Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Highway to the Indian Border

Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway in Taktse County near Lhasa
On June 5 , 2014, China Tibet Online reported the progress of the construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway.
Quoting, the Chinese website said: "As a main trunk connecting a dozen of key highways in Tibet, Lhasa-Nyingchi [Nyingtri] Highway bears great significance in building a flexible traffic network covering China’s border provinces as well as upgrading China’s national defense capacity."
It is interesting that the 'defence capacity' is mentioned; this is usually not.
It is probably an answer to India's determination to built roads to the border areas in Arunachal Pradesh.
The reports continues: "On May 23, 2013, construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway started at Taktse County of Tibet. The construction budget totals 38 billion yuan [US $ 6 billion], and the highway is expected to cover 409.2 km, with the carrying capacity reaching 80 km/h via four lanes. Upon completion it will save at least 2 hours to travel from Lhasa to Nyingchi."
China National Highway 318 (known as G318) which runs from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the China-Nepal border, passes through Taktse County. G318 is the longest National Highway in China (5,476 kilometres).
From Lhasa to Zhangmu, it is known as the Friendship Highway; it connects China to 'friendly' Nepal (via the 115 km long Araniko Highway to Kathmandu).
I wonder if some sections of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway, will be suitable for fighter planes to land like on the Zhengzhou-Minquan Highway.
By the way, the Pentagon published yesterday its annual report on China's military power. There is a chart showing the comparison between China’s official defense budget and other regional powers: 
  • 2013 Defense Budget Comparison (Adjusted for Inflation) in billion (USD)
  • China (Official Budget) $ 119.5
  • Russia (National Defense Budget) $ 69.5
  • Japan $ 56.9
  • India $ 39.2
  • Republic of Korea $ 31.0
  • Taiwan $ 10.8
The Defense Ministry in Beijing was furious; on its website, it stated that it is 'resolutely opposed' to the Pentagon report: "Year after year the United States issues this so-called report on 'Military and Security Developments in China,' making preposterous criticisms of China's normal defense and military building, exaggerating the 'China military threat', which is totally wrong."
The point is that the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway will certainly not show in China's next defence budget.

Backgrounder: Difference between regular highway and highway runway for airplanes
China Military Online
May-27, 2014

Planes landing on the Zhengzhou-Minquan Highway.
BEIJING, May 27 (ChinaMil) Not any section of the highway is suitable for the aircraft to take off or land. It should have higher pavement strength with no big and tall buildings or trees around.
Chen Hong, an air force expert, said that there are strict requirements on a highway runway for the aircraft to take off from it or land on it. It has different standards of the pavement from that of the regular highway, especially for the Y-7 and the Su-27 aircraft, which pose very high-demanding requirements on the pavement strength. The regular highway has risks of collapse especially in the process of the aircraft's take-off or landing. A helicopter has less strict requirements in contrast, but it needs a platform the double size or larger of the rotor wings of the helicopter.
In terms of the thickness of groundwork, the concrete or stone groundwork of the regular highway is about 5 centimeters while the highway runway for the aircraft needs a higher strength with the groundwork to be dozens of centimeters in thickness.
In terms of the road surface, the highway runway for the aircraft has a very high-demanding requirement for the evenness. The road surface should be free of stones or metal particles lest they will be sucked into the engine and cause dangers.
In terms of the materials, the top layer is paved with a specially-improved asphalt concrete capable of water absorption to filter the detained water caused by rain or snow, while the regular concrete road surface is easy to detain water.
In terms of the surrounding environments, it demands a "clear" condition. There should be no obstacles in the surrounding to affect the aircraft so that it can insure the take-off or landing of the aircraft not be blocked by any tall and big buildings or trees.
When the highway serves as a runway for the aircraft to take off or land, all dividing blocks in the middle of the road should be removed, and the seam between the lanes in opposite directions should join together well. There shouldn't be big cracks or seams. The road surface under the dividing blocks should also be very flat and even.
According to Chen Hong, not any section of the highway can be used for the aircraft to take off or land. A certain section of the highway should be preset to serve the military purpose and it needs special maintenance and protection. When needed, several sections are put to the temporary use. Generally, a range of 2,000-plus meters on the highway runway is installed mostly for emergency use. It's an international practice to have such highways used as emergency runways. It's a measure to serve both the military and the civilian purposes.
The Zhengzhou-Minquan Highway used for the test flight is a highway from Zhengzhou to Minquan in Henan province. It is the first highway in Henan province to be constructed with the function of highway runway. Built in completely compliance to the standard designs by the Survey and Design Institute of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), it was completed and opened to traffic at the end of 2011.
It is learned that both sides of the highway runway cannot have protective fence. Since the dividing blocks are removable when needed, they are installed with wheels on the inner side so that they can be put down on the inner side and wheeled to the roadside.
According to the report of the China Central Television (CCTV), several hundred concrete dividing blocks along the 2.6km-long reserve highway runway on the Zhengzhou-Minquan Highway can be all moved to the road side within one hour to make the room out of the six-lane runway for the aircraft to take off or land.
Moreover, a highway runway also needs to reserve a turn-around apron and a service area for the aircraft. It is learned that this service area is big enough to accommodate 20-odd large-size aircraft, more than three times of the size of regular service area, with multiple functions, such as refueling, inspection and repairs, turn-around, and others. On both ends of the runway is built a mobile control tower and an aircraft navigation radar platform.

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