By Col Abhi Athavale (veteran)
On the 16th November 2021 PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the first-ever E – way having state of the are 2 airstrip Runways for the IAF.
Purvanchal Expressway is 341 Km long. It starts from village Chaudsarai, district Lucknow located on Lucknow-Sultanpur road and terminates at village Hydaria located on National Highway No. 31, on the border of UP-Bihar.
The E – way is 6-lane wide which can be expanded to 8-lane in the future.
The expressway has eight fuel stations, four CNG stations are being set up.
The unique feature of this E-way is that UP Is the first state to have a 2 airstrip runway on the E – way, with a length of 3.2 Km. The thickness of the AirStrip is around 320 mm and can take the weight of heavy air crafts like C-130J, Jaguars, Mirages SU 30 MKI.
This is a remarkable feat for the IAF as during the war airfields are the prime targets for enemy airstrikes. These Air stripes can be very helpful not only in case of such airstrikes. But from handling any internal natural calamities like floods earthquakes etc.
Now let us check out the strategic importance of this Airstrip –
This pair of airstrips have been built on Poorvanchal E – way near the Khurber village hence it is named KHURBER AIRSTRIP’ and has a 3.2 Km long Runway.
This is the first of its kind in India. Previously there were many trials on other E-ways like Yamuna E-way, in Rajasthan in Barmer on NH 925 A, IAF had conducted mock landings on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway also demonstrating such highways can be used by IAF planes for landing in case of emergencies.
This AirStrip is the beginning of the 17 such Airstrips to be built in a phase-wise manner across India. Such as Rajasthan, Punjab, NE India, etc
These Airstrips are being constructed keeping in view China and Pakistan.
It’s a known fact that China has been building infrastructure and villages across the LAC. Not only that but is also building Airports and upgrading the existing ones.
The newly inaugurated Purvanchal highway is designed to play a major and strategic role in fighter and transport operations in case of a worst-case scenario. So is the case with the Lucknow-Agra expressway.
There is one more reason to build such runways in the different parts of the nation. We have learned our lesson during the 1965 & 71 wars that the enemy had targeted our IAF airports.
IAF had lost fighter jets due to airbases being bombed by Pakistan Air Force planes. Learning from this experience, the IAF decided to use these earmarked airstrips on highways to land 24×7 any hour of the day using temporary lights, mobile air traffic communications, refuel take-off after being loaded with armaments.
Also, these Airstrips are close to the Airbases, and fuel and armaments can be supplied to the aircrafts with ease.
How was the decision to build such runways made? A million dollars question. It was because of the facts
That the Intel received that PLA was constructing underground shelters for their jets across the LAC
Kashgar, Hotan, Damxung, Lhasa, Shigatse, Ngari-Gar Gunsa, Bangda, and Nyinmgchi dual-purpose airports across the LAC, as well as new airports in Tashikorgan, Purang, Tingri, and Lhuntse.
China is not only continuously upgrading and upgrading the infrastructure along the LAC 3488 Km long has not been lost on our present government dispensation.
These Airstrips at Kurebhar on the Purvanchal Expressway come as a strategical move to combat China and help IAF Bases.
The air show by the IAF brought goosebumps. Mirage 2000 and SU 30MKI low-speed maneuvers at 200 knots both of the fighter jets demonstrated their low turn radius. Which proves very crucial in a dogfight.
It was and is a day to be proud to be an Indian as she demonstrated her might and the genius mind behind this state-of-the-art Airstrips.
This wouldn’t have been possible but for the genius mind of Shri Gadkari Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India.
By – Abhi Athavale.