India opens new emergency landing strip for military aircraft close to Pakistan border

Photo: A C-130J operates from the emergency landing facility near Barmer in Rajasthan close to Pakistan border.

Barmer (Rajasthan): India today opened a key emergency landing strip for its air force aircraft that will add a key capability to its military infrastructure close to the borders with nuclear-armed Pakistan.

India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari joinly inaugurate the Emergency Landing Facility (ELF) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) located at SattaGandhav stretch on NH-925A near here.

The two top ministers in the Narendra Modi government had flown into Barmer on the C-130J aircraft to inaugurate the facility nearby. They also witnessed aircraft operations on the ELF, which has been constructed in just 19 months by Mumbai-based Indian infrastructure development company GHV India Private Limited. under the supervision of the IAF and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

“This is the first time that a National Highway has been used for emergency landing of aircraft of Indian Air Force. This landing strip will be able to facilitate landing of all types of IAF aircraft,” a statement from the Ministry of Defence said.

Speaking at inauguration event, Rajnath Singh lauded the IAF, NHAI and the private sector for joining hands and completing the construction of Emergency Landing Field despite COVID-19 restrictions.

“It is a great example of coordination among multiple departments and ministries; government and private sector, and civil and defence sectors,” he added. The minister defined the landing of IAF aircraft on the three-km stretch as a historic new strength of ‘New India‘, as it coincides with the 75th year of Independence and 50th year of India’s victory in the 1971 war.

Rajnath Singh described ELF near the International Border as an example of the government’s commitment to protect the unity and sovereignty of the nation. “This highway and landing field will further cement the basic infrastructure along the western border and strengthen national security. Such emergency fields will provide more edge to the operational and civil assistance of our forces. It will also play a crucial role in facing natural calamities,” he said.

The minister also commended the armed forces for displaying the same level of courage, dedication and promptness during natural calamities, as they show when they face their adversaries. He lauded the Indian Air Force for playing a central role in dealing with the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He reiterated the government’s resolve to bolster the network of roads and highways across the country, with focus on constructing emergency landing fields at strategic and important places.

He said that the continuous construction of roads, highways and bridges across the country reflects the government’s commitment towards nation building. “The roads and highways projects being undertaken by our government have proved that defence and development are not two separate entities. Both complement each other,” he added.

Saying that development of border areas is one of the top priorities of the government, Rajnath Singh highlighted the crucial role played by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in strengthening border infrastructure.

The inauguration of Atal Tunnel, Rohtang and construction of highest motorable road in the world at 19,300-feet at Umlingla Pass in eastern Ladakh are some such examples, he said.

Referring to the Cabinet’s approval to procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force, Rajnath Simgh said the decision was a big step towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ as envisioned by the prime minister, as the aircraft would be manufactured under the ‘Make in India‘ initiative.

The NHAI has developed the 3-kilometre section as an ELF for Indian Air Force. It is part of the newly-developed two-lane paved shoulder of GagariyaBakhasar and Satta-Gandhav section having total length of 196.97 kilometres and costing Rs 765.52 crore under Bharatmala Pariyojana. The work commenced in Jul. 2019 and was completed in Jan. 2021.

This project will improve connectivity between villages of Barmer and Jalore districts located on the international border. The stretch located in the western border area will facilitate the vigilance of the Indian Army and strengthen the basic infrastructure of the country. During normal time, the ELF will be used for smooth flow of road traffic.

Apart from the emergency landing strip, three helipads have been constructed in Kundanpura, Singhania and Bakhasar villages under this project as per the requirements of the armed forces.

India’s Minister of Jal Shakti (Water Resources) Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R. K. S. Bhadauria, Department of Defence Research and Development and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chairman Dr G. Satheesh Reddy were present during the inauguration.

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