The Wyoming Department of Transportation recently played a key role in “Operation Agile Chariot,” temporarily closing two state highways so the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command-led exercise could use them as impromptu runways for a variety of military aircraft.
[Above photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Carly Kavish]
During the exercise, participating U.S. Air Force units in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies landed an MC-130J Commando II, an MQ-9 Reaper drone, and two A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” attack jets on Wyoming Highway 287, while conducting a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP), Integrated Combat Turnarounds (ICT), and take-offs from the highway.
In a separate part of the exercise, two MH-6 Little Bird helicopters landed on Wyoming Highway 789.
“When you get the right people, at the right time, in the right place, you can accomplish impressive feats,” noted Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC Commander, in a statement.
“[Operation] Agile Chariot accomplished major milestones for our AFSOC community, including the first-ever landing of an MQ-9 on a highway, an MC-130J landing on a highway and simultaneously conducting FARP and ICTs with A-10s, and our special tactics Airmen establishing and securing a 30,000-foot usable runway on a public highway,” he added.
According to Lt. Col. Dave Meyer, Deputy Mission Commander for Agile Chariot, the exercise was unique because the aircraft landed on highways that were not purposely built for it.
“In [Agile Chariot], we used highways that weren’t purposely built for landing aircraft. We determined that the roads were adequate to land a relatively large aircraft like a C-130 on it and be able to conduct operations,” he explained. “Not just land, but conducting Forward Arming and Refueling, turning the aircraft around, and maneuvering in a really confined space. So now, we’ve demonstrated that we don’t need runways in order to project power.”
Lt. Col. Meyer added that while an adversary that may be able to deny use of a military base or an airfield, they would have a nearly impossible time trying to defend every single linear mile of roads. “It’s just too much territory for them to cover and that gives us access in places and areas that they can’t possibly defend,” he stressed.
According to Major Matt Waggy, Agile Chariot’s director and mission commander, landing an aircraft on a highway is not a novel idea as it’s been done before, but what the participants did with this exercise matters, particularly landing an MC-130J onto a remote highway and supplying munitions and fuel to assault aircraft without the need of large-footprint logistics or any line-hauled items via roadways.