Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at recently concluded Aero India 2019 showcased the Jaguar upgrade suite, designated as Jaguar MAX (Mothership for Augmented Xploitation). Jaguar Max is heavily armed upgraded Jaguar ground-attack aircraft, which are being offered for the Indian Jaguar fleet which is above DARIN III+ Standard and comes with a host of features to breathe fresh life in 120 units of Ground Strike aircraft which is fast approaching its retirement age.

Jaguar MAX is envisioned to carry and launch various next-generation air-launched weapons, including a gliding heavy-weight new-generation precision-guided munition; five sensor-based, multi-warhead, anti-tank smart bombs; a new-generation laser-guided bomb; 16 gliding, lightweight smart anti-airfield weapons; a sea skimming anti-ship missile; two new-generation short-range air-to-air missiles; four next-generation beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles; five advanced medium-range cruise missiles; and 12 swarming unmanned air vehicles.

The Jaguar fleet was purchased in the late 1970s but is still a potent ground attack fighter designed for surgical, deep penetration missions and air force want to keep it in force till 2034 due to which it will be procuring 30 Ex-French Jaguars and few British and Omani retired aircrafts so that they can be used as spares and war reserves till they retire.

Jaguar fleet upgrade to DARIN III standard already is facing six-year delay and contract to upgrade nearly 61 of these fighters signed in 2009 and is yet to be completed, yet HAL is now promoting DARIN III+ Standard. EL/M-2052 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar from Elta and a flight management system, a configurable cockpit with a larger area display, a voice command system are things around 60 upgraded Jaguars were supposed to get but HAL is clearly struggling and slow pace of deliveries suggests that it will take HAL till 2024 to complete the whole upgrade package.

Jaguar MAX looks promising but after we factoring in delays which is so famous with HAL, more investment on fighter fleet which is one it last leg instead of more modern fighter jets like MWF and Tejas MK1A will look like criminal wastage of money for many still 2034 is good 15 years away from now and Jaguar fleet needs to be modern and technically relevant to remain fighting fit in era of 5th generation fighter jets.

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