Amid the India-China stand-off in Ladakh, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has started construction of a 3-kilometer long runway along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway (NH-44) in Bijbehara area of district Anantnag.
The construction work started on Monday and is going on fast pace. “The runway is being constructed by the Air Force,” Major General, A Sengupta, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Awantipora-based Victor Force, told reporters during a press conference. However, he declined to further comment on the issue.
Officials of National Highways Authority of India also confirmed that the ‘emergency landing and runway strip’ was under construction. They said they did not have operation details. “You can talk to Air Force officials for further details.”
A senior Army official told Greater Kashmir that construction of the runway had nothing to do with Ladakh stand-off. “Future highways could be the latest ‘force multiplier’ for its 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 senior 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.
The senior officer said that the roads-turned-runways could be closed during take-off and landing of the aircraft, and opened to the public at other times.
“To convert it into a runway, the road needs to be levelled, straightened, widened, and strengthened,” he said, adding that the earth filling was going on in the area.