In a show of supreme pilot skills, a section of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway was used by the Indian Air Force on October 24 as an emergency runway. The two-hour drill, which saw 15 jet fighters and a massive transport aircraft land and take off, simulated an emergency situation when airbases are non-operational, as in wartime, requiring the IAF to use highways as landing strips.
The first aircraft to land was the 35,000kg C-130J Super Hercules transport craft carrying 200 Garud Special Forces commandos who secured the landing area. It was followed by IAF fighter planes such as the Sukhoi 30 and Mirage 2000 that didn’t come to a full stop, but touched down and took off again.
This is the first time that a transport aircraft like the nearly Rs 900 crore C-130J has landed on an expressway in India.
In 2015 and 2016, similar drills were conducted – once on the Yamuna Expressway and once on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway. In total, there are about a dozen highways in India that will be used as landing strips in the event of an emergency:
Jamshedpur-Balasore highway and Chattarpur-Digha highway in Odisha
Kishanganj-Islampur highway in Bihar
Delhi-Moradabad highway in Delhi-Uttar Pradesh
Bijbehara-Chinar Bagh highway in Jammu and Kashmir
Rampur-Kathgodam highway in Uttarakhand
Lucknow-Varanasi highway in Uttar Pradesh
Dwarka-Maliya highway in Gujarat
Kharagpur-Keonjhar highway in West Bengal
Mohanbari-Tinsukia highway in Assam.
The Vijayawada-Rajahmundry highway in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai-Puducherry highway in Tamil Nadu and the Phalodi-Jaisalmer highway in Rajasthan will also be available for use.