The Indian Air Force's (IAF) plan to add much-needed new teeth with advanced missiles
14th May 2014
The Indian Air Force's (IAF) plan to add much-needed new teeth with advanced missiles, engines and avionics to its ageing fleet of Jaguar fighters has failed to take off as the programme has got stuck with certain design and development issues.
The IAF initiated the process of upgrading the Jaguars in 2009 to bring a fleet of 61 aircraft to DARIN (Display Attack Ranging Inertial Navigation III) standards.
This meant that the more than four-decade-old aircraft would be transformed into a modern fighting machine with a head-up display, all-glass cockpit, advanced avionics, auto-pilot and new weapon systems.
The DARIN III standard Jaguar prototype also has a new mission computer and flight instrument system, besides a multi-function display and a digital video recording system. The first prototype of an upgraded Jaguar, made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, started flying in November 2012, but the results were far from satisfactory. The IAF had hoped the upgraded Jaguar would get initial operational clearance by December 2012. However, the deadline was missed because the prototype could not meet expectations.
Sources said the design and development aspects of the upgraded aircraft did not match with what was intended. As a result of the glitches, the schedule for completing the programme has gone haywire.
The IAF will not have an upgraded fleet of Jaguars even by 2019 now. It was earlier planned that the series upgrade would be completed by December 2017. The delay has come as a setback for the IAF, which is struggling to halt a slide in its fighter squadron strength.
Apart from Jaguars, the IAF is upgrading its Mirage 2000 fighters as well. The Mig-27s have also undergone a cockpit upgrade. The IAF's plan to replace the Jaguar's underpowered engine too, has been stalled for long. Officials, however, said price negotiations with engine maker Honeywell will start soon.
The IAF currently has a strength of 34 fighter squadrons. The fighter shortage is a serious problem being faced by the IAF, which hopes to seal a deal for the much-needed 126 French Rafale combat jets in this financial year.