Capable of delivering nuclear weapons, the Jaguars were first inducted into the IAF from Britain in 1979 and subsequently manufactured by HAL under licence. French and Israeli companies are also part of the upgradation programme. Advanced radars, navigation, weapon and electronic warfare systems and precision-guided munitions have been fitted with these deep penetration aircraft which are poised to augment the capabilities of the blue force.
By the mid 1970s, the IAF was clearly in need of urgent re-equipment decisions. First off the mark was selection of the Jaguar strike fighter, to meet the IAF's urgent Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) requirement, to replace the Canberra and Hunter still soldiering on in this exacting role.
After many years of evaluation and negotiation, the Anglo-French fighter was contracted for, an interim batch of ex-RAF Jaguars being accepted to re-equip No. 14 Squadron. IAF pilots and technicians received conversion training with the RAF and British Aerospace in Lossiemouth, Coltishall and Warton before ferrying the first Jaguars to India in July 1979. These were followed by a batch of U.K. built Jaguars to re-equip No. 5 Squadron even as simultaneously, HAL prepared for production of the aircraft, its powerplants, avionics and accessories in India.
The Indian Ministry of Defense approved in October 1978 acquisition of 150 Jaguars and concluded two agreements with the aircraft manufacturer in April 1979. While 40 Jaguars were imported in a fly away condition, the remaining 110 aircraft were to be licenced manufactured by the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) during 1982-89 in a phased manner. The direct supply aircraft were equipped with first generation Marconi inertial navigation and attack system named NAVWASS, which had low reliability and was grossly outdated. The Ministry, immediately after induction, had to sanction development of a second generation display attack ranging inertial navigation system named DARIN for its integration on HAL built Jaguars. The Ministry also sanctioned an ambitious retromodification program to upgrade the NAVWASS equipped direct supply Jaguar aircraft.
By the mid-80s, the Jaguar was in service with Nos. 5, 14, 16 and 27 Squadrons while a flight of No.6 Squadron was equipped with the Maritime Jaguar carrying the new generation Sea Eagle anti-ship sea-skimming missile. The Jaguar strike fighter was equipped also with Magic air-to-air missiles on unique overwing pylons, featured advanced nay-attack systems and able to carry formidable warload till the far ends of the sub-continent.
The Ministry curtailed in 1982 the indigenous manufacture program from 110 to 76 aircraft on the grounds that the design philosophy of the Jaguar aircraft was of the sixties and the manufacturer of the aircraft had stopped production of the aircraft. However, the Ministry had to reverse its decision and it sanctioned procurement of 15 additional Jaguars from HAL in September 1988 after six years of curtailment of the indigenous manufacture program.
The Indian Air Force had some 35 Jaguars equipped with outdated first generation navigation and attack system called NAVWASS for about two decades. Their retromodification with third generation DARIN INGPS was sanctioned belatedly in November 1996 at a cost of Rs.158 crore for completion by 2000-01 was yet to take off and was not expected to be completed before 2006. The contracts for five sub-systems with foreign vendors for this program were at a stand still due to non-finalisation of mission computer by HAL as the imported sub-systems were to be designed around this computer. In the meantime, 14 aircraft had to be grounded for periods ranging from 2 to 26 months due to prolonged unserviceability.
Air HQ in March 1995 unequivocally stated that if a retromod program was not undertaken, it would necessitate phasing out of NAVWASS Jaguars from the Air Force inventory earlier than desired due to their poor operational reliability in the present configuration. Audit scrutiny disclosed that while the Jaguar squadrons were hard pressed for NAVWASS specific items which had depleted considerably, Air HQ had decided not to procure additional NAVWASS kits stating that an upgradation program was on the anvil. The action of the Air HQ, however, proved abortive as lack of cohesive planning and foresight on its part led to grounding of 14 aircraft at a Jaguar operating base for a period ranging from 2 to 26 months as of June 2000 primarily due to deficiency and prolonged unserviceability of the NAVWASS specific items.
The Ministry concluded contract for procurement of maritime radar for the Jaguar aircraft, in replacement of the existing outdated agave radars, after four years of projection of requirement by Air Force resulting in an extra expenditure of US$ 1.12 million, which was avoidable. The Jaguar maritime fleet had to operate with old agave radars whose maintenance was becoming more and more difficult. Three out of five maritime Jaguars were lying unserviceable since March-June 1999.
Apathy of Air HQ/ Ministry to speed up the acquisition of auto pilot system for Jaguar aircraft was operationally detrimental. The Air Force not only lost four Jaguar aircraft costing Rs.141.40 crore in serious flying accidents, three pilots also died in these accidents. The auto pilots are unlikely to be fitted on Jaguars at least till June 2002.
Integration and flight trials of the laser designator pods procured at a cost of Rs.95 crore has been delayed by 20 months. This would, apart from delaying the fleet modification of Jaguars, also impose operational limitations to the aircraft fleet. In the mean time, warranty of three pods valuing Rs.15.33 crore had expired. The Jaguars would not be able to undertake missions with laser designator pods in the absence of auto pilots, a mandatory requirement was not likely to be available before June 2002.
The CCS approved a proposal of the Air Force in May 1996 for procurement of 15 laser designator pods with thermal imagery for fitment on 10 Jaguars and 5 Mirage-2000 aircraft and modification of 30 Jaguar aircraft for carrying the pods at a total cost of Rs.125 crore. The Ministry concluded a contract with foreign firm 'D' in November 1996 for procurement of 15 laser designator pods with thermal imagery at a total cost of US $ 27.11 million, equivalent to Rs.95 ( 1 US $ = Rs.35) crore to be delivered between March 1998 and February 1999 in two phases. Flight trails and certification of laser designator pods on Jaguar aircraft was delayed by 20 months. However, there had been delay in delivery of pods due to delays in conclusion of flight tests and certification of pods on Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft. The flight test and certification on Jaguar aircraft, which was planned to be conducted by March 1998, was completed by the ASTE (Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment), only in December 1999, after a delay of 20 months.
The plan of the Air Force to equip the Jaguar fleet with self protection jammer, a critical electronic warfare equipment, has been jeopardised even after an expenditure of Rs 184 crore. An initial delay of 24 months in mock-up installation not only forced the Ministry to re-schedule the delivery of jammers from July 1999 to July 2001, a realistic time frame for fleet modification is yet to emerge affecting thereby, the operational capabilities of the Air Force.
With a Jaguar crashing in Ambala in May 2002, the Indian Air Force has lost an average of one of these deep penetration strike aircraft each year in accidents since they were inducted in service in 1979. A total of 20 Jaguars had been lost as of 2002, with the three previous crashes taking place in and around Ambala, which is the base for some of the operational Jaguar squadrons. 1999 was the worst year for the Jaguars when four of these aircraft were lost in Gorakhpur, Pune and Patiala. As of June 2005, a total of 28 Jaguars had been lost in accidents.
The Jaguars were the first type of aircraft that had flown overseas. The Indian Air Force deployed them in an overseas exercise, Cope Thunder in Alaska, USA last year. Speaking on the occasion of the induction, Defence Minister said, "The nation must equip itself for electronic warfare". The Air Chief said that the upgradation of Jaguar was a noteworthy step towards self-reliance. HAL Chairman, Mr Ashok Baweja said Mig-27 and Sea Harrier would be upgraded next. Mr N Dharam Singh, Chief Minister of Karnataka also spoke on the occasion.
In 2004, the Indian Air Force signed a contract with Sextant to completely upgrade the Jaguar autopilot system. Sextant would supply a state-of-the-art modular, digital autopilot for the Jaguars, derived from autopilots already developed for the Mirage 2000-9 and the Nimrod 2000. Autopilot integration would be carried out in jointly with the Indian air force and HAL. The new autopilot would increase the aircraft's ground attack capabilities, as well as enhance flight safety.
Nine upgraded twin-seater Jaguar fighters were inducted into Indian Air Force (IAF) on 15 July 2005 at a ceremony held at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore. Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee handed over the aircraft to Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi. The aircraft were upgraded by HAL.
The Jaguars of the Indian Air Force have always been a trusted war horse since the first Jaguar came to Ambala on July 27, 1979 and put in 25 years of yeoman service to the Indian Air Force. At the time of induction, Jaguar was considered to be the fastest aircraft and added a new dimension to air operations in the Indian sub-continent. Under an agreement with the Indian Air Force, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been entrusted with the upgradation of Jaguars that would extend their life by another 15 years, through the year 2020.
In January 2009 Honeywell announced its F125IN engine, a 9850lbf (43.8kN) thrust engine that will deliver high performance, improved pilot safety, lower maintenance and outstanding reliability. "This thrust class engine is built around Honeywell's proven expertise in the design and production of aircraft systems, which is evident in the F125IN engine, an outstanding propulsion system for military aircraft," said Vicki Panhuise, Honeywell Vice President, Military Aircraft. "The engine will transform the Indian Air Force Jaguar aircraft by improving mission performance, enhancing pilot safety, reducing pilot workload, and reducing maintenance events and costs." The F125IN powerplant, which is currently being considered for the Indian Air Force Jaguar re-engining program, is significantly lighter and much more powerful than the aircraft's current engine. It has an advanced dual full-authority digital engine control (FADEC) system, modular construction, integrated engine health monitoring system and best in class thrust-to-weight ratio. In 2007 the F125IN was successfully demonstrated for the Indian Air Force in Bangalore. The engine is projected to save the Indian Air Force more than Rupees 7000 Crores ($1.5 billion) in life-cycle costs compared to other upgrade options being considered. The F125IN permits the Jaguar to perform missions never before possible with the current engine.
Contracts were signed 19 December 2011 with M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for upgrade of the Jaguar aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The cost of the contract contract with HAL is 2020 crores. The upgrade of the aircraft is expected to be completed by mid 2021.
By September 2012 integration of autopilot on Jaguar aircraft of the Indian Air Force is being undertaken in two phases. Procurement of autopilot for 55 Jaguar aircraft has been completed and commercial discussions for repeat procurement of additional 95 autopilots are under progress.
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