Indian Air Force to activate emergency landing facility on NH-16 section

Bhubaneswar: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to activate its Emergency Landing Facility (ELF) on NH-16 (old NH-60) between Balasore in Odisha and Kharagpur in West Bengal.

The stretch of NH-16 is one of the two national highways passing through Odisha that have been developed as emergency landing strips for military aircraft. The second highway is Kharagpur-Keonjhar (NH-49).
Once it passes the activation test, the ELF airstrike will emerge as an invaluable asset during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in remote areas and will enhance the flexibility of air operations during contingencies. Sources said the trials will be conducted on the concrete airstrip on the Kharagpur-Balasore stretch of NH-16 built by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) as per the specifications provided by the Indian Air Force. During the activation test, AN-32 and Dornier transport aircraft are likely to be used to make emergency landings and take off from the runway and fighter aircraft like Sukhoi-30 and Hawk will be used to perform overshoot.

An NHAI official said that highway airstrips have been developed in different parts of the country keeping in mind the future needs and threats. As per the concept, a portion of the road will be used as an airstrip during emergencies, while the service road will be used for smooth flow of road traffic whenever the situation requires.
“Airstrips are extremely important for rescue operations during wars, natural disasters and serious accidents. It is a matter of pride that our national highways will also be used by the armed forces who are always ready for emergency situations and will make the country more secure,” he said. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has urged the Government of Odisha to ensure seamless coordination to put in place necessary security arrangements and facilitate smooth closure of the highway for ELF operations.

Air Vice Marshal SK Mathur, senior officer-in-charge of the administration, has sought cooperation from Chief Secretary PK Jena to temporarily close the highway for about two hours for the successful conduct of the activation exercise in the first fortnight of April.
Earlier, a joint team of IAF and NHAI had conducted a feasibility study and two stretches of highways in the area were identified for emergency landing of aircraft as they were found in straights and had low or no public visibility. Emergency landing of aircraft was not possible on other highways in the state that have underpasses every two to three km.

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