Is this a first for India?
Yes, this is the first time that the IAF has landed a fighter jet on a highway. More trial landings are planned.
Why has it been done now?
A practice drill to ascertain possible landing options in case of emergencies. Real aim is probably to identify and prepare alternative “away from base” bases for times of war and possible destruction of airfields.
Have others done this?
Hitler’s Luftwaffe pioneered the designation of sections of the Reichsautobahn system as airstrips during World War II. The British RAF has trial-landed Jaguars on the M55 motorway between Preston and Blackpool. Polish Air Force regularly practises such landings in an annual highway strip exercise called DOL. Pakistan Air Force has used the M1 and M2 Motorways to land fighter and military transport aircraft. Sweden, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Cyprus, Serbia and Switzerland too have experimented with highway landings of fighters.
Does the US have a law?
The US does not, as is sometimes believed, require that one mile in every five be laid out straight for wartime highway landings. The US Congress considered including a flight strip programme in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, but it did not ultimately get in.
Where can a fighter land?
For a military jet to land on it, a highway must have a straight, debris-free stretch of about 3 km, and adequate width. It must be free of electric cables, pilons, road bridges, signages and other obstructions. Surroundings need to be bird-free. The surface needs a thicker base with concrete reinforcement to sustain weight, especially during take-off. Using a highway as a wartime airstrip means it can’t be used simultaneously to move men and material.