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Was the Jaguar retired from RAF service too early?

This is a discussion on Was the Jaguar retired from RAF service too early? within the Air Force & Aviation forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Lifted from the RN discussion thread, I just thought it may be worth some further discussion in a more appropriate ...


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Old December 31st, 2012   #1
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Was the Jaguar retired from RAF service too early?

Lifted from the RN discussion thread, I just thought it may be worth some further discussion in a more appropriate location.

"I know the Jaguar was not a purple asset, it was however a superb CAS platform, probably superior to the Harrier, and was missed more by the Army than the RAF. The real shame was the Jag was an icon in sustainability with the upgrade and support model adopted, using MOTS solutions to counter obsolescence issues support costs were dropping as performance was improving, it could have easily and affordably served until the Typhoon if not the F-35 was ready to replace it."

The Jag was retired early in April 2007 as a cost saving measure but still had a lot of life left in it. There were numerous affordable upgrades available that could have ensured it remained useful well into this decade when a more suitable replacement than the Tornado became available.

In fact I can not help but wonder if the Jag, Harrier and Sea harrier had all been retained and upgraded to remain viable until the F-35A and B became available it would have been money well spent.

Where would the money have come from, scraping the Tornado and not bothering upgrading it and not buying Storm Shadow. The Tornado would have made been superfluous with the capability of the improved Jags and Harriers, their greater deployability, lower operating costs (i.e.) Harriers operating from carriers off the cost of the target nation rather than flying from the UK and firing cruise missiles) and an increased Tomahawk buy for the subs and perhaps for Mk41 equipped Type 45s. With the money saved retiring the Tornados an additional couple of type 45s may have been affordable.

I could be way off the mark but I am sure you gentlemen will set me straight soon enough if I am.
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Old December 31st, 2012   #2
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Yes - The Jaguar would have a cheaper asset for use in Afghanistan especially after its last upgrade which included more powerful engines.
The French have operated Jaguars successfully in Afghanistan
Although the Tornado is a great aircraft it is "overkill" in a scenario when the US were looking at operating single engined turboprop CAS aircraft because it is a more affordable asset than F15E, F16 etc.
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Old December 31st, 2012   #3
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When did the French operate Jaguar in Afghanistan? All I remember, & can find references to, are Mirage 2000D. Everything I've read said that Jaguar had problems flying from Afghan bases except in winter. Too hot & high in summer. We'd have had to alternate Jaguar & Harrier at 6 month intervals. Harrier all the time would have worn out the airframes too soon.

Withdrawing Storm Shadow would have limited the RAF to overflying hard targets to attack them. Neither Jaguar nor Harrier could lift it. Keeping it meant keeping Tornado.

The Jaguars were much older than the Tornadoes, & according to people who worked on them, were shagged, needing constant fixing. They'd have needed a thorough rebuild to keep operating much longer. Note that France retired its Jaguars two years before the RAF. Those still flying in India are newer (much newer, on average), with far fewer hours on them. The Tornadoes also had (& have) other capabilities, not just Storm Shadow, which the other types lacked.

Retiring Tornado instead of Harrier & Jaguar would have been a bet on only facing low-end opponents until we had enough Typhoons to cover all the Tornado roles that neither Harrier nor Jaguar could cover. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but not much good for making timely decisions.

The decision to develop & buy Storm Shadow was made at a time when we'd just fought a war in which the lack of such a weapon was keenly felt, & anyone who suggested we could do without it & ought to retire Tornado before Jaguar would have been in deep, deep brown stuff, & deserved it. When it was decided to retire Jaguar a few years early, Storm Shadow had just proved itself very effective, enabling the RAF to destroy hard targets which a Harrier couldn't even have reached, & a Jaguar would have had to get very close to to bomb. Why that is often not a great idea should be obvious.

Yes, the Jaguar was a model of how to do support & upgrades, but the lesson learned from that shouldn't be "we should have kept Jaguar", but "we should do support & upgrades of all our aircraft like that". Yes, it was a great CAS aircraft (except for being underpowered for hot & high), but it was wearing out. I hated seeing it go, just as I hated seeing Harrier go, but both times, if the choice was keep Tornado or keep the others, I'd have said we had to keep Tornado.

The proposals made above require decisions to have been made which would have looked (& been!) crazy at the time, e.g. not buying Storm Shadow just when we'd realised how much better off we'd have been if we'd had something like it in the war we'd just fought, in order to preserve Jaguar at some time in the future.

PS. Agreed that something cheaper & more basic than Tornado, Typhoon & F-35 could be a good idea for the 'colonial' wars we keep getting involved in, but IMO that wasn't a good enough reason for keeping clapped-out Jaguars instead of Tornadoes. Something similar to AMX, in modest numbers, would be useful, with logistics shared with allies who also have some for the same purpose. In fact, a re-engined (to give more thrust - but keep it non-afterburning) AMX would do. Stick a Vixen 500E in there with air-ground modes & you're sorted.
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Old December 31st, 2012   #4
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Fair enough, I thought the Adour 106 had fixed the hot and high issues though. I note that India is looking at re-engining their Jags with the Honeywell/ITEC F124 but I am unsure how this engine compares to the Adour 106 or even the Adour 821 that lost out to it.

