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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

A C-146A Wolfhound Has Carried Out The First-Ever Landing of A U.S. Military Aircraft On a Latvian Highway

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C-146A
The U.S. C-146A Wolfhound during the highway operations exercise in Latvia. (Image via U.S. Embassy in Latvia)

A C-146A has landed on a Latvian two-lane A9 highway.

In the night between May 10 and 11, 2022, a U.S. Special Operations aircraft carried out highway operations in western Latvia, marking the first-ever landing of a U.S. military aircraft on a Latvian highway. As part of the annual Trojan Footprint 22 multinational exercise, a U.S. Special Operations Command C-146A Wolfhound, serial #12-3085, landed on the narrow two-lane, A9 highway near Biksti, in western Latvia.

According to the Latvian Public Broadcasting service, the location to be used as an improvised airstrip, spanning 900 meters, required around 2,000 kilometers of road to be checked. Since the wingspan of the C-146 Wolfhound is 21 meters, whereas the width of the road is 8.5 meters, to facilitate the landing, several road signs were removed so the wings would not hit them, while a bus stop was used to turn the aircraft around.

The C-146A Wolfhound is the military version of the Dornier 328 turboprop commuter airliner, modified to permit cargo and personnel transport missions and continuously deployed since 2011. The aircraft can carry a maximum of 27 passengers, 6,000 pounds of cargo, or up to four litter patients. Its main mission is rapid responsive air mobility, and its users are primarily special operations forces, although the asset can move other members around from the Department of Defense, other government agencies as well as host nationals. “The C-146A Wolfhound’s primary mission is to provide U.S. Special Operations Command flexible and responsive operational movement of small teams and cargo in support of Theater Special Operations Commands. Airlift missions are conducted by Air Force Special Operations Command aircrews to prepared and semi-prepared airfields around the world” says the U.S. Air Force website.

The modifications from a baseline Dornier 328 include ARC-231, PRC-117, and Iridium communications suite, troop/cargo-capable cabin, casualty evacuation capability and NVG compatibility.

Overall, four landings and four take offs were carried out by the U.S. military aircraft that was involved in a simulated extraction of a wounded military from a combat zone using the improvised runway.

During the Cold War highway strips were used to get rid of the runway dependency in case of nuclear war; nowadays they are used to operate everywhere from unpredictable locations and project combat airpower closer to the action quickly. And this is the reason why this kind of training has resumed.

The Michigan ANG’s 127th Wing’s A-10s were the firsts to land on a highway in Estonia during Saber Strike 16, 32 years after the last highway exercise. However, in August 2021, four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the Michigan ANG’s 127th Wing and two AFSOC C-146A Wolfhounds landed on the Michigan State Highway M-32 near Alpena, in what marked the first time in history the Air Force landed modern aircraft on a civilian roadway in the United States, as part of the Agile Combat Employment concept during exercise Northern Strike 21.

Based on the flight tracking websites, after the highway operations in Latvia, the C-146A flew to Krakow, in Poland, and then to Debrecen, Hungary.

Set to conclude on May 13, Trojan Footprint 22 saw U.S. Special Operations Forces proactively work and train together with NATO allies and European partners across Southeastern Europe, the Baltics and the Black Sea Region “to demonstrate their collective military readiness to deploy and respond to any crisis that may arise.” According to the U.S. Army, this year’s iteration of the drills included more than 3,300 participants from 30 nations, doubling in size from the previous year and making it the largest SOCEUR exercise to date. Land, air and sea operations spanned across Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

David Cenciotti is a freelance 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.





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