Indian Air Force (IAF) has identified 21 highway stretches across the country which can be used for aircraft operation during “operational contingencies” and natural disaster for rescue. Some of the stretches are close to the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Some of these also fall in border states of Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
These stretches have been identified after a “detailed study” by the IAF+ keeping in mind the minimum requirement for landing and take off of fighter and other aircraft in case of emergencies. In response to a letter from highways minister Nitin Gadkari, defence minister Manohar Parikkar last month has suggested that a committee with officials from highways and defence ministries including those from IAF should coordinate to see which all stretches can be developed for this purpose.
Sources said Parikkar wrote to Gadkari the day Pakistan’s Air Force closed a major highway between Islamabad and Lahore for landing jets after the Uri attack, though it had claimed this as routine training.
TOI in November last year had first reported how IAF had asked National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to share the details of its plans to upgrade the existing highways or build new ones so that necessary features can be incorporated to make certain portions function as “runways” and allow for both landings and take-offs.
Sources said some of the stretches that have been shortlisted for such purpose are in Jaisalmer region in Rajasthan and Dwarka in Gujarat.