Express News Service
BARMER: Adding to the military infrastructure for air operations, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on Thursday inaugurated the first stretch of a National Highway to be developed as an Emergency Landing Field (ELF) for the Indian Air Force.
The ELF is on NH-925 at the Gandhav Bhakasar section, south of Barmer in Rajasthan, and will be used for aircraft operations during emergencies on the Western borders with Pakistan.
A Hercules C-130J plane of the IAF, carrying the two ministers and Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, conducted a mock emergency landing on the field.
Multiple landing and touchdown sorties were conducted starting with a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter.
AN-32 military transport aircraft and Mi-17v5 helicopter of the IAF also landed at the ELF, showing its complete operational readiness to act as an auxiliary military airbase.
In his speech, the Defence Minister said that a total of 20 emergency landing strips are being developed across the country right now.
“Many helipads are also being created with the help of the Union Roads Ministry. This is an important step to strengthen our security infrastructure,” Rajnath added.
The ELF is a 3 km section of the Satta-Gandhav stretch of NH-925A and is part of the newly developed Bakhasar and Gandhav section. It has a total length of 196.97 km and has been constructed at the cost of Rs 765.52 crore under Bharatmala Pariyojana.
“This project will improve connectivity between villages of Barmer and Jalore districts located on the international border. The stretch being located in the western border area will facilitate the vigilance of the Indian Army as well,” said the minister.
This emergency landing strip will be helpful not only during a war but also during times of natural calamities, Rajnath Singh said, adding that a natural calamity is no less than any war.
Apart from this ELF, three helipads (100 x 30 metres each) have been constructed in Kundanpura, Singhania and Bakhasar villages as part of this project according to the requirements of the Air Force/Army, which will be the basis for strengthening the military and security network on the Western borders.
In normal circumstances, the ELF will be used like any other national highway and during operations of the ELF for the IAF, the service road will be used for smooth flow of traffic.
Also, there are plans for constructing 20 such ELFs across the country, mostly along the borders.
This ELF was constructed in a time span of 19 months. The work was commenced in July 2019 and completed in January 2021.
The road work was carried out by GHV India Pvt Ltd under the supervision of the IAF and NHAI. It will be able to facilitate landing of all types of aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
Similar mock drills by fighter jets and transport planes were done thrice earlier in 2015, 2016 and 2017 on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway to show that such highways can be used for air operations.
The Lucknow-Agra Expressway is not a national highway as it comes under the Uttar Pradesh government.