The Indian Air Force (IAF) has finalised a stretch on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway to build the country's first road runway for fighter jets to make emergency landings and takeoffs.
The stretch is closer to the Lucknow end of the expressway and the IAF has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to acquire more land for installing an ATC (air traffic control), taxiway for planes and parking area.
"We will acquire more land on the sides of the 5-km road runway and will write to the ministry of defence to pay for it," said Navneet Saigal, the chairperson and chief executive officer of the expressway.
Saigal met air vice-marshal Rajesh Issar and squadron leader Keshab on Thursday to finalise the stretch. The two officers pointed out that the stretch should not have any divider, flyover or underpass on or near it.
"Already, the designers from IAF had a meeting with our engineers regarding the engineering specifications for the stretch," said Saigal.
The segment selected is straight, at a uniform level and on a non-undulating ground without any slope. The road runway will not have electricity poles, masts or mobile phone towers anywhere near it.
A highway strip or road runway is a section of highway or motorway specially built to allow the landing of combat jets and military transport aircraft and to serve as an auxiliary air base. They are built to allow military aircraft to operate even if airbases, among the most vulnerable targets in hostilities, are destroyed. The first highway strips were built near the end of World War II in Germany.
The IAF had been in talks with the state government since May after learning that the expressway would be an ideal place for building a road runway for combat jets. After finalising a deal with the UP government, the IAF landed two Mirage 2000s in Saifai village's airstrip in Etawah district on May 17 and landed a Mirage 2000 on Yamuna Expressway near Mathura on May 21.
Lucknow-Agra Expressway is the longest greenfield expressway coming up in India and expected to cost Rs 13,000 crore. It will pass through Firozabad, Shikohabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Kannauj and Mohanlalganj. The IAF will also bear the cost of the road runway project.
While India is going to get its first road runway, China, Pakistan, Sweden, Germany and Singapore are among the countries that already have such a facility. Road runways assume special importance if airbases get crippled during hostilities.
During an exercise in 2010, the Pakistan Air Force had demonstrated its ability to land a range of combat and transport aircraft when two of its fighter jets landed on the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway.