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Why Indian Air Force Landed About 20 Aircraft on Lucknow-Agra Expressway

A common practice in several western countries, the exercise comes barely a year after the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) conducted an exercise called ‘Highmark’, wherein it landed fighter jets on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com

Updated:October 24, 2017, 11:55 AM IST
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Why Indian Air Force Landed About 20 Aircraft on Lucknow-Agra Expressway
According to the IAF, the purpose of the exercise is to develop an emergency landing capability in case its bases are rendered incapable during war. (TV Grab/ CNN-News18)
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New Delhi: At 10 am on Tuesday, a C-130 Hercules transporter touched down on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway. This was followed by about 19 other aircraft, including Mirage 2000s and Sukhoi 30 MKIs, making it the largest such exercise ever conducted on an Indian highway.

A common practice in several western countries, especially Scandinavian ones, the exercise comes barely a year after the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) conducted an exercise called ‘Highmark’, wherein it landed fighter jets on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) operates 53 bases across the country and the purpose of this exercise, according to the IAF, is to develop emergency landing capability if its bases are rendered incapable during war. Developing that capability, though, is not something that can be done overnight.

Talking to News18, Air Vice Marshall (retired) Manmohan Bahadur said, “It takes months of planning to pull off an exercise like this. Even in times of war, it is not something that can just happen. A lot of things need to be taken care of before a highway is used as an emergency airstrip. A base is not just used to land aircrafts, it is also used to refuel the machine and stock up on weapons. If a simple highway is to be turned into an emergency air base, all these paraphernalia need to be made available.”

“Just for this exercise, the highway had to be shut for a few days. The highway has to be cleared and cleaned before an aircraft can be landed. You cannot even have a stray stone or rock on the highway, or it could potentially damage the aircraft engine,” he added.

In September 2016, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had fighter jets touchdown on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, the timing of which raised eyebrows as it came in the aftermath of the Uri terror attacks. Pakistan had claimed that it was “war ready” to deal with any “Indian misadventure”.

According to Bahadur, the IAF exercise on Lucknow-Agra Expressway should not be linked to rising tensions with neighbours. “You cannot wait for war to develop emergency capabilities. Exercises like these need to be conducted regularly. This cannot be in response to something that another country does.”
| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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