Warplanes: The Jaguar Revival


June 9, 2014: Since 2001 India has been working on upgrading its Jaguar ground attack aircraft. India originally acquired Jaguars from Britain in the 1980s. The 11 ton Jaguar is a single seat jet armed with two 30mm cannon and up to 4.5 tons of bombs and missiles. While capable of supersonic speed (1,500 kilometers an hour) most of the time it moves at a little over half that speed. Sorties average about 90 minutes each. India has found the two seat trainer versions useful for complex attack missions, where the second seat is occupied by a weapons systems operator. The French-British design began as a jet trainer that could also do ground attack. Ultimately, Jaguar proved to be a very useful combat aircraft. India bought over 200 of them, building most of them in India under license. Production ended in 2007 and only 138 are still fit for service. With upgrades, India expects to keep most of its Jaguars in service for another decade or more.

Meanwhile, Britain is replacing its Jaguars with Eurofighters, an expensive proposition considering the low cost and high effectiveness of the old, but very reliable Jaguar, and equally old, and reliable Harpoon missiles it is often armed with. India bought 24 Harpoon (AGM-84D) anti-ship missiles, for $1.5 million each in 2010. The 546 kg (1,200 pound) Harpoon has a 222 kg (487 pound) warhead and a range of 220 kilometers. It approaches the target low, at about 860 kilometers an hour. GPS gets the missile to the general vicinity of the target, then radar takes over to identify and hit the target. The Harpoon has successful combat experience going back two decades. Most Chinese and Pakistani warships (corvettes and frigates) are small enough to be destroyed by one Harpoon, which is what the Indians are looking for.

India has also bought 512 American CBU-105 half ton bombs for Jaguar. Each of these bombs is actually a container carrying 40 BLU-108/B SFW bomblets. These were originally called SADARM (Search And Destroy Armor Munitions). Individual SADARMs have their own radar and heat sensor that searches for armored vehicles below and destroys them with a special shaped charge warhead. The SADARM sensors can search and attack vehicles within an area of roughly 150 x 360 meters. SADARM, or "sensor fused munitions" are 1980s era weapons that are also carried by artillery (or mortar) shell or artillery rocket. The self-forging metal projectile used by SADARN punches through the thinner armor on the top of the vehicle. If a target is not found, SADARM self-destructs. The first use of the CBU-105 was on April 2nd, 2003, when a B-52 dropped six of them on an Iraqi army column moving south from Baghdad. Most of the vehicles were later found destroyed.

There have been some setbacks in the Jaguar upgrade program. Work on a new engine is stalled and in 2008 India selected a local firm (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) to upgrade the electronics in 68 of its Jaguar attack aircraft. The avionics upgrade (display attack ranging inertial navigation, or Darin-3, for short) will make these older (20-25 years) Jaguars competitive with more recent models. Many Indian Jaguars have already been updated to handle laser and other smart bombs. The Darin-3 upgrade for each aircraft will cost about $900,000 but has suffered many delays. Now it appears that Darin-3 may not be available for service until 2020.





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