Emergency Landing Facility drill: IAF’s Chinook, Mi-17 helicopters to land on highway in J&K

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Srinagar: Indian Air Force Chinook and Mi-17 helicopters will land on a stretch of the national highway linking Kashmir with the rest of the country as part of an Emergency Landing Facility (ELF) drill, the first such exercise in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Monday.

According to the officials, around two sorties of the US-manufactured Chinook and the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters will land on the Wanpoh-Sangam stretch of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway during the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.

The work on the 3.5-km emergency landing strip was started in 2020 and completed late last year as part of the programme initiated by the IAF with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for the creation of ELFs at different locations across the country.

Security has been heightened along the landing strip with additional personnel deployed to ensure that people do not stray close to the area, the officials said.

“Traffic on the highway has been diverted from Wanpoh to Sangam to bypass the Bijbehara emergency landing strip where trial landing and takeoff is scheduled,” an official said.

Chinook helicopters, which have a top speed of 310 kmph, are used for lifting heavy weights. The main cabin can hold over 33 fully-equipped troops.

It can also be used for medical evacuation and the helicopter, which has a travel range of 741 km, can accommodate 24 stretchers.

The Mi-17 helicopters can accommodate up to 35 troops.

Both these helicopters have been pressed into relief and rescue operations during natural disasters.

The IAF’s ELF drill is to showcase the synergy and liaison between civil agencies, such as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), district administration and state police, and the air force towards the conduct of complex multi-faceted activities.

After this exercise, Jammu and Kashmir will be the first Union Territory to have operationalised an ELF. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are the three states where ELFs are currently operational.

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