Jägala, Estonia --
A quiet, rural highway in northern Estonia transformed into a military runway Aug. 10 as combat controllers guided A-10C Thunderbolt IIs onto the 50-foot-wide freeway during a flying training deployment.
A small force of eight 321st Special Tactics Squadron combat controllers surveyed the two-lane highway, deconflicted airspace, and exercised command and control on the ground and in the air to land A-10s from the Maryland Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Squadron on the Jägala-Käravete Highway.
"We wanted to showcase our ability to fight -- anytime, anywhere and regardless of the circumstances," said the 352nd Special Operations Wing mission commander and CCT team sergeant for the 321st STS, RAF Mildenhall, England. "This allows us to train to effectively deploy, and sustain professional forces in multilateral operations."
Combat controllers are trained special operations forces and certified Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers. Their mission is to deploy undetected into hostile combat and austere environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control and more.
"Landing on a highway is a unique capability of the A-10 as a fixed-wing aircraft," said Maj. Daniel Griffin, project officer for the 104th FS's FTD. "We showcased our ability to project combat airpower forward, either behind enemy lines or in austere locations with the support from our combat controllers on the ground."
The A-10's wide tires and high-mounted engines help avoid foreign object damage and allows the aircraft to land on many surfaces other aircraft cannot, explained Griffin.
Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operations Command's tactical air and ground integration force and the Air Force's special operations ground force enabling global access.
"Our team can open airfields in remote locations to allow follow-on forces strategic access," said the 352nd SOW mission commander. "This was an opportunity for us to show our NATO partners here that a small team of Airmen is able to project incredible airpower further to get after the enemy, when we're called upon to do so."
The flying training deployment is funded by the European Reassurance Initiative in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The Maryland Air National Guard is participating also as part of the State Partnership Program, a joint DOD initiative that partners states with partner nations to improve the capabilities of partner nations and strengthen relationships to facilitate access and interoperability.