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India's First Fighter Plane Landing on the Highway
May 26, 2015

In a first, an Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 fighter plane successfully landed on Yamuna Expressway on 21 May. The landing of the Indian Air Force aircraft was a part of a trial exercise to check whether the national highway is feasible for landing in case of any war like emergency.

  • All facilities like makeshift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles and other requirements were set in place by the IAF.

  • At the Yamuna Expressway, the IAF even had bird clearance parties in place before the landing. The Indian Air Force has tried this for the first time in India.

  • The Mirage-2000, a single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter manufactured by France's Dassault Aviation that landed on the expressway took off from the Gwalior Air base.

  • The road runway segment will not have electricity poles, masts or mobile phone towers. There will be portable ground lighting systems that can be quickly placed on the roadsides to guide aircraft during landings.

  • These strips are usually 2-3.5 km long portions made of concrete with minimal space in the middle of the two sides of the roads.

  • The middle barriers are quickly removed to provide access to the entire strips to the planes.

  • The portions are then swept to remove any debris.

  • The Air Force has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future.

♦ China, Pakistan, Sweden, Germany and Singapore are among the countries that have road runways, but this was a first for India.
♦ The Pakistan Air Force too has used the M1 and M2 Motorways. In 2010 the PAF landed its Mirage on the M2  motorway that connects Lahore and Islamabad.

The use of highways as airstrips is not a new phenomenon. It started during the World War II in Germany where the Autobahn was used to land fighter planes. The Reichsautobahn system was constructed during Hitler’s reign in Germany as a measure to reduce unemployment.

The use of motorways as landing strips was not just restricted to Germany, though. As part of strategy, across Europe on both sides of the iron curtain during the cold war, parts of highways were marked as landing strips for aircraft. Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, Finland Switzerland are countries where highway landing strips were built.The use of highway strips for landing is an emergency measure to be used when the use of airbases is not available during wartime. The Six-Day war between Israel and Egypt in 1967 offers a prime example of when highways will be useful as landing strips.

In one of the most successful air force operations in military history, Israeli Air Force took the Egyptians by surprise and destroyed 18 airfields in a surprise attack in the early morning on June 5, 1967 as part of Operation Focus. Israel achieved complete air superiority over the battle space which would not have been the case had Egypt prepared for alternative landing strips on highways.


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