Road Transport and Highways Ministry is working on a proposal with Ministry of Defence to construct runways on highway stretches which will double up as airstrips. The ministry has identified 22 such spots across the country.
A committee in this regard has been formed which will come out with specifications of such highway stretches which can double up as airstrips.
These stretches may include an airport in Rajasthan, and areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and some other border districts.
The decision gets support from eight Indian Air Force fighter jets successfully landing on Agra-Lucknow expressway on its grand opening on November 21.
Three Mirage 2000s and three Sukhois of the IAF made a terrific and spectacular landing on a select stretch of the Agra-Lucknow expressway, marking a first for the inauguration of a highway in India.
A 2-km stretch on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway has been built to facilitate landing and take-off of fighter jets in “war-like situations”. The exercise tested the quality of build of the expressway, and would also go a long way in aiding the Defence Ministry’s plan to use highways and expressways as possible landing and take-off strips.
During wartime, highway strips can be used as an emergency measure when the use of airbases is not available. The six-day war between Israel and Egypt in 1967 offers a good example of when highways will be useful as landing strips.
These strips are usually 2-3.5 km long portions made of concrete with minimal space in the middle of the two sides of the roads. The middle barriers are quickly removed to provide access to the entire strips to the planes.
In comparison to India, Pakistan too has such expressways. The M-1 Motorway (Peshawar-Islamabad) and the M-2 Motorway (Islamabad-Lahore) each include two emergency runway sections of 2,700 m (9,000 ft) length each and these have been used by fighter aircraft as well as a C-130 transport aircraft on several occasions.
The 302 km expressway, is a dream project of UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, that has been completed in a record time of 22 months with a cost of Rs 13,200 crore. The expressway will also help cut down the time between Agra and Lucknow to just 3.5 hours, from the current 7 hours.
The Agra-Lucknow Expressway has a design speed of up to 120 kms per hour. It will have automatic traffic management systems aimed at reducing road accidents and helping even at the time of fog. The six-lane expressway is expandable to 8-lanes.