Lucknow-Agra e-way as IAF runway
On 24 October 2017, the Indian Air Force carried out a highway landing exercise in Uttar Pradesh, validating a second stretch of roadway for potential use in wartime emergencies (the first was on the Yamuna Expressway between Delhi and Agra). A specially chosen stretch of highway between Agra and Lucknow, both home to IAF bases and within close range of a number of other Central Air Command stations, had the tarmac surface replaced with concrete, and runway markings (24/06) painted at either end of a 3-kilometre, 33-metre-wide strip.
The proceedings began with a C-130J inserting a team of IAF ‘Garud’ special forces who ‘secured’ the strip before the fighters arrived. Fast jets included a trio of newly-upgraded Mirage 2000TIs from No.1 Squadron ‘Tigers’ and a pair of Mirage 2000Hs with a twin-seat Mirage 2000TH from No.7 Squadron ‘ Battleaxes’, both based out of Gwalior ( Maharajpur); two Su-30MKIs from No.8 Squadron ‘Eight Pursoot’ and three from No.24 ‘Hawks’ out of Bareilly, and finally three DARIN I Jaguars from No.27 Squadron ‘Flaming Arrows’ based in Gorakhpur. Given the limited infrastructure in place, the fighters did not actually land but the C-130J did. Each of the fast jets carried out a low missed approach on its first pass, before carrying out a touch-and-go on the second pass, which was considered enough to validate the highway airstrip for clear-weather VFR operations.
The exercise concluded with the C-130J arriving once again, this time to embark the Garud commandos and carry out a short take-off. The entire operation was planned and executed by Air Force Station Bakshi Ka Talab, a few kilometres north of the city of Lucknow, with Station Commander Gp Capt J Suares responsible for overall control and co-ordination.