Highway to be runway near Pakistan border

at 4:53 pm

New Delhi: A highway in Rajasthan, just about 50 kms from the Pakistan border, can now serve as a runway for aircraft as a trial was conducted today for landing of fighter jets and transport plane of Indian Air Force.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari jointly inaugurated Emergency Landing Facility (ELF) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Satta-Gandhav stretch on NH-925A near Barmer in Rajasthan today.

This is the first time that a National Highway has been used for emergency landing of aircraft of Indian Air Force. This landing strip will be able to facilitate the landing of all types of IAF aircraft, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

This project will improve connectivity between villages of Barmer & Jalore districts located on the international border. The stretch located in the western border area will facilitate the vigilance of the Indian Army and strengthen the basic infrastructure of the country. During normal time, the ELF will be used for smooth flow of road traffic, it added.

The NHAI has developed the three-kilometre section as an ELF for Indian Air Force. It is part of the newly-developed two-lane paved shoulder of Gagariya-Bakhasar & Satta-Gandhav Section having total length of 196.97 kilometres and costing Rs 765.52 crore under Bharatmala Pariyojana. The work commenced in July 2019 and was completed in January 2021.

The two Ministers travelled to Barmer on C-130J aircraft to inaugurate the facility. They also witnessed aircraft operations on the ELF, which has been constructed in just 19 months by M/S GHV India Pvt. Ltd. under the supervision of IAF and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the Ministry said.

Addressing the event, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh lauded the IAF, NHAI & the private sector for joining hands and completing the construction of Emergency Landing Field in 19 months despite COVID-19 restrictions.

“It is a great example of coordination among multiple departments & Ministries; Government & private sector and Civil & Defence,” he said.

He further defined the landing of IAF aircraft on the 3 km stretch as a historic new strength of New India, as it coincides with the 75th year of Independence and 50th year of India’s victory in the 1971 war.

“ELF (Emergency landing facility) near the International Border is a shining example of the Government’s commitment to protect the unity and sovereignty of the nation,” the Minister said.

“This highway and landing field will further cement the basic infrastructure along the western border and strengthen national security. Such emergency fields will provide more edge to the operational and civil assistance of our forces. It will also play a crucial role in facing natural calamities,” he said.

Apart from the Emergency Landing Strip, three helipads have been constructed in Kundanpura, Singhania & Bakhasar villages under this project as per the requirements of the Armed Forces.

The Defence Minister further commended the Armed Forces for displaying the same level of courage, dedication and promptness during natural calamities as they show when they face their adversaries.

He lauded the Indian Air Force for playing a central role in dealing with the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He reiterated the Government’s resolve to bolster the network of roads and highways across the country, with focus on constructing emergency landing fields at strategic and important places and stated that the continuous construction of roads, highways and bridges across the country reflects the Government’s commitment towards nation-building.

“The roads and highways projects being undertaken by our government have proved that defence and development are not two separate entities. Both complement each other,” he added.

Saying that the development of border areas is one of the top priorities of the Government, Singh highlighted the crucial role played by Border Roads Organisation in strengthening border infrastructure.

“The inauguration of Atal Tunnel, Rohtang and construction of highest motorable road in the world at 19,300 ft at Umlingla Pass in Eastern Ladakh are some such examples,” he said.

Referring to the Cabinet’s approval to procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for Indian Air Force, the Minister said the decision was a big step towards ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the aircraft would be manufactured under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Secretary, Department of Defence R&D & Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr G Satheesh Reddy and other senior central & state government officials were present during the inauguration of the Emergency Landing Facility.