Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari arrived at a stretch of National Highway 925 in Rajasthan on Thursday and made history.
The two ministers arrived at the highway on the Satta-Gandhav stretch, landing on a C-130J transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
Their landing was used to inaugurate the first national highway used for emergency landing of Indian Air Force aircraft. A number of Indian Air Force aircraft, including An-32 transport aircraft, Mi-17 helicopters and Su-30MKI and Jaguar fighters landed on the highway in the presence of the ministers.
Interestingly, the Su-30MKI was also serviced on the highway.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has developed the 3km section of Satta-Gandhav stretch of NH-925 as an emergency landing field for the IAF. In October 2017, fighter jets and transport planes of the IAF had conducted mock landings on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway to show that such highways can be used by the IAF planes for landing in case of an emergency.
Previously, stretches of expressways have been used to test landing strips for fighter aircraft.
Why highways as runways matter
While airpower has dominated nearly all conflicts since the First World War, airbases and aircraft on the ground have remained targets vulnerable to attack. Arguably, the most famous conflict where destruction of airbases decided the fate of a war in hours was Israel’s attack on airbases of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq in the Six-Day War in 1967.
‘Dispersing’ aircraft around the country to operate off runways, thus, becomes a necessity.