This potent fighter-bomber was originally designed to meet a joint 1965 Anglo-French requirement for a dual-role advanced/operational trainer and tactical support aircraft. The aircraft was to be built and operated by both countries. The Royal Air Force initially intended to use the aircraft purely as an advanced trainer to replace its Flawker Hunter and Folland Gnat trainers, but this was later changed to the offensive support role on cost grounds.
The finished aircraft was capable of flight in excess of the speed of sound, and could be armed with a tactical nuclear weapon. Often dismissed as obsolete, the Jaguar is still able to deliver a heavy payload over great distances and with considerable accuracy in most weathers.
The Jaguar, coincidentally developed in parallel with Concorde, another Anglo-French project, was the first example of an aircraft developed by Britain with a partner nation for use by the RAF and another air force. Britain built Jaguar wings, tails and the rear fuselage, while France produced the centre and forward fuselage sections.
The French prototype flew on September 8, 1968, while the first Jaguar to be built in Britain, XW560, had its maiden flight at Warton in October 1969. With Wing Commander Jimmy Dell at the controls, the aircraft went supersonic on its first flight.
The primary difference between the British and French Jaguars lies in the avionics fit. The French settled for simplicity with a twin -gyro inertial navigation platform, Doppler radar, a laser rangefinder, navigation and weapons delivery computers, and a radar warning receiver. The British avionics fit was very advanced for its time, with a digital/inertial navigation and weapons aiming subsystem (NAVWASS), a laser rangefinder and marked target seeker in a chisel nose, one of the first HUDs to enter service, and a three-gyro inertial platform; a Ferranti RWR was also carried. The weapons aiming system displayed a continuously computed impact point (CCIP, or ‘death dot’) on the HUD, giving a miss distance of only 50ft (15m) and making it one of the most accurate strike aircraft of its day. Adverse weather capability was coupled with long range: 290nm (537km) flown entirely at low level :: m internal fuel, or more than half as far again using a hi- lo-Io-hi profile .
Jaguar is often referred to as a pilot’s aeroplane, and handling is pleasant and vice-free, even with a heavy external load; at low level the ride is smooth, and visibility from the cockpit is good. It is generally accepted that a bit more poke would not come amiss, and other faults are a high cockpit noise level, which tends to be tiring on a long mission as well as interfering with communications, and a high workload. The workload is only to be expected, given that the systems involved were designed before modem digital technology was available.
The British and French air forces each placed orders for 200 aircraft, the RAF opting for 165 single-seat and 35 two-seat aircraft. Deliveries to the RAF began in 1973 and more than three decades on, the Jaguar continues to equip RAF as well as Armee de I’Air units.
The Jaguar has a robust landing gear designed for use from rough forward airstrips for war in Europe – Royal Air Force Jaguars with full bomb loads were test-operated from lengths of European motorway, which might have been used instead of airfields had the Cold War heated up. The Jaguar force of RAF Germany held the line in West Germany until the Tornado GR1 entered service.
A stalwart of British and French low-level attack, the Jaguar turned in an impressive Desert Storm performance, albeit from medium altitude and, in the case of the RAF jets, with new weapon systems.
Designed through Anglo-French co-operation, it was fitting that the SEPECAT Jaguar should form a significant component of the French and UK contributions to Desert Storm. The Jaguars were generally assigned battlefield air interdiction missions, but coastal and air defence targets were also struck with considerable success.
Leaving their Coltishall, Norfolk base for Thumrait, Oman on August 11, 1990, the RAF `Jags’ moved to Muharraq, Bahrain in October and remained there for the Desert Storm campaign. France based its Jaguars at Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, despatching its first aircraft to theatre on October 15.
The RAF’s 12 Jaguar GR. Mk 1A jets concentrated primarily on targets in and off Kuwait, including a 1,120-tonne Polnocheny-C landing craft sunk by CRV-7 rocket and 30mm ADEN cannon fire on January 30. The Canadian-developed CRV-7 proved particularly effective. A 70mm projectile, it reached Mach 4 soon after launch and was accurate over more than 19,500ft (6,000m).
The rocket’s hurried integration onto the aircraft initially proved less than successful and it was withdrawn for two weeks while software was re-written. Its return to service was spectacular, although its absence had enabled the RAF to introduce another new weapon to the Jag’s inventory, the devastating US CBU-87 Rockeye II cluster munition.
