Sixteen aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF), including C-130J Super Hercules transport, Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi 30 MKI, on Tuesday touched down and took off as part of a special drill on a 4-kilometre stretch of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district. A section of the 302-km road had been closed for vehicular traffic from Friday midnight for preparation of the exercise. The exercise by the IAF was conducted in collaboration with the UP government.
The special drill began with a short landing of the C-130 J near Bangarmau in Unnao district, around 65 km from Lucknow.
Garud Commandos of the Air Force disembarked from the aircraft, on foot as well as on a Gypsy, onto the highway-cum-runway.
The plane took off again, after which around 15 fighter jets touched down or made low overshoot over the highway.
This is the first time a transport aircraft participated in such an exercise in India.
The jets included three Jaguar Deep penetration strike aircraft, two formations of three aircraft each of Mirage 2000s and two formations of three aircraft each of Sukhoi-30.
The exercise culminated with the C-130 J returning for another short landing.
"This is an important exercise for war as well as peace time in case of emergencies like providing humanitarian assistance, evacuation or distribution of relief material," Defence spokesperson Gargi Malik Sinha said.
Here are the highlights of IAF exercise:
11:18 am: IAF's Sukhoi fighter jets land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway
11:08 am: IAF Sukhoi fighter jets aircraft carry out flypast over Agra-Lucknow Expressway
11:03 am: Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets part of Bareilly squadron
11:00 am: Sukhoi 30 MKI jets of Air Force to land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway after doing recce
10:40 am: Three Mirage 2000 fighter jets land on the Lucknow-Agra expressway near Unnao
10:38 am: Mirage 2000 fighter jet land on Lucknow-Agra expressway near Unnao
10:32 am: C-130J transport aircraft drops IAF's Special Forces Garud commandos and their vehicle.
10:30 am: The first of 16 Indian Air Force planes lands on Lucknow-Agra expressway near Unnao
Uttar Pradesh: The first of 16 Indian Air Force planes lands on Lucknow-Agra expressway near Unnao pic.twitter.com/kXKy5MWtC1— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 24, 2017
The expressway, which was inaugurated last year with the landing of IAF's Mirage 2000s and Sukhois, cuts down travel time considerably between the city of Agra and the state capital. The 302-km long six-lane expressway was completed in a record two years’ time.
Four Mirage 2000s and four Sukhois had touched down the six-lane highway as a part of strategy by the Defence Ministry to use the expressway in emergency situations.
On May 21, 2016, a Mirage 2000 had touched down on the Yamuna Expressway.
A number of highways have been cleared by the government for being used as airstrip for emergencies.