-By The Defence Watcher
Life enhancement or Early retirement ?
Sepecat Jaguar an Anglo-French attack fighter jet is capable of close air support and nuclear strike. Originally used by the British Royal Air Force and French Airforce. This fighter aircraft is still in service and used by the Indian Air Force. The fighter aircraft has a speed of 1700 km/h and has a range of 3524 km. The primary users of the aircraft were France, UK, Oman, and India. There were 543 jets built with a unit cost of around US$ 8 million.
A Royal Air Force of Oman Jaguar, taxies towards the runway at Thumrait, Oman. The aircraft was taking part in Exercise Magic Carpet 2005. The exercise was an opportunity for RN, RAF, Omani, French Air Force, USAF and USN squadrons to deploy and practice heavy-weapon bomb drops, utilising the extensive ranges and relatively clear airspace available over Oman. There were a variety of aircraft which took part, including our own Sea Harriers, GR7s and SKASaC, USN F18 and S3 Viking, USAF F16, French Mirage 2000 and RAF Tornado F3, Jaguar, VC10 air to air refuelling and E3D AWACS. In total around 60 aircraft were in theatre, allowing for realistic exercising of coalition forces. The participation of HMS Invincible with her Tailored Air Group (TAG) gave an excellent opportunity to prove the Strike Carrier concept within a controlled exercise environment and gain some useful general warfare training. It was a good opportunity for the ship’s company to progress training in an exercise environment.
Jaguar in IAF
The aircraft was introduced in 1973 and had its first flight on 8 Sept 1968. Sepecat Jaguar is a single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet. During the Gulf War, Sepecat Jaguar was praised for its reliability and was great a force multiplier. The US tried to block the sale of these aircraft to India as it could carry a nuclear loadout but to no avail. The first squadron was inducted in the Ambala Airbase.
The major operations it took was striking intruders in Kargil. Also, it is a deep penetration aircraft. Fear of these aircraft loomed over Pakistan as India could strike its nuclear facility. These were very capable aircraft of their time. The Sepecat Jaguar had received FOC (First Operational Clearance) on 30 July 2019 and the upgraded version rolled out of HAL on 6th March 2020.
Features of the new Darin 3 Jaguar
The new Darin 3 constitutes a new radar, an electronic warfare suite, new displays, better avionics, and a new attack system.
During the upgrade program, HAL has implemented an Air HQ upgrade as recommended by the IAF. Flight Instruction System (EFIS) and Attitude & Heading Reference System (EFIS) were also included in the upgrade.
The new radar assembled in the jet is an Elta 2052 capable of spotting 62 targets at a given time. It has an advanced datalink, a new HUD(Head-Up Display), HOTAS (Hands-on throttle-and-stick) has also been added in the fighter jet making it easier for the pilot to do the actions needed and increasing the pilot’s reaction time.
A new IDAS (Integrated Defensive Suite) it will help detect enemy missiles fired on the fighter jet more effectively. It also has the capability to carry laser-guided missiles and an all-weather anti-ship harpoon.
Honeywell Exorbitant Rates
The IAF had planned to upgrade 80 fighter jets with the US based Honeywell’s F-125 IN engines. As per reports Honeywell asked 2.4 Billion US $ for the engines. IAF said that the fighter jet was going to soon retire and didn’t want to shell out so much money for the fighter jets. Some reports also claim that one Su-30 MKI can do the work equal to two Sepecat Jaguars.
It is said that at the price of upgrading the Sepecat Jaguar we could produce Tejas MK1A or a basic version of the Dassault Rafale. The high prices are inevitable as Honeywell enjoys a monopoly in the engine. It is said the price was hiked up by almost two times the original amount quoted.
Engine woes of Jaguar
120 Jaguars which are currently powered by twin Rolls-Royce Adour Mk 821 engines, which are now considered under-powered due to considerable upgrades which the Sepecat Jaguar fleet has gone through over the last couple of years which now has started to affect its performance in hot and humid conditions. Without the high-powered engines, the whole Jaguar fleet will continue to suffer from operational limitations which will affect its capabilities. The old engines are almost worn out due to its extensive use.
A potential engine for Jaguar could have been HTFE-40 which was to develop a 40 kN thrust engine. This indigenous engine could have easily powered the Jaguar. However, neither IAF nor HAL was serious about the project, the making of a new engine would have cost HAL a lot of money and time.
Through HTFE 25 has witnessed good progress but HAL has also not mastered the technique of making engines. It would take extensive time and funding to make an engine. By the time the engine would be ready for complete operationalization the Sepecat Jaguar would have partially or completed be phased out of service. Also, HAL has a bad reputation for not delivering on the stipulated time. These are the major reasons why the indigenous engine was not chosen.
The then Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) T. Suvarna Raju made an announcement that HAL would not specify which radar it used, but it is reported that the Israeli Elta ELM-2052 which that company reportedly for both the Jaguar and Indian Tejas fighter jet. HAL said the new radar alone could give the nearly 40-year old Jaguars, at least another decade of service at life. No other Indian fighter jets like the Mig-29K Fulcrum or Su-30MKI Flanker fighter jets also Tejas Mk 1 prototypes have a fast-scanning AESA in the nose. The ELM-2052 has the capability to detect foes in the air, in sea or even on land. It is reported it can find almost 62-64 enemy hardware in its range. It is also integrated with fast mapping technology and a reliable target detecting system.
Cost Aspect of Jaguar
The up-gradation of the Sepecat Jaguar is very costly as Honeywell is demanding double the amount as it is the sole company that makes engines fit for the Sepecat Jaguar. Again, it is also very costly to maintain as it has usual breakdowns and put pressure on IAFs already strained budget. It is said that the upgrade would be of no use if it is so costly as the IAF would like to procure Su-30 MKIs or Tejas MK1A.
Though the aircraft is now upgraded with the latest avionics and electronics, still the Sepecat Jaguar lacks thrust and is an UNDERPOWERED fighter jet.
As per reports, the Jaguar will start phasing out early. The weapon capacity has increased for the fighter aircraft, but it still has a lot of operational limitations due to its low thrust. The Sepecat Jaguars are also prone to multiple and frequent repairs and maintenance due to their extensive use and, they have become very old.