Why was the Jaguar aircraft not used for the Balakot strikes when it is touted as a deep penetration strike aircraft and specializes in ground attack?
The Jaguar remains an important element of the Indian military as, along with the Mirage 2000, the Jaguar has been described as one of the few aircraft capable of performing the nuclear strike role with reasonable chances of success.
Jaguars were chosen in October 1978 as a part of Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) program to replace its aging fleet of Hawker Hunter and Canberra. Initially an interim batch of ex-RAF jaguars was delivered to IAF in 1979.
Because the designation of Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) was given in 1980’s and it was relevant during that era. Jaguars are primarily meant for ground attack role, they are best suited for missions that involve close air support for ground troops where the target is in visual range. Most of the Jaguars in Indian Air Force are upgraded only to DARIN I standards and only a handful of them are of DARIN II standards. These older generation Jaguars are not capable of firing modern precision guided munitions. In fact using Jaguars in enemy air space without achieving tactical air superiority over the designated region would be a suicide, Air superiority means destroying or at least incapacitating enemy air force in such a manner that they are unable to carry out air operations.
Jaguars are well know for their low level flying they can fly under the radar, enter enemy air space without being detected (since they are flying really low), bomb the target and return to their base, at the same time they are really under powered, really slow and really not-so-maneuverable at higher altitude, so if Jaguars are intercepted they would be sitting duck. IAF’s Jaguars can only carry 2 older generation R550 Magic heat seeking missiles (few upgraded Jaguars can carry ASRAAM), they lack Radar and BVR missiles because they were never meant for A2A roles.
Using Jaguars in 80’s and 90’s wouldn’t have been a problem because only few air forces had BVR capabilities during that era. In fact PAF lacked BVR missiles even during 1999 Kargil War. But in 2019 Jaguars are vulnerable to enemy air defense so they are a strict no-no for contested air space.
Recently HAL showcased their Jaguar MAX concept to upgrade IAF’s Jaguars with new features that would practically make this 3rd generation fighter to 4th generation standards.
The DARIN III standard that received IOC in 2016 has a new avionics suit comprising of OSAMC (Open System Architecture Mission Computer), EFIT (Engine and Flight Instrument System), Elta EL/M 2052 AESA Radar, inertial navigation system with GPS and Geodetic height correction and a Digital Cockpit.
The HAL Jaguar MAX upgrade is significant if IAF wants to fly these fighters beyond 2030. MAX upgrade would allow Jaguars to carry next generation weapons, these includes new generation Cruise missile, PGM’s, LGB, DRDO developed SAAW (Smart Anti Airfield Weapon), advance anti ship missile, new BVR missile (probably Astra). The AIM 132 ASRAAM heat seeking missile is already part of DARIN III upgrade. MAX upgrade will also include a near digital cockpit with single wide- flat panel MFD (Multi Function Display). It also offers Laser/SAR/EO Pod, Radar targeting pod for twin seat variant, AESA based wide band jammer, L-band data-link an a software defined V/UHF radio. With all new weapons package and avionics suit the MAX upgrade will transform 3rd Generation Jaguars into a 4th generation fighter.
But the most crucial part of Jaguar upgrade is its engines, it is available as an option under MAX upgrade. For successful take-off of the Jaguar MAX program HAL needs to re-engine these Jaguars with Honeywell F-125IN engines. IAF Jaguars are already infamous for their under-powered engines, the new upgrade will only add up those numbers.
According to HAL, Honeywell- the sole vendor in re-engine project is demanding excessively high price for their F-125IN engines, which HAL believes is unacceptable and effectively kill the project to re-engine the Jaguars.
Source:- Defence Arena