SOURCE: Anand SG / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Recently 70’s era Anglo-French Designed Jaguar Deep Penetration Strike aircraft belonging to Indian Air Force took the made headlines when it took off from HAL Owned Bangalore airport with Next Generation ELTA-2052 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Fire Control Radar (FCR), thus becoming the first aircraft in IAF’s Inventory to be equipped with AESA FCR .
India is the lone operator of Jaguar’s in the world and was part of small group of Six countries which operated them and saw construction of only 543 aircraft which means nearly 30% of that totalling 160 units were procured by Indian Air force but that came at great price, since India had to kill its own HF-73 Program to make a case for purchase of Jaguar Strike aircraft from Britain.
HF-73 was a derivate of HF-24 which HAL had developed in response to IAF’s requirement for Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) and was heavily optimised to handle Air-to-Ground operations. Production variant of HF-73 was to be powered by more powerful Rolls Royce RB-199-34R engines while it retained its original airframe but saw major changes in the fuselage, Air intakes and centre wing section. The cockpit was modified for better visibility. With an Increased fuel carrying capacity combat radius of HF-73 was said to be double that of HF-24.
HF-73 had comparable Bomb carriage capability of Jaguars and also had the same level of combat range and capability, similarities were so much that British were pretty much convinced that India is not going to procure Jaguar Strike aircraft from them and had not given clearance for supply of its Rolls Royce RB-199-34R engines to India due to which HAL had to use older engines leading to a crash of its lone Prototype which was blamed on an engine failure .
Reworked Program schedules along with configuration to use older engines in production models were not acceptable to the Indian Air Force and program work was thus discontinued and it seemed IAF was much pretty much convinced that Jaguar could do the job even though aircraft was clearly short of its requirements under trials and had limited combat capabilities.
When IAF and Government officials reached Britan to negotiate for the purchase of Jaguar Strike Aircraft, British officials in a very candid admission said that ” They were surprised by Indian decision to kill its own HF-73 program and even thanked them for buying Jaguar aircraft instead”.
India agreed to buy 40 Jaguar’s built in Britain and another 120 were to be license built back home in HAL Plant in India. Jaguar was never designed as Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft but due to its air frame design which incorporated excellent low-level flying characters, Indian air force and HAL spent nearly a decade or more in perfecting and improving Jaguar’s Air-to-Ground capabilities to turn it into a Strike aircraft they wanted to meet their Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) requirements .