India is the only air force in the world still flying the Jaguar aircraft, and will now ‘cannibalise’ retired aircraft for spare parts

by Sujan Datta

New Delhi: Beginning December, India will literally be pulling aircraft from a graveyard in France to keep the Indian Air Force flying.

The Chateaudun base, about 70 kilometres from Paris, is a graveyard or ‘boneyard’ for the French Air Force’s decommissioned planes. Among these are variants of the Jaguar.

India will be crating the decommissioned French Jaguars to ‘cannibalise’ parts for spares, to keep the IAF’s six squadrons flying. India will have to bear the cost of crating and transport, while the French will not charge a fee for the retired planes.

IAF sources said the decommissioned Jaguars would yield more than 3,000 lines of spares.

The IAF is the only air force in the world that is still flying this British-French aircraft, which its home countries had retired in 2005. Oman, which had two squadrons of the Jaguar, decommissioned them more recently — their pilots were deployed to fly the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-16s. Ecuador and Nigeria have also decommissioned the Jaguar.

India has also approached the UK and Oman for their decommissioned Jaguars.

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, on his visit to France earlier this year, had enquired about the retired Jaguars and was promptly given a positive response.

Service History And Future Plans

The Jaguar first entered service with the British Royal Air Force and the French Armee d’el Air in 1973.

A deep-penetration strike bomber, the Jaguar was first imported by India in 1978. The first 30 were bought off the shelf and the rest were made under a licence production arrangement by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

The IAF has flown the Jaguar longer the original air forces, and still has 118 of them in operation. It plans to upgrade the aircraft and fly it till 2034 — another 16 years.

However, the upgrade program of the Jaguar has languished. Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said earlier this month that HAL was six years behind schedule on the Jaguar modernisation scheme.

The IAF also wants the Jaguar to be re-engined because pilots have complained that its Rolls Royce Adour engines are underpowered. The IAF had selected US engine-maker Honeywell’s F-125 but the multi-billion dollar contract is still pending.

HAL is expected to modernise 80 Jaguars with an Active Electronic Scanned Array Radar (AESA), which will probably be an Israeli Elta.

The Jaguars have gone through a mid-life upgrade earlier with DARIN III (display, attack, ranging inertial navigation). Two squadrons of the Jaguars are dedicated to maritime strikes. The Jaguar is also designed for a nuclear strike role. The maritime Jaguars carry Sea Eagle and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Mounting Problems

The IAF lost a senior pilot earlier this year when Air Commodore Sanjeev Chauhan’s Jaguar crashed near Jamnagar, Gujarat. Only last week, a Jaguar on a training sortie veered off the runway.

The IAF is down to 31 squadrons of fighter aircraft, when its authorised strength is 42 squadrons.

Dhanoa had said on Air Force Day (8 October) that his priority was to ensure that there would be no further fall in squadron strength.