Over a dozen IAF planes, including Mirage-2000s and Sukhoi 30s, besides a 35,000-kg C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, took part in the exercise.
Fighter and transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on October 24 performed breathtaking landings and takeoffs on a stretch of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway in Unnao, showing that highways can be used as landing strips in case of any emergency.
Over a dozen IAF planes, including Mirage-2000 and Sukhoi 30 fighters, besides a 35,000-kg C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, took part in the exercise near Bangarmau in the district, 65 km from Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow.
The IAF’s Garud commandos secured the landing zone as part of the special drill.
The transport aircraft is meant for humanitarian assistance and relief operations during floods or any other natural calamity, PRO, Defence (Central Command), Gargi Malik Sinha said. “The aircraft can bring a large amount of relief material. It can also help evacuate people,” she pointed out.
The three-hour exercise began with Garud commandos getting off the C-130J aircraft with their vehicle and taking “positions” on either side of the expressway to secure “their airstrip” for the fighter aircraft.
The exercise simulated an emergency situation when airbases, the first target of bombs and missiles, would not be available for air operations, necessitating use of highways as landing strips.
This is the first time a transport aircraft — a Super Hercules that can carry 200 commandos — landed on the expressway. Inducted into the Air Force in 2010, each plane costs nearly ₹900 crore.
Mirage-2000 fighters and Sukhoi-30 MKI — which form the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet — have landed on the Yamuna Expressway in the past.
A Mirage-2000 landed on the Yamuna Expressway near Delhi in 2015. A similar exercise was conducted in May 2016, when a Mirage-2000 fighter plane touched down on the expressway.
In November 2016, six Sukhoi-30s touched down on a 3.3-km stretch of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway.