SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

The IAF ‘Activates’ its Aging Jaguar Fleet

In what is an effort to sustain its existing fleet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has signed a deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to purchase two simulators for Jaguar aircraft. This move is a departure from the statement by the IAF in 2019 that the Jaguar fleet which has been in service for over four decades, will be phased out starting in 2023. The aging fleet and high cost of engines for the Jaguar fleet were the reasons behind the decision. However, the IAF is now procuring two Fixed-Base Full Mission Simulators (FBFMS) including a five-year comprehensive maintenance contract at a cost of 357 crore. The simulators will be stationed at IAF airbases at Jamnagar and Gorakhpur for advanced training of fighter pilots.

Issue: 11-2021By Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd)Photo(s): By IAF


The Jaguar is a twin-engine, ground-attack aircraft designed, developed and manufactured by a joint venture between the French company Breguet and the British Aircraft Corporation. The joint venture company set up for this project was Société Européenne de Production de l’avion Ecole de Combat et d’Appui Tactique (SEPECAT). This was one of the first major joint Anglo-French military aircraft programmes. The platform was originally conceived in the 1960s to be a jet trainer aircraft with light ground attack capability. However, the platform was ultimately developed to be a nuclear capable deep penetration ground attack aircraft which was also known as Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA). The first prototype of the Jaguar undertook its maiden flight on September 8, 1968 at Istres located in Southern France. Even while the aircraft was still under development, in 1968 itself, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) had approached India that was seen as a likely customer for this platform. However, at that time, India had decided not to acquire this platform as it was not yet clear if France and Britain would select this platform for induction into their own Air Forces. Later on, when the aircraft had been fully developed, both Britain and France inducted over 200 Jaguars each. These aircraft saw action in the Persian Gulf War and in Kosovo.

Subsequently in 1978, India finally decided to acquire this aircraft and placed orders for a total of 160 of which 40 were to be supplied in fly away condition that were to be built in Warton in Europe. The remaining 120 aircraft would be built under licence by the Indian aerospace and defence major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at their facility in Bengaluru. The Jaguar aircraft was given the local name of “Shamsher” or “Sword of Justice”. The IAF has been operating two variants of the Jaguar, one of which is the deep strike version that is aimed at eliminating targets on the ground and the maritime version that is meant to attack and destroy the enemy’s warships and sea-based threats by way of anti-ship missiles and their launch platforms. Along with the newly acquired Rafale jet and the Mirage 2000, the Jaguar fleet in the IAF is also capable of launching strikes by nuclear weapons. In the last four decades, the fleet of Jaguar aircraft in the IAF has rendered yeoman service.

However, the Jaguar fleet of the IAF has not been without problems. When inducted, the Jaguars came equipped with the first-generation inertial navigation and attack system named NAVWASS which was outdated and not very reliable. The Rolls-Royce Adour engines fitted on the aircraft were somewhat underpowered. The Jaguar also lacked autopilot which is a critical flying aid. To address these problems, the IAF and HAL launched the programme to upgrade the avionics of the aircraft. The first upgraded Jaguar aircraft fitted with DARIN III flew for the first time on August 10, 2017. It was also fitted with the state-of-theart AESA radar, 28 new sensors, autopilot and more. To address the problem of the aircraft being underpowered, the IAF planned to replace the Rolls-Royce Adour engines on 80 Jaguars in its fleet with the more powerful F-125IN engines to be supplied by Honeywell. Unfortunately, the price of the engine quoted by Honeywell for the F-125IN engine was as described by the IAF to be so exorbitant that it was unaffordable. The plan to fit new engines on the Jaguar fleet was thus abandoned in 2019. With all the upgrades in Avionics and had the fleet been refitted with the more powerful Honeywell F-125IN engines, the Jaguar fleet of the IAF could have served for another two decades at the very least.

The possibility of the need to retire the Jaguar fleet of the IAF early has implications for the service in view of the fact that the IAF is currently facing a serious deficiency in the strength of the combat fleet. As against the strength of 42 combat squadron that is authorised by the government, even after the induction of two squadrons of the Rafale combat jet, the IAF will still be short by nine combat squadrons. With early retirement of the fleet of Jaguar aircraft, the deficiency in the combat fleet will increase to 15 squadrons. With practically no possibility of procurement of modern combat aircraft from foreign sources and the very low rate of production by HAL of the light combat aircraft Tejas, the IAF will be in a precarious state with heavily degraded combat capability. Under these circumstances, it is quite understandable that the IAF will adopt means to delay the retirement from service of the ageing combat fleets.