The Royal Air Force is preparing to undertake a series of exercises that will see Typhoon jets operate from civilian airfields and possibly sections of road.
It is understood that new Russian weapons systems have prompted the move.
The Telegraph have reported that the idea is similar to Cold War plans for dispersed operations. The newspaper spoke to Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, the Chief of the Air Staff.
During Exercise Agile Stance, fighter pilots and support crews will deploy to alternate locations.
According to the Telegraph here:
“Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said he wants the RAF to re-learn skills not practised for 30 years, and that a series of ‘no-notice’ scatter drills called Exercise Agile Stance will be carried out. The drills will see fighter jets given the order to disperse, meaning they leave their bases to land at civilian airfields or even on motorways. If the jets are spread out, the target for enemies is ‘harder’.
No civilian airfields have yet been identified, and larger airports such as Heathrow and Glasgow would be unlikely locations, but smaller sites such as Teesside, Southend and Liverpool could be viable. The practice of landing jets on motorways, such as Jaguar fighters used to do in the Cold War, could also be an option, ACM said.”
Wigston was quoted as saying:
“I’m not interested in paving over Lincolnshire again and there will be the challenge of having armed aircraft on civilian airfields. But instead of two bases, if all my Typhoons were on 12 bases, that’s a harder target. We should look at this as a national challenge and look at the wealth of airstrips we have in the UK. It sounds a bit Cold War-ey, but we have a pressing requirement to remember how to do it.”
Jets on Motorways?
A Royal Air Force Jaguar jet landed on a motorway for the first time on April 26, 1975. On that day test pilot Tim Ferguson undertook a demonstration landing of a Jaguar on the M55 motorway between Preston and Blackpool, Lancashire.
The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate the Jaguar’s ability to land on unorthodox landing strips away from main air bases under wartime conditions – a key feature of the jet’s design. The location chosen was the unopened westbound carriageway of the motorway, which was a third of the width of the runway at Warton.
Other air forces do this too, below you can see a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules landing on the A29 Autobahn near Ahlhorn during military exercise ‘Highway 84’