Lucknow, Oct 24 (IANS) Several aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Tuesday touched down and took off as part of a special drill on a three-km stretch of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.
The IAF exercise, held in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh government, saw a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft make a short landing on the highway, close to Bangarmau, around 60 km west of state capital Lucknow.
Garud Commandos disembarked from the aircraft, on foot as well as on a Gypsy, onto the makeshift runway. As part of the drill, the commandos took up position on either side of the airstrip to cordon it off for operations.
This is the first time a transport aircraft participated in such an exercise in India.
A total of 16 aircraft participated in the operation, including IAF’s frontline Air Superiority Fighters like the Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar.
The operations commenced around 10.15 a.m. and continued till around noon on the stretch specially prepared for the operation.
For the exercise, Su-30s were flown in from the air force base in Bareilly, Mirage-2000 from Gwalior and Jaguar from Gorakhpur. The C-130J flew in from Hindon airbase on Delhi’s outskirts.
The exercise culminated with the C-130J returning for another short landing.
“This is an important exercise for war and peace times, in cases of emergency like providing humanitarian assistance, evacuation, or distribution of relief material,” IAF Spokesperson Gargi Malik Sinha said.
A team of senior IAF officials, including Senior Air Staff Officer of Central Air Command Air Marshal A.S. Butola, were present.
The operation was conducted under the aegis of the Central Air Command, Bamrauli airport at Allahabad. Air Force Station Bakshi Ka Talab Station Commander Gp Capt J. Suares and his team were responsible for overall control and coordination.
On-site arrangements were made for a Mobile Air Traffic Control, Radar Control, Meteorological Facility, Aerospace Safety and Security Control.
In addition, to deal with any situation or a crash, firefighting, rescue and medical teams were positioned.
The IAF sought assistance from the state government for temporary closure of the expressway and other matters like crowd control.
A large number of police personnel was stationed along the stretch to ensure smooth conduct of operations.
“Over the past few years, the IAF has been increasing its efforts to utilise certain straight stretches of National Highways for emergency landings. Such highway stretches are planned to be used in emergencies, if an active airport is not available for some reason,” an official statement said.
“These operations increase the flexibility in the use of air power. In addition, use of transport aircraft for quick insertion of forces for human assistance and disaster relief into civil area and special forces in case of contingencies has been validated,” it said.
The statement said that while Tuesday’s operations required closure of the expressway stretch for road traffic, such closure will not be required in future as two diversion roads on either side of the airstrip are nearing completion.
In addition, wire fencing on both sides is also being undertaken to keep the airstrip clear of stray animals.
Two parking areas for aircraft on both ends of the airstrip are also nearing completion.
The other countries which have dedicated highway stretches for landing military aircraft on roads include Pakistan, Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, Singapore and Czechoslovakia.
“This operation has majorly boosted IAF’s capability to undertake unhindered operations even during non-availability of standard runways. It has demonstrated the expert flying skills of its fighter and transport aircrew, and the capability of its ground crew in activating such expressway airstrips on short notice,” the statement added.
“Such activations of highway stretches all across India are planned to be practised regularly by the IAF in future,” it said.
On May 21, 2016, a Mirage 2000 had touched down on the Yamuna Expressway.
A number of highways have been cleared by the government for being used as airstrips for emergencies.
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