IAF Wants Highways to Stretch Runways

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New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) has taken a step to use highway as “landing strips” in an emergency for fighter aircrafts. It has asked National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to share the details of the plans to upgrade the highways or build new ones so that to make certain as “runways” and allow for both landings and take-offs.

Sources said such stretches would be developed in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab on priority basis considering these states share their boundaries with Pakistan. About eight highways have been identified in Rajasthan and Punjab, and it has been suggested that quite a few other stretches can be designed as landing strips.

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Following the successful landing of a Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft on the Yamuna Expressway, the IAF in July had written to NHAI citing how the high quality of highways could be used for runways in an emergency, say in case the air force runway is blocked due to any reason.

Moreover, such stretches can also be activated for training for such landing and take off in case of exigencies. It has also asked the agencies to share the plans to develop highways in the next 5-10 years.

Officials said that the location of the strips could depend on the distance from IAF base and distance from populated areas. “Ideally, stretches that are being built with cement concrete and have a long straight of at least 4-5 kms can be put to use for such purpose. The plan is to have these provisions while going for major up gradation of highways or building bypasses,” a government official said.

He added that these can be very useful in case of war or to move the aircrafts from the official base to avoid major damage.

The IAF has suggested close coordination among all state government agencies to work out standard operating procedure (SOP) on issues of operationalization of the landing strips during emergencies or for training. It has also circulated a list of factors that need to be considered for developing such stretches.

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