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High-Flying Highway Takeover: Indian Jets Turn Asphalt into Airstrip

In a remarkable showcase of versatility and preparedness, the Indian Air Force (IAF) took a dramatic detour onto National Highway 16 near Addanki in Bapatla district, turning the road into a temporary runway on March 18, 2024. This wasn’t your typical traffic jam – Su-30 and Hawk fighters were seen making strategic approaches above the highway, while An-32 and Dornier transport aircraft touched down and then ascended back into the sky, all as part of an Emergency Landing Facility (ELF) activation drill.

The spectacle wasn’t just a demonstration of military might but a testament to the seamless collaboration among India’s civil agencies. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), local district administration, state police, and the IAF worked hand in glove, turning the complex operation into a success story of multifaceted activity coordination.

This isn’t the first time the IAF has pulled off such an audacious maneuver. A similar exercise was conducted on December 29, 2022, signaling a pattern of preparedness. The NHAI has laid down a 4.1 km long and 33 m wide concrete strip specifically for such operations, built to the exacting standards required by the IAF. While other airstrips have been operational across the country, this ELF marks a significant addition in Andhra Pradesh, enhancing the operational flexibility in peninsular India.

ELFs on highways are not just about military readiness; they are pivotal during Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, providing a lifeline to remote areas during emergencies. The IAF, in partnership with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), is actively scouting for suitable locations to create more such airstrips. So next time you’re driving down a highway and see a jet overhead, remember, it might just be your road taking on an alternate identity as a runway!

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