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In a strategic shift, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has emerged as a frontrunner in utilizing highways for emergency fighter jet landings. While Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pioneered such operations in the subcontinent in 2000, the IAF has rapidly outpaced them in recent years.

Pakistan gets the credit for introducing the concept of road runways in the region around 2000. This provided them with a tactical advantage of dispersing their air assets during wartime. However, the IAF has not only caught up but surpassed Pakistan in this domain. India boasts five operational highway stretches designated for emergency landings, with more under construction. Notably, the IAF has successfully conducted demonstrations using over five different aircraft types on these road runways.

In contrast, the PAF seems to be lagging behind. They reportedly have only two designated highway strips and have demonstrated successful landings with just four aircraft types. Here, limitations of certain aircraft designs might be a factor.

The delta-wing configuration of PAF’s Mirage and F-7 jets presents a challenge. These aircraft typically have higher landing speeds compared to other fighter designs. While successful landings with these jets would be a strong indicator of a road strip’s capability, PAF might not have felt the need for broader demonstrations.

Another factor to consider is the intake position. Unlike some IAF aircraft, the Pakistani jets lack ventral (bottom) air intakes. This design allows for a margin of error during landings, even with slight miscalculations, offering pilots more comfort during touch down on uneven surfaces.

AF’s Diverse Fleet Takes Center Stage

The IAF, on the other hand, has reportedly certified or demonstrated successful road landings with a wider range of aircraft, including:

  • Mirage 2000
  • Su-30MKI
  • Jaguar
  • LCA Tejas
  • C-130
  • C295
  • An-32

The PAF’s list reportedly includes:

  • Mirage III/V
  • F-7P/PG
  • Super Mushak
  • C-130

The IAF’s proactive approach in developing a robust road runway infrastructure and demonstrating diverse aircraft capabilities highlights its commitment to operational flexibility. This strategy could prove to be a significant advantage in potential conflicts.

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