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A Wyoming highway closed for three hours so The Air Force could land planes on it

An A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” lands on Highway 287 on April 30.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carly Kavish
An A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” lands on Highway 287 on April 30.

The U.S. Air Force recently performed a rare military exercise in Southern Wyoming. They landed multiple aircraft on remote U.S. highways 287 and 789 near Rawlins.

Video shows a MC-130J Commando II landing on the empty road on a clear day in front of a mountainous vista. The plane is nearly 100 feet long and weighs 160,00 pounds, and it hit the asphalt at around 140 miles per hour.

The craft is designed to launch and land in remote locations without military-grade infrastructure. Several other planes and some helicopters also utilized Wyoming’s federal roads during the training. It was the first time ever a military unmanned aerial drone – called an MQ-9 Reaper – landed on a highway.

Clips from the military exercise near Rawlins, Wyo.

A commander in the air force said Wyoming was a good place to hold the training because of the state’s strong military community and the ability to create partnerships with local agencies to ensure a seamless and safe operation. Gov. Mark Gordon welcomed the exercise.

“Total Force training is an essential aspect of ensuring our military is always ready to respond to any crisis or situation that may arise,” he said in an interview. “Our state is well-positioned to support Total Force training exercises.”

Roads were closed for about three hours during the operation.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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