Facing dwindling numbers, Jaguar upgrade crucial for Indian Air Force - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Thursday 26 March 2015

Facing dwindling numbers, Jaguar upgrade crucial for Indian Air Force

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Mar 15

With no movement on the contract for 126 Rafale fighters, with the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) far in the future, and the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) being built in insignificant numbers, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is making up numbers by upgrading older fighters, often at significant cost.

The IAF is down to 34 squadrons against 42 squadrons authorised. This would dip to 30 squadrons by the end of this decade, as nine squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27s retire, with just three Sukhoi-30MKI and two Tejas squadrons due for induction.

In the circumstances, the IAF is extending the life of two Mirage 2000 squadrons, three MiG-29 squadrons and six Jaguar squadrons for 15-20 years. On Wednesday French vendor, Thales, handed over the first two upgraded Mirage 2000-I fighters in Paris. Over the next 7-10 years, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will upgrade another 49 Mirage 2000s in Bengaluru for Rs 12,100 crore.

Meanwhile, 69 MiG-29 fighters are being upgraded for $964 million; an exercise that the government says will be completed by 2016. 

Now a key IAF concern is to rejuvenate its fleet of 123 Jaguars. In Bengaluru last month IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, highlighted the urgent need to put new engines on the Jaguar, a $2 billion (Rs 12,000 crore) procurement that the defence ministry has stalled for years.

The IAF bases two Jaguar squadrons each in Ambala, Jamnagar and Gorakhpur. Termed “deep penetration strike aircraft”, the Jaguar is designed for low level strikes against enemy ground targets: air bases, land forces and warships. Powerful engines are essential, since enemy radars would pick up the Jaguars’ ingress into enemy territory, and scramble fighters to intercept them.

Said Raha, “[The Jaguar] is a very capable aircraft, but it has some shortfalls in terms of engine power. We are also upgrading it by putting in an auto-pilot and some close combat missiles and an upgraded navigation system and weapon aiming systems.”

The “re-engining programme” involves replacing the Jaguar’s underpowered Rolls-Royce Adour 804/811 engines with newer, more powerful engines. Poised to bag this contract is US firm, Honeywell, whose F-125N engine generates 43.8 KiloNewtons (kN) of thrust, significantly higher than the 32.5 kN of the Jaguar’s current engines.

The defence ministry, however, is reluctant because Honeywell is the only vendor in the fray. In response to an IAF tender in 2010, British company Rolls-Royce declined to quote, apparently because it had no suitable engine. Pratt & Whitney, the other big US engine-maker, was unwilling to transfer technology.

Ministry sources say Rolls-Royce muddied the water by lobbying for upgrading the Jaguar’s existing engine, rather than fitting a new one. With HAL manufacturing the new Adour Mk 871 engine for the IAF’s Hawk trainer, Rolls-Royce argued it could cheaply build an upgraded Adour engine for the Jaguar, with many common parts.

After dithering for two years over this proposal, the defence ministry issued a fresh tender in October 2012, to which Honeywell offered the F-125N engine, and remains the sole bidder. The MoD remains undecided.

On December 19, 2011, the government stated in parliament that the Jaguar upgrade would be completed by December 2017. That is a far cry, with the contract still to be negotiated. Only, after that would Honeywell begin manufacturing the engines.

Sections in the IAF argue that it is wasteful to fit a powerful, new engine on 30-year-old fighters, many of which have already flown 4,000 hours of the 6,000 hours specified as the Jaguar’s service life. Others point out that fighters are routinely given service life extensions, after inspections of the air frame.

To be sure, HAL has accumulated a high degree of expertise on the Jaguar, having manufactured many, overhauled the entire fleet and developed world-class navigational-attack systems (termed DARIN 2 and DARIN 3) that allow pilots to fly blind to a target hundreds of kilometres away, and release their bombs precisely.

The Jaguar is also being equipped with lethal Textron CBU-105 “sensor fuzed weapons”, which the IAF procured in 2010 through the US government. This weapon, which is usually delivered over enemy tank concentrations, breaks up into a large number of smart “bomblets”, which guide themselves to the tanks and penetrate their turrets from above.


  1. iaf... shoot in their own foot... torpedoing... tejas... hoping... green bucks...

  2. This is a questionable program. Makes little sense to install new engine in an old airframe, then test it, validate it and certification may take years. Honeywell engine has never been used in Jaguar, how will it perform is a mystery.i think it's better to start retiring older Jags and look for new type to replace them.

