A big plane for a highway to carry

Many countries practice operating military aircraft from civilian highways, often strengthening or adapting the latter during construction so that they can be used as emergency air bases in the event of hostilities.  However, most of the aircraft involved (that I’ve heard about, at least) have been standard fighter or strike aircraft;  not the largest or heaviest in a modern air force.

Russia recently sent some of its Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft to practice operations from an improvised airstrip on a highway in Tatarstan.  The Su-34 is very large and heavy (comparable to the older US F-111), rather bigger than one would expect to operate from that kind of surface.  They must build their roads tough in Tatarstan!

Interesting, too, is the range of equipment deployed for the exercise – support vehicles of every description, radars, and what have you.  In wartime, there would probably also be missile batteries for anti-aircraft defense.  It looks like a well-practiced operation.



  1. They'll be limited as to where they can operate. And the more critical weight would be the landing weight and sink rate on landing. On asphalt, they could conceivably punch a hole in the road!

  2. Some time back in the cold war era I remember hearing that any road in th US designated an Eisenhauer Corridor was built with a long and straight enough section, sufficiently reinforced for a loafed C130 to land. If so is it still so?

  3. Peter,
    Russian designed aircraft always have heavy duty landing gear, typically with taller, fatter tires, and/or multiple wheels, intended for off-airport use. Unimproved surfaces may be the correct term. Some of their jets have alternate air intakes for the jet engines that the pilot can select for this purpose. The MiG-29 has this air setup, IIRC.

    If you anticipate working from a third-world country, Russian aircraft are a better bet.

  4. Hmm, I'm guessing the ground there was a bit wet, judging by the soldiers employing the "rice paddy prone" technique while shooting their blanks.

  5. Historically the Russians do tend to overbuild the landing gear of their planes assuming rougher field conditions. How much that is able to overcome I can't say.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *