Amidst prevailing tension on borders with China and Pakistan, Indian Air Force (IAF) has started construction of an emergency three-kilometre-long runway parallel to a stretch of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in southern Anantnag district.
The construction work started on Monday and is going at a fast pace. Currently, the earth filling work is being done on the stretch which is being executed by a lesser-known local construction company - Fetch Constructions.
Sources said that work on the runway adjacent to the National Highway (NH-44) in Bijbehara area is going on at war footing. “On completion, it will serve as an alternate runway facility for fighter jets in case of any emergency,” they said.
On completion, it will be the third airstrip in the Kashmir Valley, after those in Awantipora and Srinagar, that will be used by the IAF for its exercises. Major General, A Sengupta, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Awantipora-based Victor Force said the runway is being constructed by the IAF. However, he declined to further comment on the issue.
Officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) also confirmed that the ‘emergency landing and runway strip’ was under construction. They said they did not have operation details. No IAF official was available for comment.
A senior Army official said the construction of the runway had nothing to do with a stand-off with Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh Union Territory.
“Future highways could be the latest force multiplier for the Air Force,” he said, adding that some public roads had been designed to serve as runways for its warplanes to “provide an alternative for launching operations if key airfields are bombed out by the enemy”.
The IAF, he said, had firmed up an ambitious plan for emergency airstrips in “important sectors”. “This (construction of the runway) is part of that plan,” the officer added.
“The decision was taken in June last year. This strip is among the 13 other such strips to be constructed across the country,” he said.