  3. That was quick !!! nice.......Thanks...

    and, the more you think about the Jaguar upgrade/re-engine.....the more sense it makes (both Strategic and Tactical, against Pakistan and China)....and these Hot & High F-125's are 'drop-fit', so even the IAF Base Repair workshops could do them.

    Colonel, Do light a fire !!!

  4. Ajai, you know as well as everyone else that this Jaguar upgrade business is a dead end and a waste of $2b and time and effort. Look at the Mirage 2000 upgrade. After spending $1.5b on 51 airframes (approx 250 crs per airframe), you are left with an airframe that is LESS capable than the Tejas MK1. What the Air Force needs to do is wake up , smell the coffee and put in the cash for some 30 Tejas MK1 to roll off the assembly lines. In two years the MK2 will be ready as well and the Mk1s can be upgraded to Mk2 in a MLU some 10 to 12 years down the line. But no, IAF wants a "perfect" Tejas Mk2 and then induct it. Wont work, never works... Perfection cannot be enemy of good enough. The MK1 is better than the Upg M2K and the Mig 29. So keep the M2K and Mig 29 upgs, get rid of the squadrons of Mig 21s and Mig 27s and Jaguars and , get Tejas M1 in numbers ASAP , get in additional squadrons of SU-30, Junk that white elephant called Rafale, save your money, spend it on Tejas Mk2 and AMCA and FGFA.

  5. MOD has gone crazy to upgrade engine on a 30 year old air frame. Instead sign Rafale deal and done with it. Even the costly mirage upgrade was not necessary.

  6. Let HAL do all the upgrades/overhauls and let the new defense technology companies in the offing like Tata,M&M,Reliance (Anil/Mukesh) etc do all the mfr with foreign collaborators ! That is the only to get out of the present dilemma of doing away with unproductive/ inefficient/ noncompetitive PSU defense companies !

  7. "Penetrate their turrets"


  8. The irony in the Indian Air Force is actually beyond imagination.

    1. It has a reputed heavy fighter in Su-30MKI fleet. Another air superiority stealth fighter may come in the form of T-50.

    2. Its MMRCA fleet made of MiG-29 UPG, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 are good enough for next 20-25 years. Their replacement would be required in 2035-40 framework for which AMCA development is undergoing.

    3. It horribly lacks a single engine light fighter because its MiG-21s are going to be phased out very soon.

    Instead of replacing these light weight single engine fighters immediately with LCA MK-1 and LCA Mk-2, IAF is desperate to buy Rafale which is a dual engine medium fighter of 4++ generation.

    Can someone ask these Air Marshals, why are they replacing a light fighter with a medium one? What is driving these people?? Why will anyone make his air force top heavy, full of dual engine fuel guzzlers when its the light fighters which do the heavy lifting during peacetime/wartime?

    Its a senseless waste of trillions of rupees, all public money. What a horror !!!!

  9. Going by the Pattern of the Tejas Supporters,

    Tejas will soon out maneuver the Sukhoi-30 MKI (Rafale ? HAH !) ,
    have a higher ordnance payload than an AN-32,
    will have better range than a Boeing-P8I or a TU- 142,
    Will become a fitting replacement to the DRDO Embraer AEW and CJ,
    and with a Mk2 will replace the PSLV for space missions.

    Maybe forget about AMCA and FGFA, lets just develop a Tejas Mk3. God knows it will be a extremely long endurance, hypersonic, air superiority aircraft, capable of strategic bombing and 2 of them will be able to conduct ISR operations across the globe as it will be nuclear armed and nuclear reactor fueled.

    Who needs an Indian Air Force just have a half a squadron of remotely piloted Tejas Mk 3.

    It will be so indeginized that even the Air that touches it in flight will be developed and maintained by HAL in house.

    Lets abandon every thing and just produce Tejas Mk1, Mk2 and if god willing Mk3.

    Rest all are incapable foreign technologies anyway !!!

    DRDO + HAL + PR > Indian Air Force + 68 years of operational service.

    1. This is the shittiest sarcasm I've ever heard. You idiot go and help americans in resolving issues in f35.

  10. Instead spending another 2 billion $ we can get 80 brand new tejas which will be a sensible decision. Jaguars were already obsolete during kargil war which can be retired from 2020.

  11. OOh My God
    The Indian Air Force is like a blind man being guided by the blind (politicians) and either way.

    I respect the valour and dedication of our personal, but the seniors complicate things rather than keeping it simple.

    Import, import and just import when we can make a lot of things here.

    The Rafale is way beyond our pocket, the logical method of building an industrial defence capability is accepting what we produce. Also accept the produce with a heart.

