Updated: September 10, 2021 12:18:39 am
The Grey hull of the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft of the IAF came down thundering from an overcast sky as it landed on a new 3-km stretch of National Highway 925 that runs through Agarawa, a village barely 50 km from the border with Pakistan, on Thursday.
It was the first time that such a large jet had landed on the highway, which connects Barmer and Jalore towns of Rajasthan.
The aircraft was carrying Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who arrived to inaugurate the Emergency Landing Field on the Gandev-Bakhasar stretch, constructed by NHAI in collaboration with the IAF. This stretch is made of special material to take the heavy load of military aircraft.
Speaking at the inauguration event, Defence Minister Singh said, “By creating an emergency landing strip so close to the border, we have sent across a message that India will protect its integrity and sovereignty at all costs.”
“The creation of this emergency landing field also instils enthusiasm in the mind, and confidence about the country’s safety. So today is a special day for all of us. By constructing this field, just a few steps before the international border, we have proved how prepared we are to protect national security,” Singh said.
— ANI (@ANI) September 9, 2021
He said the 3-km stretch was prepared in the middle of the pandemic, and was completed in January, in just 19 months. “This highway and landing field, along with the infrastructure on the western border of the country, will further strengthen the security. Not only our national security, it will play an important role during natural calamities as well.”
In 2016, Singh said, “Our government had identified 29 places across the country by forming an inter-ministerial committee for such emergency landing fields. Out of these, 11 spots are on national highways.”
While Singh said that 20 such fields are under preparation, NHAI officials said the number is 28 and currently work on each one of them is at various stages.
“Till some time ago it was believed that if too much money is spent on defence, it will have an adverse impact on development,” Singh said. But by constructing such emergency landing fields on roads and highways, he said, it has been proved that “defence and development complement each other”.
Around 30 minutes after the C-130 landed, bringing the three ministers, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet landed on the same stretch, demonstrating the capability to act as a remote base for different kinds of military aircraft. Mi-17V5 helicopters and AN32 transport aircraft also landed and took off from the highway.
Built at the cost of Rs 43 crore, this strip in Jalore district is the first of 28 such fields being built across the country by NHAI, on which military aircraft will be able to land and take off. While the IAF has demonstrated its capability to use expressways for emergency use, those instances had largely included only touch-and-go exercises.
Apart from the landing facility, NHAI has also built three helipads on the highway, close to the Pakistan border, which will be used by the armed forces.
Specially built to act as a runway for military aircraft and serve as an emergency airbase, such emergency landing strips give greater flexibility of operations to the IAF during both peace and war, to transport troops and material. It not only enhances the operational capacity of the IAF, but also reduces the dependency on traditional bases.
Later in the day, Singh went to the Jaisalmer Air Force station to induct the Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) system, making 2204 the first squadron of the Air Force to get the MRSAM-Barak weapons. These state-of-the art air defence technology, developed jointly by DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industry, was earlier inducted into the Navy. With a range of 70 km it can launch 24 missiles on 16 different targets simultaneously.
Speaking at the induction ceremony, Singh said the “missile system will prove to be a game-changer in our air-defence system”. On the changing situation of security globally, he said, “Today, the global scenario is changing very fast, and in an unpredictable way… the mutual equations of countries are also changing rapidly according to their interests.”
“Whether it is South China Sea, (Indian Ocean Region) or Indo-Pacific or Central Asia, the situation of uncertainty can be seen everywhere,” he said, adding that the “sequence of events in Afghanistan is also part of this”.
“The impact of changing geo-politics can be seen on trade, economy, power politics and in turn the security scenario as well. In such a situation, the strengthening and self-reliance in our security is not an achievement, but it becomes a necessity.”
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