Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Roadways Minister Nitin Gadkari inaugurated an emergency landing strip at Satta-Gandhav stretch on National Highway 925 on Thursday for Indian Air Force (IAF) planes.

The Union Ministers and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria were aboard the A C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, which successfully completed the mock-emergency field landing.

They also witnessed multiple aircraft operations on the emergency landing facility (ELF) of NH-295 on Thursday. Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet conducted a mock emergency landing at the ELF. IAF chief R K Bhadauria was also present on the occasion.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has developed the 3-km section of Satta-Gandhav stretch of NH-925 as an ELF for the IAF.

An-32 military transport aircraft and Mi-17v5 helicopter of the IAF also landed at the ELF, showing its complete operational readiness to act as an auxiliary military airbase.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated everyone after the event saying that where we normally see cars and trucks, they now see planes. He called it important because the region had witnessed a war in 1971 due to its close proximity with the International border.

Rajnath Singh said, “By creating a strip so near the international border, we have given a message that we will stand up for unity, diversity and sovereignty of our country at whatever the cost.”

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In his speech, the defence minister said that a total of 20 emergency landing strips, similar to the one in Barmer, are being developed across the country right now.

“Many helipads are also being created with the help of the Union Roads Ministry. This is an important step to strengthen our security infrastructure,” he added.

There was this thinking that if much is spent on defence, then development in the country would be affected, he said.

“But today, seeing an emergency landing strip on a national highway, I can safely say that defence and development can go hand in hand,” Singh mentioned.

He further informed that the landing strip would not just be used for war but also for relief and rescue related work. Helipads have reportedly been developed there and he believes that the COVID-19 pandemic too was no less than a war.

Indian Airforce will always be there for the people in times of nay man-made or natural disaster, assured Singh.

In October 2017, fighter jets and transport planes of the IAF had conducted mock landings on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway to show that such highways can be used by the IAF planes for landing in case of an emergency.

The Lucknow-Agra Expressway, which is not a national highway, comes under the Uttar Pradesh government.

The emergency landing strip, which was inaugurated on Thursday, is part of newly developed two-lane paved shoulder of Gagariya-Bakhasar and Satta-Gandhav section having total length of 196.97 km and costing Rs 765.52 crore under the Bharatmala Pariyojana.

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This highway project will improve connectivity between villages of Barmer and Jalore districts located on the international border.

Apart from the emergency landing strip, three helipads (size 100×30 metres each) have been constructed in Kundanpura, Singhania and Bakhasar villages under this project, according to the requirements of the IAF and the Indian Army.

The ELF and three helipads have been developed so as to strengthen the security network on the western international border of the country.

During normal time, the ELF will be used for smooth flow of road traffic and during the operations of ELF for the IAF, the service road will be used for smooth flow of road traffic.

The ELF was constructed in 19 months. The work commenced in July 2019 and was completed in January 2021. It was carried out by GHV India Pvt Ltd under the supervision of the IAF and the NHAI.

– With Inputs from PTI

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