The RAF’s own BL755 cluster bomb was optimised for low-level delivery and since Desert Storm tactics quickly demanded medium altitude work, it was less than satisfactory. The US bomb was ideal, however, as was CRV-7. The GR1As also ‑ flew with overwing Sidewinders and countermeasures pods for self defence.
Provision of BAe and Vinten VICON reconnaissance pods for two aircraft enabled the RAF’s Jaguars to collect intelligence that directly benefitted their own operations. In a little over 600 combat sorties the Jags released more than 1,000 bombs, red 608 CRV-7s and 9,600 rounds of 30mm.
In French service they have been used for strikes against Polisario guerrillas in Mauretania during 1977-78, losing at least three of their number in the process, and more recently they have been employed against rebels backed by Libya in Chad.
France sent 28 Jaguar A warplanes to Saudi Arabia and initially restricted them to targets in Kuwait for political reasons. Missions into Iraq were permitted from January 24, after a French government reshuf‑ e. Provision of the Automatic Tracking Laser Illumination System (ATLIS) pod enabled the Jaguar A to deliver the laser-guided AS30L missile as an alternative to `dumb’ bombs, delivering a precision capability denied to the RAF aircraft.
Unfamiliarity with the weapon initially denied the Jaguar pilots success, but they quickly adapted and around 80% of the AS30Ls expended scored direct hits. Like the RAF, the French soon moved to medium-altitude operations where their Belouga cluster bomb was less effective, obliging them to use `iron’ bombs.
The French ‑ flew a similar number of sorties to their British counterparts, both forces suffering a degree of battle damage, although the Jaguar As were less fortunate when one aircraft was so badly damaged by a SAM that it was withdrawn back to France as airfreight.
In the early 2000s, the RAF’s Jaguar fleet underwent a major upgrade programme and was designated the Jaguar GR3 (T4 for the two-seat variant). The upgrade included improved avionics, including global positioning system (GPS), night-vision goggles (NVG) helmet-mounted sight and new head-up display (HUD) and head-down displays (HDD).
The Jaguar is capable of carrying 454kg/10001b retard and freefall bombs, cluster munitions, laser-guided bombs, rocket and two 30mm/1.18in Aden cannon. For self-defence, two AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles can be mounted on the over-wing hardpoints, and may be launched via the helmet-mounted sight system. These are complemented by a rear warning radar, an electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod to jam enemy radar, as well as chaff and flare dispensers to confuse radar and heat-seeking missiles respectively.
The aircraft can carry an external fuel tank on the centreline pylon, or two tanks beneath the wings. In the reconnaissance role, the externally mounted Jaguar Reconnaissance Pod can provide horizon-to-horizon coverage from medium and low level. RAF and French Jaguars participated extensively in the 1991 Gulf War, and British aircraft have been subsequently involved in many operations in the Middle East and the Balkans. The type regularly deploys for exercises to North America, Europe and the Middle East, operating in diverse conditions from the desert to the Arctic Circle. On February 6, 2003, RAF Jaguars were deployed to the Gulf for action against Iraq again, and carried out many missions as part of the liberation of Iraq.
In August 1976, an export version named Jaguar International first flew. The type was ultimately exported to Ecuador, Oman, Nigeria and India.
A Jaguar Built for Two
Of all single and twin seat Jaguar prototypes the French Jaguar E was first to fly and the British Jaguar B last. Visually the prototype airframes differed only slightly from production standard although lessons learned were incorporated quickly into both subsequent airframes and retrofitted to existing development aircraft. During this process but not in this order ventral fins were added, type specific muzzle blast shields fitted, tailfin heightened, tailplanes kinked, rear spine bulged, engine intake splitter plates removed, wing fences added, air brake spill hole patterns changed, and new nose undercarriage doors designed.
In time the twin seat production model was built with three different designations as Jaguar E for France, Jaguar B for Britain, and the similar export International variant (essentially B with customer specific equipment). Initially the twin seat Jaguars flown by both partner countries were externally almost identical apart from aerial fit and colour scheme. On entering production French and British aircraft all lacked air-to-air refuelling (AAR) capability and had no Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) on the fin. These omissions were disadvantages from the beginning and grew more so over the years leaving twin seaters hampered for deployments and seriously limited for operations.
