Produced to meet a joint Anglo-French requirement in 1965 for a dual-role advanced/operational trainer and tactical support aircraft, the Jaguar has been transformed into a potent fighter-bomber. The RAF originally intended to use the aircraft purely as an advanced trainer, but this was later changed to the offensive support role on cost grounds.
The French Air Force [FAF] was engaged in two major fighter-attack aircraft modernization programs in the early 1970s. CAFDA home air defense squadrons began transitioning to the Mirage FIC interceptor in 1973. Introduction of the Jaguar strike-attack aircraft into the inventory began the same year. Ultimately both types would be used to upgrade the intervention forces. The development histories of these aircraft - particularly the Jaguar - indicate that the French were willing to sacrifice capabilities for the European theater to enhance overseas deployability and maintainability.
Starting in the early 1960's, the French Air Force began looking for aircraft to replace its Lockheed T-33 and Fouga Magister trainers as well as its Mystère IV tactical fighters. In April 1964, the Aeronautics Technical Bureau invited French aeronautics companies to respond to a preliminary design in a programme for a twin-engined aircraft to equip ECAT (Ecole de combat and d'appui tactique, or School of Combat and Tactical Support). The ECAT programme resulted in the companies Dassault, with the Cavalier, and Breguet, with the Br 121, entering into competition. On 30th June 1964, the engineering offices of Breguet, headed by Georges Ricard, submitted to the competent authorities the project Br 121, a version of the Br 1001 Taon, with twin Rolls Royce RB 172-45 engines. The project Cavalier was finally abandoned following the choice of the Breguet aircraft. It quickly became apparent that the RAF also needed an aircraft that corresponded rather closely to the characteristics of the Br 121.
The Jaguar strike-attack fighter emerged from an international collaborative development program. France and the United Kingdom had originally agreed to jointly develop an advanced trainer-attack aircraft based on the Breguet 121 design concept, and an advanced variable-geometry fighter dubbed the AFVG (Anglo-French Variable Geometry fighter), in a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] signed in May 1965. Subsequently France withdrew from the AFVG project, forcing its cancellation.
The 17 May 1965 protocol signed by the two countries concluded and aagreement for the study and joint manufacture of a low-altitude combat and training aircraft. Development of the trainer-attack aircraft, by then called the Jaguar, continued under the auspices of Breguet Aviation and the British Aircraft Corporation, under the management of the Franco-British joint-company SEPECAT (Société européenne de production de l'avion d'école de combat and d'appui tactique, or European Company for the Production of Aircraft for the School of Combat and Tactical Support). Breguet Aviation was acquired by the company Dassault in 1967.
Throughout development the aircraft's cost and capabilities grew, making its use as a trainer impractical. First flight of the initial Jaguar prototype, Jaguar A, flew from the French test facility at Istres (Bouches-du-Rhône, France), on 08 September 1968. In January of that year, the two nations signed a production agreement calling for the procurement of 200 Jaguars each.
Difficulties in cooperation, due to the lack of a true main contractor, and changes in the definition delayed the Jaguar entering service until 1972. Originally a program for a trainer aircraft, it ended up as a ground attack aircraft with little in common, either in terms of size or cost, with the model initially foreseen. The French and British versions also were not identical, since each country had imposed, for its own models, nationally-sourced equipment.
The first RAF aircraft took to the air in October 1969, and each air force placed orders for 200 aircraft - the RAF opting for 165 single-seat and 35 two-seat aircraft. Deliveries to No 226 OCU at Lossiemouth began in 1973, and at its peak the Jaguar equipped 8 front-line and 1 training squadron; Nos 14, 17, 20 and 31 Sqn at Bruggen (strike/attack), II(AC) Sqn at Laarbruch (reconnaissance) as well as the three Coltishall based squadrons (6, 41 and 54) and Lossiemouth based 16(Reserve) Sqn.
India acquired the Jaguar strike fighter to meet the IAF's Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) requirement to replace the Canberra and Hunter aircraft. 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. By the mid-1980s, 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 attack systems and able to carry formidable warload till the far ends of the sub-continent.
In the end, a total of 573 aircraft were ordered. France and Britain purchased 403 to which were added 54, exported to three countries (Oman, Ecuador and Nigeria), and 116 to India of which 70 were produced under license in that country.
The French Air Force officially retired the Jaguar from service on 1 July 2005 when the 1/7 Squadron based in Provence received its first Rafale aircraft as a replacement.
On 22 April 2004 the Secretary of State for Defence Mr. Ingram stated that "Based on current plans the Jaguar fleet will be withdrawn from Royal Air Force service by 2009." The RAF's Jaguar fleet was retired in May 2007. On The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon) stated that "We will ... bring forward the withdrawal of two Jaguar squadrons to 2006, with the final Jaguar squadron disbanded in 2007." The Typhoon multi-role combat fighter that replaced Jaguar (Out of Service Date or OSD 2007) and the Tornado F3 in providing superior performance and flexibility in both the Air Defence and Strike roles. 54(F) Squadron was disbanded in 2005 and 41(R) Sqn changed roles to an Operational Evaluation Unit, with the closure of RAF Coltishall the final Jaguar squadron (6 Sqn) disbanded in 2007.
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. 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.
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