The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) today claimed to have landed two of its fighter aircraft on a public road, taking-off again, after refueling and rearming. The Associated Press of Pakistan said the PAF ‘successfully validated its concept of fighter operations from the motorways and highways when its two fighter aircraft landed at a point on motorway’.
Samaa TV reported that the aircraft in question were the Meraj (sic) and the F-7P (Chinese version of the MiG-21). From the photograph carried, the Meraj looks like a Mirage III or possibly its later variant, the Mirage 5.The report also says ‘9,000 feet (2743.2 meters) long and 103 feet (31.3944 meters) wide piece of Islamabad-Lahore motorway was used as runway’ also adding, ‘blocks dividing the motorway were removed and tops of trees grown on an area of 3,000 ft on both sides of motorway were trimmed’.
While this may appear to be of use for the PAF in times of emergency, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not very impressed. “They’ve converted the road into an airfield and are using the length of a normal runway. What’s the big deal about landing and taking off from that?” asks one IAF officer. “In any case,” he explains, “IAF pilots train for landing and taking from Parallel Taxi Tracks that are around 75 feet wide – half the width of a normal runway.
Edvard de la Motte, former Head of Design, Saab Military Aircraft and now a Director at Gripen puts things into perspective. He says that because of its Electrical Flight Control system, the Gripen can land and take-off on a strip with a length of 800 meters (2625 feet) and a width of 9 meters (30 feet). “The earlier Saab aircraft, the Viggen and the Drakken were also designed to operate from public roads with a length of 800 meters and a width of 17 meters (56 feet),” says de la Motte.