as runway.

You can find several interesting shots here.

Top composite image made by editing shots by Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees.ee and Ardi Hallismaa/mil.ee

 

Watch U.S. Air Force A-10s perform highway landings in Estonia

A-10 Warthogs of the U.S. Air Force practiced landing (and take off) from a highway in northern Estonia.

For the second time in little more than one month, USAF A-10s, practiced highway operations from a public road in Estonia on Aug. 1.

The Warthogs, belonging to the 303rd Fighter Squadron, 442nd Fighter Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and deployed to Ämari Air Base on Jul. 25 performed landings and take offs from the Jägala-Käravete Highway in Northern Estonia.

The ability to perform landings from highways is unique to the A-10 that can exploit its wide tyres and high-mounted engines (therefore less prone to FOD – Foreign Object Damage).

Part of the standard training during the Cold War, highway operations training from dispersed places, has resumed in eastern Europe as a consequence of the renewed tensions with Russia.

Four A-10 tankbusters have landed on a highway (in Estonia): it’s the first time since 1984!

A-10 Thunderbolt II practiced Cold War-style landing on a highway during Ex. Saber Strike 2016.

For the first time in 32 years, four A-10 Warthogs, belonging to the 127th Wing, Michigan National Guard, performed highway landing practice: it occurred in Estonia, as part of Saber Strike 16 exercise, on Jun. 20.

Saber Strike is a long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise designed to improve joint interoperability through a range of missions that prepare the 14 participating nations to support multinational contingency operations.

A-10 land Estonia 2

After WWII and through the Cold War some countries developed the concept of highway strips to get rid off one of the basic drawbacks of combat plane – runway dependency – in case of nuclear war. 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.

Designed in the 1920s and 30s, the German Autobahn 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 if a war with the Soviets broke out.

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 landings were part of the standard training conducted mainly in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe during the Cold War. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, highway take-offs and landings became less frequent.

However, with the renewed Russian threat, training for operations from dispersed places, including public roads, has gradually resumed and involves Finnish and Swedish planes and after more than 30 years, even the U.S. A-10 tankbusters, frequent visitors of Russia’s backyard lately.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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Glorious photos of U.S. F-22s arriving in Estonia for a brief forward deployment escorted by two A-10s

Two Raptors have visited Amari, Estonia, with two A-10s and one KC-135 tanker.

On Sept. 4, two of the four F-22s currently stationed at Spangdahlem, Germany, visited Amari airbase, in Estonia, for a brief forward deployment to the airbase supporting the NATO Baltic Air Patrol mission.

A KC-135 Stratotanker along with two F-22 Raptors and two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

A KC-135 Stratotanker along with two F-22 Raptors and two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

As done during the previous deployment to Poland, the two Raptors, escorted by a KC-135 and two A-10 Warthogs (of the 8 already based there), returned to Spangdahlem later the same day: just a symbolic visit, that marked the closest deployment of the F-22 stealthy jets to Russia.

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The F-22s, belonging to the 95th Fighter Squadron, from Tyndall Air Force Base, are expected to operate in Europe (and visit some more eastern bases) until mid-September.

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

 

An F-22 Raptor and an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations' ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

An F-22 Raptor and an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly overhead before landing at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, as part of a brief forward deployment. The F-22s have previously deployed to both the Pacific and Southwest Asia for Airmen to train in a realistic environment while testing partner nations’ ability to host advanced aircraft like the F-22. The F-22s are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

H/T Kait Kasak and Aavo Harju for the heads-up