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Jaguar - Upgrades

Over the years, the Jaguar was upgraded to ensure it remains a potent fighter-bomber, and one that served with distinction during the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent operations over Iraq and the Balkans. The RAF fleet underwent an upgrade program, and this would see aircraft fitted with new cockpit displays, helmet-mounted sights, the ability to carry the new Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and other system improvements to further extend the life of the aircraft well into the next century.

The Jaguar has been with the RAF for decades and yet, in terms of technology growth, the late 1990s saw the aircraft expand its operational capability by a greater degree than during any other period of its lifetime. In fact, today's RAF Jaguar actually merits respect as a weapons platform and allows its operators the opportunity to produce the kind of results that they have long deserved.

Jaguar 97' is the UK Jaguar Force fleet standard machine and, at first glance, only the finest enthusiasts would recognise the differences between a '97' model and the trusty steed that first appeared in RAF livery in 1973. There are no design or aerodynamic changes but enhanced engines, offering a potential 25% thrust increase, will eradicate pilots' concerns during take-off in hot and high locations! It is inside the cockpit that the new toys will be most obvious to those familiar with the 'old machine'. A new stick top and hand controller have brought true HOTAS functions to the Jaguar pilot, reducing time spent 'head in cockpit' dealing with navigation button-pressing and weapon aiming facilities. A 1:1 ratio wide-angle Head Up Display (HUD) and associated up-front controller has replaced the peculiar 5:1 geared version of old and with this new HUD comes the capability to display a multitude of real-time information. Out goes the microfilm fed moving map display and in comes Multi-Purpose Colour Display (MPCD). The MPCD displays a digitally generated map or the image seen through the newly acquired TIALD pod by displaying TV/IR imagery in video style format.

The introduction of Ferranti's FIN 1064 Inertial Navigation system in 1985 allowed the Jaguar to be operated accurately and reliably at low level. This excellent INAS has now been updated by integrating a GPS receiver and a Terrain Profile-matching system (TerProm) to give outstanding accuracy and performance with weapon aiming and navigation; no more excuses for missing any targets! An in-built Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) also utilises the Digital Terrain Elevation Database (DTED) of TerProm warning of an impending collision with either granite or significant man made obstructions! All the new hardware is linked by a 1553 databus plus imagery from both the HUD and TIALD can be recorded onto S-VHS compact videocassettes for debriefing purposes.

On the ground, planning a sortie was done on the Jaguar Mission Planner (JMP), a PC-based system using a similar database to that of TerProm. It allows pilots to choose very careful routes through known Surface-to-Air Missile threat areas and minimise aircraft exposure in hostile territory. Now that the new hardware was in place, in both aeroplane and on the ground, future upgrades can be easily implemented through upgrades of software and databases.

The most recent upgrade to GR3A (or T4 for the 2-seat version) standard included improved avionics with the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Terrain-Referenced Navigation (TRN), Night-Vision Goggles (NVG) compatible lighting (both internally and externally), helmet-mounted sight, and new Head-Up and Head-Down Displays in the cockpit. GR3A upgrade also includes a planned ASRAAM capability. These modifications have ensured that the Jaguar is fully capable for performing day and night operations.

The aircraft's twin Adour turbofan engines were also updated to the Mk106 standard, giving greater fuel economy and more power in high ambient temperatures. In percentage terms, taking the current Adour Mk 104 engine performance as 100 per cent., the upgraded Adour Mk 106 engine provides an increase in thrust generating a performance level of 105 per cent. This increase enables the Jaguar aircraft to operate more effectively in hot climates and improves engine reliability. The cost of the Jaguar aircraft Adour Mk 106 engine upgrade programme is 105 million. The programme reduced the through life costs of the aircraft propulsion system by increasing engine reliability and availability.

On 8 May 2003, while operating from RAF Coltishall, a twin seat Jaguar T4 aircraft, powered by the Adour Mk 106 engine, made a precautionary landing due to a fire warning. The cause was found to be a technical problem that resulted in damage to the afterburner casing. As a result of this incident Jaguars fitted with the Adour Mk 106 engines did not fly until their engines had been inspected. These aircraft returned to normal flying on 24 May although some flying restrictions still applied pending a full engineering solution. Jaguar aircraft fitted with the Adour Mk 104 engines had no flying restrictions.

Self defence was enhanced during the Gulf Conflict by arming the Jaguar with overwing mounted AIM-9L missiles; it was later possible to launch these missiles via a helmet mounted sight system, something that significantly improved the respect given to a Jaguar in an air-to-air engagement. Forty-six helmet mounted sighting systems were procured for Royal Air Force Jaguar GR3A aircraft at a cost of some 3.5 million.

The cost of equipping the Jaguar GR3a reconnaissance aircraft with the Vicon 18 Series 601 GP(1) electro-optics pod is expected to be 19.2m. This covers the provision of 14 pods, 4 Ground Imagery Exploitation Systems, the integration of the pods onto the aircraft, clearance activities and project support. The 14 pods will be capable of being fitted to any single seat Jaguar GR3a aircraft.

The program to fit the Photo Reconnaissance Imagery Strike Module enabled Improved Data Modem (PRISM IDM) to Jaguar aircraft continued. The IDM entered service in September 2002, enabling the transmission of data over conventional voice radio links. PRISM offers additional capability and entered service once other planned enhancements to the aircraft, upon which it depended, had been realised. The total cost of procuring the photo reconnaissance imagery strike module enabled improved data modem for the Jaguar fleet was some 2.5 million. This figure included ground test equipment, documentation, engineering support and integration advice.

The Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) system was planned for installation in Tornado GR4 aircraft by early 2004 and in Harrier GR7/9 aircraft, in conjunction with the GR9 upgrade program, from 2005. It was not planned to fit it to Jaguar. Combat identification is not delivered by a single system or piece of equipment, but by a combination of tactics and procedures backed up by technology.

In terms of operational capability, the Jaguar was a day/VFR medium and low-level ground attack/recce aircraft with an ever-expanding arsenal of weapons in its inventory. The Night Vision Goggle (NVG) re-equipment program produced enough aircraft to allow limited 'night combat ready' to be declared by the Jaguar Force. It is not a Harrier GR7 or Tornado GR1/4 competitor, the addition of a Forward Looking Infra Red system created yet another 'electric aeroplane' to add to the RAF nocturnal inventory. Fortunately, there have not been any more attempts to produce a maritime Jaguar.

Finally, in a world of tight finances and knotted purse strings, the Jaguar was regarded favorably. The upgrade to the RAF Jaguar fleet was completed within a diminutive budget and within a commendable timescale; true value was gained from using state-of-the art equipment when it is most useful. Yet, despite undergoing major avionics and engine upgrades, this aircraft remained an inexpensive, reliable and highly deployable commodity that could deliver a modest punch in virtually all scenarios that could be expected of a rapid reaction force.

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Page last modified: 16-05-2013 18:41:03 ZULU