Pune: The College of Military Engineering (CME), in association with a private manufacturer, has developed a cement mixture that can be used to quickly repair airfields damaged in enemy attacks.

“An in-house trial of the new mixture has produced satisfactory results,” said a senior army officer from CME’s garrison engineer field investigation division, who was involved in the research.

As things stand, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) imports such a material at a high cost. “The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) tried finding a domestic solution before our department was tasked with this. We developed the mixture in six months. During the trial, it held within a matter of minutes,” the officer said.

Test patches of the mixture were laid by a team from CME’s soil engineering department and were examined by the army’s engineer-in-chief, Lt Gen Suresh Sharma, CME Commandant Lt Gen Michael Mathew, and other officers.

The findings have been shared with the Air Headquarters (HQ) in New Delhi, which directed CME to conduct a trial on priority at the Lohegaon airfield. “For this purpose, the Garrison Engineer (Air Force) Lohegaon, with technical guidance and support from air force authorities, will dig a 3.5m deep crater that has a 10-12m diameter,” the officer said.

Quick repair of airfields damaged by enemy strikes has always been a challenge for several countries, including India. “In 1987, the DRDO unsuccessfully attempted to find a solution for runway repairs. Later, DRDO proposed a French-origin mortar as a solution, which too failed could not achieve the desired result in a time frame of six hours,” an army officer said.

Subsequently, the Air HQ entrusted the CME with responsibility of finding a solution. “Based on the shortcomings observed in previous trials, the team carried out lab trials on various compounds and mixtures in from June to November last year in Pune, and prepared the mixture,” an officer from the division said.