Powerful fighter-bomber Su-25, in spite of its heavy weight, is landing almost gracefully. In some seconds, landing gear of the anti-tank aircraft touches… the highway. Under the coverage of the maneuverable helicopters Mi-24, and the fast fighter aircrafts MiG-29, it is followed by immaculate landing of another Su-25. This is not a show. These are training maneuvers, real combat simulation.
Alternate airfields on highways are absolutely necessary — in case all the main airfields are brought out of operation. Such extreme landing is unique for the aviation history of the Republic of Belarus, perhaps, for the aviation history of all the CIS states as well. Pilots demonstrate high level of excellence — what a delicate work!
Major Viktor Slobodskoy, deputy commanding officer of the air squadron, assault air base # 206, who has just landed on the “airfield” part of the road, stops the engine and shares his impressions:
— The highway is not a flight landing strip, of course — it is much narrower. There are no automatic braking systems in case of emergency, as it is in the airport, there are no radio orientation devices. One can rely, frankly speaking, only on oneself. The road topping is not very usual as well — asphalt instead of concrete. To put it in one word, the landing conditions are unusual. We even had to watch a soviet documentary on this maneuver. We analyzed the film shots, developed our own methods, adapted to the contemporary airplane types, and now we’ve put theory to practice.
A three-kilometer airplane drive on the highway is impressive. You watch the path of motion holding your breath. The first step is always the hardest. After Su-25 releases deceleration parachutes, decreases speed and finally stops, there is an impression as if asphalt is melting under the blazing wing. However our fears are unreasonable. The road topping of the “airfield” part of the road is several times thicker than usual — it can hold all types of airplanes even 39-ton bomber Su-24 (by the way, in summer these heavy-weights will train emergency landing techniques as well). The reinforced surface is almost ideally clean. Before the landing of the multi-ton airplanes it was polished by the brushes of the street washers. Not a single gravel remained.
— If such a “pebble” would get into the engine, the catastrophe is unavoidable, — explains the necessity for the thorough preparation of the track colonel Alexander Borisenko, the head of the airfield-aviation engineering service, deputy head of the support service of the Air Force and Air Defense Command. — The general cleaning of the road is not for the show. We are ready to do the same in the wartime.
While airplanes are getting refueled and reloaded (in 45 minutes they are going on a second flight with combat simulation), the Minister of Defense, general colonel Leonid Maltsev, after listening to the pilots’ reports, comments on this road maneuver:
— Army must apply all means for casualty control. It is obvious that during armed conflicts, the enemy always strikes strategic facilities first — this includes airports as well. That is why we need to have fall-back positions at our service. Even the Second World War experience suggests that. But theory is one thing and practice never comes easy. By performing landing on the highway, our pilots have proven that at least psychological barrier, if you please, is breached. Now we can be sure, that we can do this. I would like to emphasize that we are not getting prepared to fight against anybody. The main aim of the training is to demonstrate our defense capabilities, so that no one would speak with us from the position of strength.
Air Force and Air Defense Commander, general major Igor Azaryonok, who was looking narrowly at this complicated landing, gave an excellent credit to the pilots. Apart from that, commander gave credit to road services, local authorities and law-enforcement services, who secured the whole security zone perimeter. Everything went as accurate as only army can do.
Deputy Commander of the Air Force and Air Defense, Air Force Commander general major Mikhail Levitsky, who was personally piloting one of the fighter-bombers, shared his recent plans with journalists. Soon the assault air force will develop a new combat tactics in mixed groups: strategic bombers with super-sensitive radar gun-layer and fighter-bombers. One of the training elements is landing on the “airfield” parts of the highway.
Battlefield attack, close air support, and anti-tank aircrafts are making a turn and accelerating. They are followed by a combat formation of MiG’s and Mi’s. Point of destination — Ruzhany training grounds.