A section of provincial road No. 604 has been closed to traffic from September 18 to October 3, 2023[1]. During the two weeks between Nidzica and Wielbark, a military exercise codenamed Route 604 will take place over a 3-kilometer length. The drive between the villages of Ruskowo and Przezdzęk Wielki will be off-limits to everyone.

The answer to the question of how this will affect the lives of Poles only seems obvious.

The strictly combat exercise will last from September 25 to 29. Participating in it will be the 1st and 2nd Tactical Air Wing, the 3rd Transport Aviation Wing and the 4th Air Training Wing. This means the involvement of all key tactical compounds of the Polish Air Force. The exercise schedule calls for the use of virtually every type of aircraft used extensively by the Air Force. The exercising troops include MiG-29 and F-16 multi-role fighter-bomber aircraft, as well as the Su-22 fighter-bomber. C-130 Hercules transport aircraft (American-made), C-295 CASA (Spanish-made), M-28 Bryza transport-patrol aircraft (domestic-made) and M-346 Master training aircraft (Italian-made). On the first day of the exercise proper tasks will be carried out by the 1st and 2nd Tactical Air Wing, and the next day the 1st Wing together with the 4th Training Air Wing. On September 27, the schedule calls for the 3rd Transport Aviation Wing to carry out tasks, and on September 28, pilots of all types of aircraft from each Air Force Wing will practice.

The noise of many machines and road obstructions, while inconvenient, are nevertheless very important for our collective safety.

The exercise is not only about planes in the air. The ground infrastructure is also important. The essence of the trained operations and procedures is the use of the DOL – the road air strip. According to the definition, it is a section of public road suitable for takeoffs and landings of military aircraft[2]. The road should meet certain criteria. It must be a paved road and specially adapted for aircraft takeoffs and landings[3]. Widenings on the sides of the road must allow stopping and refueling and arming of aircraft. Selected sections of the road serve as reserve airfields for the Air Force in the event of a scenario in which the home airbase is destroyed[4]. It is quite a challenge for public finances to maintain selected roads in adequate condition beyond the challenges of ordinary traffic. Many sections are being decapitated (deteriorated) or rebuilt losing features needed to function as a DOL[5]. The section of road near Wielbark is 3.24 kilometers long, four lanes wide, and used to serve as a backup airport for nearby Szymany. It was specially renovated in 2021 at a cost of about PLN 100 million[6]. Currently, it also allows emergency landings of civilian craft in an emergency situation. Within legal limits, there are cases where it will temporarily or permanently change its purpose. It is worth noting that the colloquially understood “acquisition of the road by the Ministry of Defense”[7] has a legal justification. According to Article 628 of the Act of March 11, 2022, on the Defense of the Homeland[8], “an obligation of in-kind benefits may be imposed on state offices and institutions, entrepreneurs and other organizational units, as well as individuals.” The in-kind benefits include real estate. In the event of a state of emergency, natural disaster or war, the indicated catalog of entities authorizes the Armed Forces to seize the road and change its use.

Changing security conditions in the region are forcing a revision of assumptions for exercising and developing military types in Poland. Exercises for operating from the DOL were conducted in Poland in the 1990s before joining NATO. The last exercise at DOL Kliniska was held in 2003[9]. The consequence of the changes is the announcement of the first adequate military exercise in 20 years by the General Command of the Armed Forces[10]. The exercise scenario is being prepared to resemble the real situation as much as possible[11]. Important for the security aspects is the understanding that not only pilots are exercising. Joining the alliance and preparing for HNS (Host Nation Support)[12] tasks has been a strong driving force behind the adaptation of civilian, military services and national infrastructure to assist allied armed forces that are deployed on our country’s territory or performing another task and moving through Poland. Ground service training for HNS is aimed at obtaining cross-servicing capabilities (to support allied military technology).

Preparation for DOL occupancy involves a number of procedures and interaction of various services. To begin with, the area of the occupied road section must be secured in order to be able to safely man the ground crew in position. Then takes place the transfer of allocated adequate forces and resources from the MSB (place of permanent basing) – ground projection. In Poland, as a rule, this is done by land. When the base is ready, aircraft are redeployed from the MSB by air. The final, fourth stage is flight security – the target handling of aircraft takeoffs, landings and ground handling. This means that engineering and aviation service personnel, logisticians, military firefighters, as well as the WOT and Military Police are also participating in the exercise. A very important exercising ground component is the JTAC, which manages the airspace during the mission and points out targets for pilots to neutralize. These are airborne guidance navigators and the acronym stands for “joint terminal attack controller.” Joint operations imply the use of several types of armed forces, or in this case, aviation. The JTAC program was initiated based on the experience of the Americans and other allies, and the controller function is usually performed by special forces or combat team operators, but not participating in the assault[13].

The permanent base (MSB), ZAP – reserve airfield, and DOL constitute an airbase hub. Coordinating operations and efficient repositioning, when needed, ensures the maintenance of air operations capability. Since 2018, there have been over twenty DOLs established in Poland[14].

