In a dazzling display, six Indian Air Force (IAF) jets simulated landing on the Lucknow-Agra expressway, which was inaugurated by former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav here on Monday.
This 3.3-km stretch of the 302-km expressway can be used to land jets in emergencies when the military air fields are not available.
Thousands of villagers and onlookers gathered to witness the rare event, as fighter jets whizzed past, almost skimming the road before roaring off into the sky again. The landings, air force officials said, are simulated and the jets don’t touch the road as it would damage the wheels.
“The aircrafts flew over the expressway at a speed of nearly 300km/hour at around 1:07 pm,” said a senior IAF officer.
The Rs 13,200-crore project was completed in a record time of 22 months and is expected to become operational by next year.
When open, the Lucknow-Agra expressway will be the country’s longest. It is a six-lane project presently, but can be expanded up to eight lanes if needed.
It will reduce travel time from Lucknow to Delhi to just five-and-half hours, less than half the time it takes now. The Delhi-Agra stretch is connected by the Yamuna expressway.
Two farm mandis, a logistics hub, IT city and a residential town are planned along the expressway, which goes from Lucknow to Agra via Unnao, Kannauj, Etawah, Mainpuri and Firozabad.
All facilities — such as a makeshift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties — were set up by the IAF, which also supervised the runway section of the expressway’s construction under technical specifications.
IAF jets had earlier performed test landings or touch-and-go manoeuvres on the Agra segment of the Yamuna expressway and the Saifai village airstrip in UP’s Etawah in May last year, but those were either normal airstrips or roads.
- The ‘road-runway’ on the Agra-Lucknow expressway is made specifically for emergency landings for fighter jets in war situations or other emergencies
- Only a 3.3-km stretch can double as a runway. Engineering and construction of the road runway part is different from the rest of the expressway
- The IAF was in talks for such a runway with the Uttar Pradesh government from May last year. Designers from the IAF had met Uttar Pradesh expressway and Industrial Development Authority officials regarding the specifications for this stretch.
- The IAF selected the site for the runway section of the road. It wanted a section of land that was not undulating. While the rest of the expressway will have dividers, the road runway segment will not have any. There will be no flyover or underpass near it.
- The IAF had asked the state to acquire more land on the sides of the expressway to install an Air Traffic Control, a taxi-way and a parking area The runway section won’t have any electricity poles, masts or mobile phone towers near it. Nor will there be any high-rise construction
- The IAF bore the cost for the road-runway project
- It is the longest greenfield expressway in India, built at a cost of Rs 13,000 crore
- Many countries, including China, Pakistan, Sweden, Germany and Singapore, boast of such road runways. These runways gain special importance during hostile situations, especially if airbases are crippled.