    To think of it $2 Billion on Jaguar engines could get us 70 new Tejas mk1's. So where is the logic, ooh yes kick backs. Endangering the lives of experienced pilots, with shoddily upgraded out dated frames is just not acceptable.

    A logical solution would be to purchase the following options:

    Option 1
    1. 220 Tejas MK1's - $7.7 Billion

    Option 2

    1. 120 Tejas MK1's - $3.75 Billion
    2. 100 Sukhois - $6.50 Billion

    Tejas MK2 should be a more stealthier jet and should be a light weight 5th Gen fighter

    Finally if we save $10 Billion we could full-fill deficiencies of other wings too:

    1. $2.5 Billion - 814 mounted guns
    2. $1 Billion - LUH (Kamov)
    3. $1 Billion - Chinook
    4. $2 Billion - 16 Light Corvettes
    5. $1.5 Billion - Naval Helecopters
    6. $0.5 Billion - Spike ATGM
    7. $0.5 Billion - M46 Upgun
    8. $1 Billion - 1 Lease Nuke Sub
    9. $1 Billion - 3 Kilo class Subs

    The kilos would be just used as a stop gap measure.

  12. Everything in the world is important . Such articles should carry a last of priorities : fighters, transport, helicopters, drones, cruise missiles, stand off bombs, long range artillery rockets, the technology has changed so much.
    USAF is placing more emphasis on drones and stand off weapons for the future. It has just 2 current fighters 2 replacement planned. The USN will share F35 with USAF , a first.
    Why so many varieties, going forward we should just maintain existing inventory & land with 2 varieties of planes.

    The government has done well to scrap avro program.

  13. The tejas brigade is akin to the jf-17 brigade.
    These two aircrafts are supposedly superior to existing foreign aircraft. Wah!

  14. a few have opined that it is not worth spending $ 2B on the re-engine of the Jaguars as the air frames are old. The Jaguars were procured at about the same time as the Mirage 2000s into IAF. So why did it make sense to spend $2.5B on the mirage upgrade and it is suddenly a foolish idea to do the same on the Jaguars ?

    1. Upgrading avionics and computers is one thing, buying two new engines per old plane is completely different matter.
      Also, upgrading Mirage with outdated pulse Doppler radar at $40 million is a bad deal. Read what Singapore got for $40 million per plane to upgrade their F-16.

  15. NSR says ---

    Honeywell F-125IN comes with FADEC control systems and complete technology transfer a great chance to learn some more about fighter engines...

    The reported price for 250 engines were somewhere between $850 to 900 millions...Ajai Shukla may comment on it...

    With fast dwindling aircraft, Jaguar engine upgrade keeps the 125+ fighter bombers in service for a long time...

    The avionics were upgraded by India/HAL/DRDo so aero tech will get a boost with continual block upgrades...

    Also the engine is drop fit like Gripen so it will help too...

    Overall India should go for it but only if it is about $1 billion...no more..

  16. Forget old Jaguars. There's no need to upgrade them. Let them finish their remaining service, and retire to parks and museums.

    Instead of spending on tottering Jaguars, why doesn't the IAF increase orders for Tejas Mk.1 ? This will incentivize HAL to increase the production rate to 16+ a year. By 2020, we could have 3 Tejas squadrons.

  17. Forget Rafale upgrade MIG 21 so that it fly for another 40 years.

  18. @Jean Luc Picard

    Don't be a sarcast, i dont know which country you are from but your name surely sounds French.

    To be honest I was myself an advocate of India buying the Rafale but at $12 billion. At $20 Billion it would be better to go in for a 5th Gen Fighter instead.

    Well with your post you sarcastically talk of the Tejas to be a transport aircraft or AWACS type aircraft. Smells like the Rafale is going for sure.

    Investing so much money in the Indian Aerospace industry would be the right thing, then bringing back to life a collapsing French Industry.

    Yes Tejas has or in fact had issues but it fits the bill.

  19. Is it not possible to do a modular approach in airforce. For example, if SU-30MKI role can be achieved by 5 Jaguar equivalent then we can 5 Jaguar with the respective software in the sky while other Jaguar will be normal ones. This way the software or respective ability to carry ammunition will change while the air-frame and other components that required to maintain them in the sky will be the same. Some thing similar to parallel or distributed processing in the field of computers.
    By doing so will it not bring down the cost to an optimum level and also enhance the re-usability. Isn't the whole world or other super powers are moving towards the above model?