Forty Jaguar E (Ecole/School) were built for France’s Armee de l’Air and served from 1973 until 2005 mostly with the conversion unit E. C. 2/7 Argonne and with E. C. 3/11 Corse which provided AAR training in support of overseas deployments in addition to its combat role, while smaller numbers served with operational squadrons and test units. The only upgrade of note during Jaguar E’s service was the acquisition of the commercial Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) hand unit taped in the cockpit first fitted to Jaguar A during the 1991 Gulf War. Like Jaguar A French twin seaters were equipped with Martin Baker Mk 4 ejection seats, carried a pair of DEFA thirty mm cannon and used French designed wing stores pylons, during the production run a fixed AAR probe was introduced in place of the nose mounted pitot probe and retrofitted as required.
Jaguar E served mainly in standard Armee de l’Air Dark Green/Dark Grey over aluminium camouflage and although some aircraft adopted the various desert schemes favoured for African and Gulf operations none seem to have deployed operationally. However, many did wear some of the frequent special celebratory and anniversary colour schemes applied during their lengthy service. Despite the wide range of weaponry and defensive stores carried by Jaguar A the trainer seems only to have used practice bomb carriers or occasionally `dumb’ bombs and/or unguided rocket pods.
Jaguar B (Bi-place) designated T. 2 and later T. 4 with the RAF will be described in greater detail below but in brief had a far more advanced avionics system than Jaguar E, was equipped with the Martin Baker Mk 9 ejection seats, and carried a single ADEN thirty mm cannon to port.
Jaguar International B variants for the export market were essentially Jaguar T. 2 with any customer specific changes required and were usually intended to support conversion/continuation training for single seat Jaguars ordered although some operators sought as new or upgraded later to a more combat capable equipment fit.
Single-seat all-weather tactical strike, ground-attack fighter version for the French Air Force, two prototypes and 160 production aircraft built.
Jaguar B / Jaguar T2
Two-seat training version for the Royal Air Force, one prototype and 38 production aircraft built. Capable of secondary role of strike and ground attack. Two flown by Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) and one by Institute of Aviation Medicine. Equipped for inflight refuelling and with a single Aden cannon.
Jaguar T2 upgrade similar to GR1A, 14 conversions from T2.
two Jaguar T2A aircraft given TIALD capability. An “unofficial” designation.
Jaguar T2A upgraded to Jaguar 96 standard.
Two-seat training version for the French Air Force, two prototypes and 40 production aircraft built.
Jaguar S / Jaguar GR1
Single-seat all-weather tactical strike, ground-attack fighter version for the Royal Air Force, 165 built. Equipped with NAVigation And Weapon Aiming Sub-System (NAVWASS) for attacking without use of radar. Ferranti “laser ranger and marked target seeker” added to nose during production Engines replaced by Adour Mk 104 from 1978.
Jaguar GR1 with navigation (NAVWASS II), chaff/flare, ECM and Sidewinder capability upgrades, 75 conversions from GR1.
Ten GR1 aircraft modified to carry TIALD pods.
Jaguar 96 avionics upgrade to GR1A.
Jaguar 97 avionics upgrade to GR1B/GR3.
Single-seat naval strike prototype for the French Navy, one built.
Jaguar Active Control Technology
One Jaguar converted into a research aircraft.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-developed upgrade for the Indian Air Force S, M and B variant fleet. The upgrade suite was unveiled in February 2019 and includes new avionics, a reworked cockpit and integration of modern armaments.
Export versions based on either the Jaguar S or Jaguar B.
Export version of the Jaguar S for the Ecuadorian Air Force, 10 built.
Export version of the Jaguar B for the Ecuadorian Air Force, two built.
Export version of the Jaguar S for the Royal Air Force of Oman, 20 built.
Export version of the Jaguar B for the Royal Air Force of Oman, four built.
Single-seat all-weather tactical strike, ground-attack fighter for the Indian Air Force, 35 built by BAe and 89 built by HAL (Shamser).
Two-seat training version for the Indian Air Force, five built by BAe and 27 built by HAL.
Single-seat maritime strike aircraft for the Indian Air Force. Fitted with Agave radar and capable of carrying Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, 12 built by HAL. Upgraded with EL/M-2032.
Export version of the Jaguar S for the Nigerian Air Force, 13 built.
Export version of the Jaguar B for the Nigerian Air Force, five built.