Most of the time, pilots in air forces fly from air bases. On those bases, pilots have ready rooms that are nice and comfortable, stocked with all the amenities needed for those who know that, at any given time, war could break out — or there could be an accident somewhere that demands air support. Either way, you need to have a pilot near their aircraft at all times. So, yeah, pilots get pampered.
At war, things are very different. Air bases are quite conspicuous. You can't really hide them and the enemy knows where they are thanks to satellite imagery. So, what do you do when your airbase gets hit and the runways are a mess?
You operate elsewhere. Preferably somewhere close to the support networks. One way to do this is to use a highway as a runway. Don't laugh: Last year, U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced using an Estonian highway for austere operations.
Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. J. R. Heins)
The Harrier, used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Marine Corps, was particularly suited for these types of operations due to its Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capability. The Swedish Air Force also practiced this as well with Viggen multi-role fighters.
Russia, not to be outdone by peer rivals, carried out similar training recently. Russia, for these operations, used high-end fighters of the "Flanker" family as well as the Su-34 "Fullback," a strike-optimized version of the Flanker. By comparison, the F-15 Eagle and F-22 Raptor, the USAF's answer the Flanker, are more base-bound.
Watch the video below to learn more about these exercises. Do you think the ability to carry out highway operations with the Flanker gives Russia an advantage?