  20. On the Jaguar upgrade.......if I have my facts correct....the F125 Honeywell engine was 2 years ago 'trailed' and 'validated/Cerified' on a Jaguar and that the IAF had tested it and were happy with the new power that the Jaguar had gained, in both hot (Desert) and high (Himalaya's)conditions. It could carry more load (fuel/weapons).

    Plus, with the PGM's/CBU's/ASRAAM (already trailed/contract details already done - though still to be formally signed) and Darin III upgrade/Litening pods.....it would be quite an effective DPSA/Ground Support a/c.

    There are still 123+ Jaguars flying...with full infrastructure/trained (both Air and support crew)/Spares etc with the IAF/HAL. And, with another 15+ years life left on them.

    The Deal with Honeywell would encompass 240-270 engines (most to be built by HAL in India) and drop fitted by the IAF Base workshops. The Deal is just under a 1 $ Billion with the cost spread out over 6-7 years plus 30% plough back/Off sets.......

    Also, which aircraft do we have today to really handle DPSA ???....Su30 is 'air dominance'; Mig 29's (till they are upgraded) are 'air superiority'...the Mig 21/27's have v short legs/limited payloads/being retired....so that leaves us only with the 49 Mirage 2000's (being slowly upgraded)

    At @ 1 $ Billion, you get 120 odd stable/steady twin engined for the next 10-15 years.

  21. Also.......

    on another issue:

    What is happening to the A330/MRTT deal ?? Was cleared in March 2014.

    Does not the MoD realize that:(a) The existing 6 IL-78's (Sqdn 78) are 10-12 years old (delivered between 2003-2005)are getting somewhat old/spares (Ukraine) issues and at anytime only @ 4 are available; but more important - (b) IAF is upgrading most of it's aircraft with refueling probes (49 Mirage 2000's/60 Mig 29's/120 Jaguars/200 Su30's, 10 C-17's/ 5+6+1 C-130's and eventually the 20 Teja's Mk1 (FOC-II status).......so you have 350 aircraft (eventually) capable of being air-refueled/longer legs......and you have only 4-5 Refuelers......

    And, some will say....use 'Buddy' refueling systems...that means tying down already limited resources.....

    What your thoughts on this ???

    Specially now the A330s being cleared for the new AWACS....

  22. Fully agree with C.Gupta's excellent comment.

  23. The A-10 Thunderbolts in the USAF are more than 40 years old and still going strong and possibly longer despite the budget office's plans to retire them. The average age of the airframes for the Jaguars are about 17-20 years. They have at least 15 more years left in them and can be vital in plugging the gap until the next-generation of platforms arrive in the form of the AMCA or whatever it is 15 years hence.

  24. NSR says ---

    Honeywell F-125IN is new generation of fighter jet engine with FADEC system and saves pilots and fuel and comes with complete TOT...

    Forget about Jaguar being a deep penetration in these saturated missile defense days...

    However, it can drop massive amounts of PGMs on bunkers and strike formations close to the boundaries or approaching towards boundaries...
    It can also be scrambled to neutralize small/ medium UAV, UAS, UCAV, etc

    I think engine and avionic work on this fighter with block upgrading will definitely contribute to aerospace technology and jobs...

    Cost should be definitely less than $2 billions...

    Also Honeywell has lots of avionics and display and control products in its inventory so joint developments will help India...

  25. First DARIN -III standard Jaguar takes to the air !!!


  26. agree that jaguar upgrade is most crucial. Darin 3 and fn 125in engines should be signed. just reduce the rafale from 126 to 80. it's sufficient. nobody can dare India for another 25 years.

  27. thank you sir for your kind effort.

  28. Rafale is way too expensive.. we must get another 10 squadrons of su 30 mki's..
    Any way Russia has given the transfer of technology so HAL can build su 30 mki's..
    we must put money on AMCA.. Tejas MK2 and FGFA..
    As we are about to phase out mig 21's and 27's we must quickly bridge the gap..
    or else china and pak may take advantage of our depleting squadron strength..

    We need to face two front war so we must be prepared..
    IAF is an instrument of national security which can be exercised to give a deadly punch to the enemy.. we must achieve supremacy in air, to win a war in 21st century..

    No doubt army and navy also play a vital role in a war but air force is the one that can attack deep into the enemy territory..

  29. instead of the bureucracy wasting time either modernise the jaguars or dump them . Make a lca mk-3 or 4 with two engines , increased length of 15 mts , internal feul over 6000kg , external ordnance of over 7tons empty weight 7tons with terrain following radars and designed primarily as abomber with extended ranges .


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last