Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari inaugurated an emergency landing strip at Satta-Gandhav stretch on National Highway in Rajasthan's Jalore on Thursday for Indian Air Force (IAF) planes.
It was a historic moment for the country’s Defence and road construction sector on Thursday when the most advanced aircraft like C-130J Super Hercules and Su-30 MKI of the inventory of Indian Air Force undertook landing demonstrations on a national highway just 40 km away from Indo-Pak international border.
This had happened on a 3 km strip of National Highway 925A near Barmer in Rajasthan which has been developed as the Emergency Landing Field by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and this is the first airstrip on a national highway.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria arrived on the site in the transport aircraft C-130J Super Hercules which became the first aircraft to land on the ELF.
Afterwards, fighter jets including Jaguars and Su-30 MKIs undertook landing demonstrations on the Emergency Landing Field. An-32 military transport aircraft and Mi-17v5 helicopter of the IAF also landed at the ELF, showing its complete operational readiness to act as an auxiliary military airbase.
One of the Jaguar fighter jets returned to touch down and simultaneously take off from the ELF while Sukhoi-30MKI becomes the first fighter jet to landed and then took off from the Emergency Landing Field.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat were also present to witness the landing demonstration.
On this occasion, the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, "Till now you have seen cars, tractors and other vehicles on road, but now you will see aircraft landing and taking off from the road". He said that the country is celebrating 50 years of the 1971 War. "This airstrip makes us feel safe. The international border is just a few kilometres away from here. India is prepared to safeguard its unity and territorial integrity", the defense minister said. "This Emergency Landing Field and the three helipads will not only be useful in the time of war but to carry out rescue and relief operations during any natural disaster", said the minister.
Speaking at the event, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said: "Whenever an out-of-the-box idea is proposed, apprehensions emerge. But glad for the support from the Defence Ministry and Air Force that has led to the successful launch of this 3-km long road-cum-air strip". He said, "There's no airport here in an area of around 350 km. I told CDS Bipin Rawat that we can give land to build a defence airport and a civil airport nearby. They have our full support and will take guidance from the Air Force authority". He said that three helipads - in Kundan Pura, Singhaniya and Bakasar villages of Rajasthan - have been constructed as per the requirement of Indian armed forces.
Notably 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. The Lucknow-Agra Expressway, which is not a national highway, comes under the Uttar Pradesh government.