Upgraded Jaguar Jet, and HAL team that developed the DARIN-III "Navigation-Attack" System

Bangalore: Less than a decade after the IAF began re-equipping its Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft with new navigation and attack avionics, the fleet is in for another upgrade, with the Air Force equipping these aircraft with new generation close combat missiles, reported Tribune India.

The missiles, which would be integrated with the aircraft’s new Display Attack Ranging Inertial Navigation-III (DARIN-III) avionics and helmet mounted display, will enable pilots to engage targets from 500 meters to over 25 kms, depending upon the flight configuration, target orientation and altitude.

The IAF has approached the industry to initially modify and re-equip two aircraft with the new generation missiles, identified in some reports as European firm MBDA’s Advance Short Range Air-to-Air Missile, to match different types of radar systems.

The new missiles will have infrared guidance, giving them ‘fire-and-forget’ capability and enable Jaguars to successfully engage various types of combat aircraft, transport platforms as well as cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, sources added.

The project will involve studying the Jaguar’s existing DARIN-III avionics, developing technical specifications, modification of the existing software, airframe and wing pylons, ground and flight trials and final certification.

At present, the IAF operates around 120 twin-engine Jaguars, equipping six squadrons – No 5, 6, 14, 16, 27 and 224, based at Ambala, Jamnagar and Gorakhpur, forming a crucial element of its strike capability and tactical reconnaissance. Some Jaguars have also been modified for the maritime role with anti-ship missiles.

In 1979, 40 aircraft were imported from the UK followed by licence manufacture of 150 aircraft by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, with aircraft rolling off the assembly lines as late as 2007. India is the sole remaining Jaguar operator, with other users — France, UK, Oman, Nigeria and Ecuador — having retired them.

The Jaguars were initially armed with the Matra R-550 Magic short range air-to-air missile, with the employed in an unconventional position on over-the-wing pylons as a means of self-defence during strike missions.

A few years ago, India procured 31 decommissioned Jaguar airframes from France and two each from the UK and Oman, along with several thousand aero-spares to replace some aircraft lost due to attrition and ensure serviceability of the existing fleet.

Jaguars have conducted reconnaissance missions during Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka. During the 1999 Kargil conflict, Jaguars carried out photo-recce sorties along the Line of Control and were also used to bomb enemy positions with guided munitions as well as unguided bombs. These have also participated in several multi-national exercises in India as well as overseas.

Jaguars have undergone three upgrade programs with the incorporation of different versions of the DARIN. The latest upgrade, DARIN-III, which commenced recently, includes a new cockpit layout with dual multi-function display, new synthetic aperture radar with a range of 250 kms for surface targets and 150 kms for aerial targets, enhanced electronic countermeasures, new fire control radar, inertial navigation system with terrain mapping and geodetic height correction system and an engine and flight instrument system.

Missile Integration: The new missiles, identified as the European firm MBDA’s Advance Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), will have infrared guidance, providing them with a ‘fire-and-forget’ capability. This means that once launched, they can autonomously track and engage targets without further input from the pilot.

Range and Versatility: Pilots will be able to engage targets at distances ranging from 500 meters to over 25 kilometers, depending on factors such as flight configuration, target orientation, and altitude.

Target Types: The upgraded Jaguars will be capable of successfully engaging various types of combat aircraft, transport platforms, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Project Details: The IAF has initiated a pilot project to modify and re-equip two aircraft with these new-generation missiles. The project involves studying the existing DARIN-III avionics, developing technical specifications, modifying software, airframe, and wing pylons, conducting ground and flight trials, and obtaining final certification.

Current Fleet: The IAF currently operates around 120 twin-engine Jaguars, which equip six squadrons based at Ambala, Jamnagar, and Gorakhpur. These Jaguars play a crucial role in the IAF’s strike capability and tactical reconnaissance.

Historical Context: The Jaguar fleet was initially armed with the Matra R-550 Magic short-range air-to-air missile. Over the years, the IAF has continuously upgraded these aircraft to enhance their combat effectiveness.

The Jaguars, originally imported from the UK and later manufactured by India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), remain a vital asset for the IAF’s operations12. The integration of ASRAAM missiles will further bolster their combat capabilities, allowing pilots to engage threats with precision and confidence.

(With Agency Inputs)