Air op­er­a­tions from ex­press­ways and high­ways have com­bat po­ten­tial and other spin-offs

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The writer is for­mer Chief of the Air Staff and for­mer mem­ber, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sory Board, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia.

The re­cent Air Op­er­a­tions on the Agra-Luc­know Ex­press­way by IAF fighter and trans­port air­craft was in­deed a very well planned and ex­e­cuted op­er­a­tion to show­case the the ver­sa­til­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity of IAF plat­forms, the flex­i­bil­ity of IAF plan­ning and most im­por­tantly, the fly­ing skills dis­played by the air­crew. This spec­tac­u­lar dis­play by the IAF not only en­thralled all In­di­ans, but also sent out a very clear mes­sage of IAF’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and com­bat edge.

While it is com­mon knowl­edge that Ex­press­way/High­way land­ings and take offs by many air forces around the world as a run­way de­nial/clo­sure/dam­age con­tin­gency train­ing by fighter air­craft is car­ried out of­ten; it is the sim­u­lated As­sault land­ing/take­off by the IAF C-130 for in­fil­trat­ing Spe­cial Forces and then ex­fil­trat­ing them on com­ple­tion of their as­signed op task that has added an en­tirely new di­men­sion to th­ese air op­er­a­tions. An­other ad­van­tage of dis­persed area op­er­a­tions by mil­i­tary air­craft is to min­imise losses, since reg­u­lar air force bases are al­ways on the tar­get list of en­emy air and mis­sile forces. A dis­persed launch of strike mis­sions and air­borne op­er­a­tions from iden­ti­fied stretches of ex­press­ways/ high­ways will al­ways have the ad­van­tage of sur­prise and flex­i­bil­ity of op­er­a­tions.

In our con­text, given the vast ex­panse of our Coun­try and a paucity of air­fields in the far cor­ners, ex­press­way/high­way trans­port peace time air op­er­a­tions from such lo­ca­tions dur­ing nat­u­ral calami­ties and dis­as­ter re­lief con­tin­gen­cies would help im­mensely in speed­ing up re­lief op­er­a­tions and fly­ing in emer­gency sup­plies in the dis­as­ter zone. Given the ver­sa­til­ity & ca­pa­bil­ity of newly in­ducted IAF trans­port air­craft as­sets like the C-130 and C-17 air­craft with their con­sid­er­able load/range ca­pac­ity, large scale & speedy re­lief op­er­a­tions are a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity. The IAF, I am sure, must have fac­tored in such con­tin­gen­cies in their in­ter­ac­tion and plan­ning process with High­ways Author­ity of In­dia, State Gov­ern­ments & other agen­cies. Th­ese op­er­a­tions, cou­pled with Heli­borne re­lief op­er­a­tions from there on­wards, should be­come a SOP for all fu­ture HDR op­er­a­tions from ear­marked stretches of ex­press­ways/high­ways in dis­as­ter ar­eas where there are no air­fields.

If we were to go be­yond peace time ex­press­way/high­way trans­port air op­er­a­tions for HDR op­er­a­tions or re­cov­ery of stricken fighter air­craft, war time mil­i­tary avi­a­tion his­tory is re­plete with other outof-the-box op­er­a­tions which achieved ex­tra­or­di­nary re­sults and strate­gic ef­fects. The ‘Doolit­tle Raid’ on Tokyo by twenty eight B-25 bombers, al­beit launched from the nar­row con­fines of an air­craft car­rier changed the course of WW II, and is an im­por­tant ex­am­ple of such un­ortho­dox air op­er­a­tions! Given the avail­abil­ity of suit­able stretches of ex­press­ways/high­ways in the vicin­ity of our bor­ders & with req­ui­site train­ing, there is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity to po­si­tion/de­ploy com­bat troops and mil­i­tary equip­ment speed­ily and in large num­bers in con­flict sit­u­a­tions for quick and easy tran­sit by heli­copters/ ve­hi­cles to ac­tual zones of con­flict. The same could be achieved be­hind en­emy lines in a be­nign air de­fence zone, if th­ese spe­cial op­er­a­tions are planned and ex­e­cuted with pre­ci­sion. All such op­er­a­tions are fraught with dan­gers and the like­li­hood of losses, but dis­tinctly pos­si­ble un­der ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances. Th­ese would in­vari­ably be one-off op­er­a­tions, and dif­fi­cult to be re­peated.

Mil­i­tary avi­a­tion al­ways de­mands in­no­va­tions, un­ortho­dox op­er­a­tions, grit and courage for any dif­fi­cult air op­er­a­tion to be ex­e­cuted suc­cess­fully. The IAF has made a fine be­gin­ning and in the days to come, will hone its skill lev­els to un­der­take and ex­e­cute more com­plex dis­persed op­er­a­tions.

(Top to bot­tom) Su-30MKI, Mi­rage 2000 and Jaguar dur­ing a land­ing op­er­a­tion at Agra-Luc­know Ex­press­way


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