It wasn’t a sight the residents of the northern Michigan town of Alpena would ever expect to see, but on Thursday evening, the Michigan Air National Guard landed aircraft on a four-lane highway.

And they weren’t just any aircraft landing on the road, but four A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft and two C-146 Wolfhounds. The planes landed and then took off from the M32 in Alpena. This was the first time that U.S. Air Force aircraft have landed on and taken off from a U.S. highway. The highly unusual event was part of Thunder Landing Zone that is a component of the Northern Strike exercise. 

The M32 highway was closed for five hours during Thunder Landing Zone. The annual Northern Strike training exercise, which was hosted by the Michigan National Guard at Camp Grayling and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, will continue through August 14.

Air Force A-10s ready for takeoff in the northern Michigan town of Alpena. (USAF Photo)

“Thunder LZ gave the pilots the opportunity to land in an austere environment that they’re not used to,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Wyrzykowski, the mission commander for Thunder Landing Zone. “Our adversaries have advanced weapons systems and advanced technology that they can use against us, so we need to be able to operate efficiently in austere situations and gain proficiency in those operations.”