After an experimental touch down of 8 fighter planes on the Lucknow-Agra expressway in November 2016, the government of India has selected 4 national highway stretches for emergency landing in Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), Ramnathpuram (Tamil Nadu) and Puducherry regions.The National authority of India has rolled out tenders inviting agencies to bid for converting 5 km of these national highways into airstrips and ensure the completion of the construction in the next one year. The government will be funding this project with a monetary value of 150 cr. The construction on these highways will ensure that that these strips are widened and strengthened to facilitate landing of aircrafts in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, the agency who will be given the contract for the construction on these highways will be responsible for their maintenance for a period of four years and fix any kind of defect that might occur in the future.
The NHAI document that lays down the guidelines for the construction on these highways clearly states that the agency will have to develop new pavement, construction of major and minor bridges, culverts, road intersections, interchanges, drains, etc for these highways to serve as airstrips.Earlier, the Indian Air Force has given green signals to 12 NH stretches that qualified to serve as emergency landing airstrips and effective resource to reach affected areas. These stretches span across the stated of Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu.As decided by the authorities, the airstrip cum national highway will be blocked when the emergent need to land an aircraft will arise. This provision will also enable these highways to be of use in times of natural calamities by speeding up the reach of army personnel. The aircrafts are meant for a great deal of humanitarian assistance since they can carry enormous amounts of relief material and can speed up the process of evacuation. This can also prove as milestone is times of war like emergency making air force pilots capable of operating from strategic and different geographic locations.
These aircrafts can fetch large firefighting air tanker to douse the wildfire, large space to carry artillery, ammunition, bombs, goods for defence personnel, airlift material etc make survival easier.This idea was first put into action when fighter jets were made to land on Yamuna expressway near Delhi in May 2016 followed by 8 jets on Lucknow-Agra expressway near Bangarmau in the neighbouring Unnao district. These jets included AN-32 transport, Mirage 2000, Sukhoi 30 MKI, AN-32 transport and Jaguar. As a part of IAF’s plan, 16 Indian aircrafts were landed on a stretch on the expressway and then taken off to carry out the possibility of using national highways as emergency landing strips.”We have done it earlier where we have the Mirages land on this highway and I’m very happy that the government has taken this very serious step, every new highway that has been made has provision, wherever straight leg permits, it will be made capable of handling fighter aircraft,” vice chief of IAF Air Marshal SB Deo had mentioned.