The Indian Air Force (IAF) has called off the long-pending plan to give new engines to the Jaguar fighter fleet because of time and cost concerns. However, there is no immediate need for their replacement, defence sources said.
“The design and development [of the engines] itself will take six years and then [more years for] modifying the aircraft. The project will take too long beside the high cost. So the proposal has been called off. However, there is no need for their replacement immediately as the phase-out plan will start in 2023 for the earliest variants and will be spread over 15 years till 2038,” a senior defence source told The Hindu.
The IAF now has 116 Jaguars and the plan was to replace the current underpowered engines on 80 jets with more powerful Honeywell F-125IN engines, but the plan has been repeatedly delayed.
Now, the IAF has decided that the cost of the programme has become prohibitive and it was taking too long by which time phasing out of the aircraft will begin.
“They are not due for replacement as of now,” the source added, when asked which aircraft would replace the Jaguars.
India, which is one of the last users of the Jaguar jets, has procured older Jaguar airframes from several countries in the past few years to cannibalise them for spares to maintain its fleet. Airframes have been procured from France and Oman, which gave them free of cost. The U.K. is set to give some frames at a nominal cost. “India paid for the transportation,” an official source said.
The first Jaguar with DARIN-III upgrades is ready and has completed corporate flying last week. “It is now ready for customer acceptance trials,” sources said.
The upgrade being done by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) is a few years behind schedule. The DARIN-III upgrades include a new radar, a fully integrated electronic warfare suite, smart multi-function displays, new avionics, and a new attack system.
“The HAL will upgrade 56 Jaguars to DARIN-III standard, and the project will be completed by 2024,” an official source said.
The Jaguars will get a new advanced short-range air-to-air missile (ASRAAM) of European missile-maker MBDA, which is in the process of being integrated.
The ASRAAM is widely used as a within visual range (WVR) air-dominance missile with a range of over 25 km. It will be the first wing-launched missile in the IAF inventory. All missiles are now fired from under the wing. The IAF is looking to adopt the ASRAAM on its Su-30MKIs and the indigenous light combat aircraft. The first firing of the ASRAAM from a Jaguar is expected by year-end, defence sources had said earlier.