An Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 aircraft lands on the Yamuna Expressway near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh
A Mirage 2000 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) test-landed on the Yamuna Expressway near Delhi this morning as part of a drill for emergency landings on national highways.
At 6.40 am, the fighter plane, which flew down from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, skimmed the highway and landed very briefly before taking off again. At a distance, local people gaped at the sight.
"The aircraft made a practice approach on the highway, coming down to a height of 100 metres before landing off the next approach," said an IAF statement.
Before the landing, an IAF helicopter took several rounds in the air. Several air force personnel were at the spot and the area was cordoned off. A makeshift Air Traffic Control was set up. Bird-watchers were also on alert and fire engines and rescue vehicles were on stand-by.
Officials called it a practice drill to scope out possible landing strips on the national highway for fighter planes in case of an emergency. "It was basically a capability demonstration. IAF has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future," said a spokesperson.
The six-lane Yamuna Expressway on the outskirts of the capital connects to Agra in Uttar Pradesh. The jet landing stalled traffic on the highway for a few hours.
The air force also coordinated with the Uttar Pradesh government and district officials in Agra and Mathura.
Defence experts say landing fighters on roads is common across the world, a standard drill that comes into play during wartime when airbases are the first things that get bombed or hit by missiles. In India, very few roads are available for such landings because of traffic, pedestrians and animals.