Eight Indian Air Force fighter jets likes of Mirage, Sukhoi successfully landed and take off on Agra-Lucknow expressway on its grand opening on Monday.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) president Mulayam Singh Yadav inaugurated the Expressway, which would cut travel time between the two cities by half.
The 3.3-km stretch of the 302-km expressway can be used to land jets in emergencies when the military air fields are not available. The project has been completed in a record time of 22 months and has cost Rs. 13,200 crore.
Thousands of villagers and onlookers gathered to witness the rare event, as fighter jets whizzed past, almost skimming the road before roaring off into the sky again. The landings, air force officials said, are simulated and the jets don’t touch the road as it would damage the wheels.
“The aircrafts flew over the expressway at a speed of nearly 300km/hour at around 1:07 pm,” said a senior IAF officer.
A grand air show featuring six Mirage and Sukhoi figher jets presented a perfect prelude to the inaugural ceremony. This is one of the CM Akhilesh Yadav’s dream projects, apart from Lucknow Metro and Lucknow IT City.
Four Sukhoi jets from Bareilly and four Mirage 2000s from Gwalior performed simulated landings on the Expressway at Unnao, around 50 km from Lucknow, as a host of IAF officers, politicians and commoners watched in awe.
All facilities — such as a makeshift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties — were set up by the IAF, which also supervised the runway section of the expressway’s construction under technical specifications.
Last year in the month of May, in a first for military aviation in the country, IAF successfully landed a French Dassault Mirage-2000 fighter jet on the Yamuna Expressway near Raya village, Mathura, as a part of elaborate trials to see how many other highways can be used for war-like emergencies.