According to a statement by Alioth Foundation vice-president General Jacek Pszczola, former Air Force Inspector:

“It’s worth noting that for the first time in the history of our Air Force, F-16 and M-346 aircraft will land on DOL. After a 20-year hiatus, resuming these operations will require addressing various factors, such as preparing the ground and aviation personnel, ground handling, and logistics. An appropriate exercise involving DOL was planned for last year, but it had to be postponed for several reasons. I am confident that all services will perform their roles effectively, and the exercise will proceed without disruptions. Everyone has put in a lot of work to achieve the right level of readiness. For example, from the aviation side, pilots of the aforementioned F-16 have practiced a crucial element: landing on a narrow strip in Powidz, so they already have some experience. The challenge with DOL is the width of the concrete runway, which is significantly narrower than our military airfields.”

In response to a question about the impact of the experience of using the DOL in the Ukraine conflict, General Pszczoła noted that:

“Ukrainian pilots widely use DOL for combat operations during the armed conflict. Our concept, based on the Ukrainian practice, suggests that dispersing Air Forces and maneuvering between multiple basing points effectively mislead the enemy and create serious problems in detecting and destroying military technology. After 20 years without exercises, DOL training necessitates preparation in new logistics, technical support, IT, and many other aspects. It should be emphasized that the experience in overcoming obstacles will serve a much more significant purpose: the new planning of bases and airbase hubs to efficiently utilize the repositioning maneuver and future dispersion of Air Forces without hindrance to regaining combat capabilities and achieving a favorable situation in the air. It will be important to increase positions at ground air bases to ensure there are enough forces and resources to handle DOL, concurrently with MSB and ZAP operations. It’s crucial for other branches of the Armed Forces and local authorities to participate in all necessary actions. They have a significant role to play in exercises in peacetime.”

It can therefore be confidently stated that blocking the road for a few days results not only in difficulties for residents and travelers but also in gaining experience and expanding competence in coordinating within the Air Forces and between different services and public administration. It is also an important image aspect on the international stage as an efficient and well-trained army.


[1] Ćwiczenie ROUTE 604 na Drogowym Odcinku Lotniskowym (DOL).  (en. Exercise ROUTE 604 on the Airport Road Air Strip) https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/2slt/articles/aktualnosci-w/cwiczenie-route-604-na-drogowym-odcinku-lotniskowym-dol/ [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[2] Słownik terminów z zakresu bezpieczeństwa narodowego. (en. Dictionary of national security terms.) http://web.archive.org/web/20181211124349/https://mkuliczkowski.pl/static/pdf/slownik.pdf [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[3] ROUTE 604 na Drogowym Odcinku Lotniskowym. (en. ROUTE 604 on the Airport Road Air Strip) https://dlapilota.pl/wiadomosci/polska/route-604-na-drogowym-odcinku-lotniskowym-szczegoly [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[4] Polskie F-16 (i nie tylko) wystartują z drogi.  (en. Polish F-16s (and more) will take off down the road.) https://defence24.pl/sily-zbrojne/polskie-f-16-i-nie-tylko-wystartuja-z-drogi [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[5] Kucharczyk, M.  Mazury. Wojskowe samoloty na drodze wojewódzkiej nr 604. Jest komunikat. (en. Masuria. Military aircraft on provincial road 604: there is an announcement.) https://wydarzenia.interia.pl/warminsko-mazurskie/news-tajemnicze-lotnisko-na-mazurach-pierwsze-od-20-lat-specjalis,nId,7015488 [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Różycka, J.  MON przejmie publiczną drogę. Będą na niej lądować samoloty wojskowe. (en. The Ministry of Defence will take over a public road. Military aircraft will land on it.) https://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/wiadomosci/7,114883,30215111,mon-przejmie-publiczna-droge-beda-na-niej-ladowac-samoloty.html [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[8] Art. 628. – Ustawa o obronie Ojczyznyhttps://lexlege.pl/obrona-ojczyzny/art-628/ [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[9] Kucharczyk, M.  Mazury. Wojskowe samoloty na drodze wojewódzkiej nr 604. Jest komunikat. (en. Masuria. Military aircraft on provincial road 604: there is an announcement.) https://wydarzenia.interia.pl/warminsko-mazurskie/news-tajemnicze-lotnisko-na-mazurach-pierwsze-od-20-lat-specjalis,nId,7015488 [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[10] ROUTE 604 na Drogowym Odcinku Lotniskowym. (en. ROUTE 604 on the Airport Road Air Strip) https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/dgrsz/articles/aktualnosci-w/route-604-na-drogowym-odcinku-lotniskowym/ [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[11] Polskie F-16 (i nie tylko) wystartują z drogi. (en. Polish F-16s (and more) will take off down the road.) https://defence24.pl/sily-zbrojne/polskie-f-16-i-nie-tylko-wystartuja-z-drogi [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[12] Zasady HNS. (en. HNS rules) https://hns-polska.wp.mil.pl/pl/pages/zasady-hns/ [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[13] Kowalska-Sendek, M.  Human story: JTAC – mistrz podniebnej układanki. (en. Human story: JTAC – master of the sky puzzle.) https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/articles/human-story-4/2020-07-31s-human-story-jtac-mistrz-podniebnej-ukadanki/ [dostęp: 22.09.2023].

[14] Pawelec, M. Drogowe odcinki lotniskowe w Przegląd Sił Zbrojnych nr. 5, 2018.


  1. Main graphic, źródło: Sztab Generalny WP na platformie https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/sgwp/

Tekst powstał w ramach realizacji zadania publicznego zleconego w ramach Rządowego Programu Rozwoju Organizacji Obywatelskich na lata 2018-2030 r. „Bezpieczna Polska jutra – rozwój działań misyjnych Alioth Foundation”.