PAF hones alternate take-off, landing skills

Fighter jets use highway/motorway stretches as runway for ‘high-tempo operations’

Zeeshan Ahmad March 18, 2019

KARACHI: Pakistan Air Force jets on Monday carried out take-offs and landings from various stretches of the country’s motorways and highways, a statement issued by the air force said.

“PAF fighter aircraft carried out off-runway operations by operating from multiple locations along motorways and highways, today,” read the statement. “After landing, PAF fighter aircraft were refuelled and re-armed.”

The statement added that exercise was conducted to demonstrate the capability of PAF “in being able to sustain high tempo air operations.” The exercise was witnessed by several senior civil and military officials, as well Federal Communications Minister Murad Saeed.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Air Commodore (retd) Jamal Hussein provided insight on why the PAF holds such exercises periodically.

“These are called alternate landings. Basically, you prepare for eventualities where you cannot use the runway of an airbase,” he said.

“For instance, we only had two airbases in 1965… we only had one in Dhaka in 1971… What would you do if the runway was bombed and rendered unusable?”

“So in the 1980s, the Western air forces originated this concept,” he added. “They decided to identify alternate strips that could be used as makeshift runways. The Western countries had these highways with long straight stretches, which is where the concept comes from.”

According to Air Commodore Hussein, practicing alternate landings is a common practice in most air forces across the world. “It is very common now, especially in the West. Sweden for instance, places heavy importance on using roads as runways if the need ever arises.”

Explaining how such operations are conducted, he said “All you need to do is mark off a stretch of road… you need a straight patch at least two to three kilometres long.”

“You coordinate with civil authorities, place fuel tankers next to the road as well as armament depots in case of war, and you have an alternate runway ready.”

“In peacetime, you can also use these roads, for instance in case an aircraft runs out of fuel or encounters any other problem that forces it to land away from any airbase,” he added. “That is why the air force practices these landings every two to three months.”


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