New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Road, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari Thursday inaugurated an emergency landing strip for Indian Air Force planes on National Highway-925 in Rajasthan’s Barmer district.
The 3.5-km strip on the national highway in Barmer is expected to aid the IAF during times of war as well as relief operations for national calamities.
As part of the inauguration, the two ministers participated in a mock emergency landing on the strip aboard the IAF’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, built for special forces’ operations.
This was the first time such a landing was undertaken on a national highway but expressways in India have been used for emergency landings in the past.
ThePrint takes a look at some of them.
Landings on Lucknow-Agra and Yamuna expressways
The first time an IAF aircraft landed on an expressway was in 2015. A Mirage 2000 successfully landed on the Yamuna expressway as part of a trial run to test highways as emergency landing strips.
Then, in November 2016, three Mirage 2000 and three Su 30 MKI aircraft showcased ‘touch-and-go’ maneouvres during the inauguration of the Lucknow-Agra expressway by then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Later, in October 2017, a Hercules C-130J landed on the Lucknow-Agra expressway for the first time ever. ‘Touch-and-go’ maneouvres were used at the expressway by Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft.
Notable global landings by C-130J
India is also not the only country to use Hercules C-130J or its predecessor Hercules C130 for landing exercises on different locations.
In June 2019, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force landed a C-130 aircraft on the sands of Pembrey beach in Wales.
Similarly, in 2016, the Danish Air Force reportedly performed a take-off and landing of a C-130 aircraft on the Vejers Strand beach in western Denmark.
Videos of the Pakistan Air Force performing such exercises in the mountainous town of Chitral outside Islamabad as well as in France’s Marseille in 2016 have also surfaced.
In Pakistan, the Peshawar-Islamabad and Islamabad-Karachi highways have designated stretches for the landing of military aircraft.
Other countries have also used roads as landing strips. Myanmar’s capital city Naypyidaw has a 10-lane road just outside the Parliament and offices of the military rulers can double up as landing strips for even a Boeing or Airbus aircraft.
More on Hercules C-130J
Originally designed and manufactured by American defence company Lockheed Martin, the C-130J, also known as the Super Hercules, is a military aircraft offering “superior performance and capabilities” to its predecessor, the Hercules C130.
As of September 2021, the aircraft has clocked in over 2 million flight hours.
The C-130J is an aircraft meant for special operations and has the capability to land at short and rough airstrips. It has a landing distance of 914 metres and a range of 4,000 kilometres.
India currently operates 12 C-130J aircraft, the first of which was ordered in 2007.
In 2013, the IAF carried out the highest landing of a C-130J, which is 34.37-metre-long with a wingspan of 40.41 metres, at the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh at the height of 16,614 ft.
(Edited by Rachel John)