New Delhi: As part of the readiness of the IAF to land its aircraft on any terrain, a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, carrying Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Roadways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, completed an ’emergency field landing’ – part of a readiness drill by the armed forces – on a national highway in Rajasthan’s Barmer September 9.
“… want to congratulate everyone. Where you normally see cars and trucks, now you see planes… this is important because this place witnessed war in 1971… the international border is near. An emergency landing field, or ELF, instills confidence and proves India is always ready to protect its sovereignty and its integrity…” Singh said after the event.
“This is not only for war… but also relief and rescue work, for which helipads have been developed. A natural disaster, like Covid, is no less than war. Be it war or natural disaster… the IAF is always there,” the Defence Minister added.
The ‘field landing’ of the C-130J Super Hercules (followed by fighter aircraft like Jaguars and Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs landing and taking off), is to test the quality of road infrastructure as emergency airstrips in the event of rescue or times when airbases – the enemy’s first targets in a war – may not be available and highways have to be used as landing strips. Shortly after the Super Hercules touched down, a Sukhoi fighter jet also landed.
A total of 12 highways in different states, including the Agra-Lucknow expressway, have been identified as potential emergency landing airstrips. The airstrip on a three-kilometre stretch of NH-925A in Barmer is the first on a national highway.
The government has said the ELF will normally be used for smooth flow of vehicular traffic. But, during operations for Indian Air Force, the service road will be used for road traffic. It (the ELF) will be able to handle all types of IAF aircraft, the government added.
In addition, three helipads have been constructed in Kundanpura, Singhania and Bakhasar villages; all three have been built in consultation with the Air Force and Army and will help strengthen armed forces’ security network and operational readiness on the country’s western border.
In 2017 several IAF planes, including a C-130J Super Hercules, and Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters, performed touch-and-go landings on a stretch of the Agra-Lucknow expressway. IAF fighter planes – Mirage-2000 and Sukhoi – have twice landed on expressways in Uttar Pradesh. The first was in 2015 when a Mirage-2000 landed on the Yamuna expressway near Delhi.