Indian Air Force carried out major landing operations on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway, about 60 km west of Lucknow. The series of landings took place close to Bangarmau in Unnao District of Uttar Pradesh, where a 3 km stretch was specially prepared for such operations. A total of sixteen aircraft participated in the operation which comprised IAF’s frontline Air Superiority Fighters including the Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighter aircraft. These aircraft took off from Bareilly, Gwalior and Gorakhpur respectively. In addition, the IAF carried out drills in which Garud Commandos were inserted and extricated for ground operations, by the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft which took off from Hindon airbase.
On site arrangements were made for a Mobile Air Traffic Control, Radar Control, Meteorological Facility, Aerospace Safety and Security Control. In addition, to deal with any situation, crash, firefighting, rescue and medical teams were positioned. IAF sought assistance from State Government authorities for temporary closure of the expressway and other matters like crowd control, etc. A large number of police personnel were stationed along the stretch to ensure smooth conduct of operations.
Over the past few years, IAF has been increasing its efforts to utilise certain straight stretches of National Highways for emergency landings. Such highway stretches are planned to be used in emergencies, if an active airport is not available for some reason. These operations increase the flexibility in the use of Air Power. In addition, use of transport aircraft for quick insertion of forces for Human Assistance and Disaster Relief into civil area and Special Forces in case of contingencies has been validated.
IAF had already carried out landings by fighter aircraft for the first time on the Yamuna expressway on 21 May 2015. The stretch of Agra – Lucknow expressway was earlier activated for the first time for IAF operations in November 2016 in which six fighter aircraft of the IAF landed on the expressway. However, in this exercise, IAF included the Jaguar fighter aircraft for the first time. Also for the first time, IAF’s C-130J transport aircraft participated in highway landing operations for insertion and extrication of Garud Special Forces.
Several countries like Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, Singapore, Czechoslovakia, Pakistan, etc. have dedicated stretches on their highways and expressways for aircraft to land and take off in emergencies or war like events.
This operation has majorly boosted IAF’s capability to undertake unhindered operations even during non-availability of standard runways. It has demonstrated the expert flying skills of its fighter and transport aircrew, and the capability of its ground crew in activating such expressway airstrips on short notice. Such activations of highway stretches all across India are planned to be practised regularly by the IAF in future.