I suppose where I am coming from is the fact that Tornado / Brimstone / Storm Shadow was used as the reason the Jaguar then later the Harrier (and hence) the carriers could be retired early. In my (perhaps overly simplistic) view the carrier based Harriers were inherently more versatile than land based Tornados and (suitably updated) Jaguars could do almost anything the Tornado could, over a shorter range admittedly. The big gap would be the lack of a stand off weapon such as Storm Shadow, maybe other options could have been looked at i.e. a multi-role upgrade of the Tornado F3 with Storm Shadow or another type of stand off weapon as well as other types of PGMs permitting the retirement of the GR1 with out the expense of the GR4 program. Get extra life out of the F3 while retaining its BVR AD capability (think Grumman "Bomb"cat and keeping the Jaguars and Harriers for complementary strike and mud moving. Also buy more Tomahawks and fit them to the Type 45.
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Old December 31st, 2012   #5
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What would the Jaguar have needed to remain effective for another decade?
ASRAAM, helmet mounted sighting system, Brimstone, SDB, maybe a light weight radar and a new targeting pod? Would another re-engining have been on the cards? Would the airframes have lasted, were there many spare frames available to life extend the type?
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Old January 1st, 2013   #6
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Agree with everything that Swerve said.

With respect to the jags performance, I've heard anecdotally that in hot & high conditions at heavy weight it used to climb at 1 degree after takeoff (some would call it using the curvature of the earth to get airborne), and would struggle to carry any / much of a bombload (1 LGB only I think) by the time you had 2droptanks, flir pod, ew pod etc. The Adour 106 only delivered a modest thrust increase over the 104 as it was a "spend to save" project. Apparently the systems integration on the Jag was very good though.

The Tornado is (and was) at the time a more capable aircraft across the entire spectrum of conflict.

In addition to what swerve has said about the Jag/Tornado at the time the Jag was phased out the Typhoon was beginning to come online (Typhoon long term being intended as the Jag replacement) and many of the Jag drivers were about to convert across...

On top of all that you have the Brits being in a bit of financial bother (i.e. witness the limit put on flying hours) so some FJ were always going to go.

To make it viable for another decade (not that you would for reasons outlined previously), I dunno but I would put Link16 at the top of the list followed by enhanced PWII/ PWIV / some sort of GPS weapon. It already had a HMS and ASRAAM.
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Old January 1st, 2013   #7
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Agree with everything that Swerve said.

With respect to the jags performance, I've heard anecdotally that in hot & high conditions at heavy weight it used to climb at 1 degree after takeoff (some would call it using the curvature of the earth to get airborne), and would struggle to carry any / much of a bombload (1 LGB only I think) by the time you had 2droptanks, flir pod, ew pod etc. The Adour 106 only delivered a modest thrust increase over the 104 as it was a "spend to save" project. Apparently the systems integration on the Jag was very good though.

The Tornado is (and was) at the time a more capable aircraft across the entire spectrum of conflict.

In addition to what swerve has said about the Jag/Tornado at the time the Jag was phased out the Typhoon was beginning to come online (Typhoon long term being intended as the Jag replacement) and many of the Jag drivers were about to convert across...

On top of all that you have the Brits being in a bit of financial bother (i.e. witness the limit put on flying hours) so some FJ were always going to go.

To make it viable for another decade (not that you would for reasons outlined previously), I dunno but I would put Link16 at the top of the list followed by enhanced PWII/ PWIV / some sort of GPS weapon. It already had a HMS and ASRAAM.
Ok fair call, I was going of written accounts on how well the spend to save and logistics were going, if the actual operators had issues I'll take their opinion over over that. Sort of make you wonder why more wasn't done about the power issue once it was decided to use the Jaguar primarily as a strike platform rather than as a trainer with secondary strike role.
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Old January 1st, 2013   #8
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The Brits often seem to press gang something not ideally suited for a role a manage to make it work. From what I know the guys who flew it loved it but acknowledged its limitations.
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Old January 1st, 2013   #9
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The Brits often seem to press gang something not ideally suited for a role a manage to make it work. From what I know the guys who flew it loved it but acknowledged its limitations.
I'd heard that, they looked at what they could do with it rather than what they couldn't and it could apparently do a lot of things very well. Just more power would have been nice.

I wasn't actually aware the had integtated ASRAAM and a HMS, I thought it was on the to do list and had been wired for, but cut for financial reasons.
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Old January 1st, 2013   #10
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I loved Jaguar - and yep, if we'd had it today, it'd have been a cost effective way of doing CAS for Afghanistan - but you can't retain an entire type just in case you go to war with a enemy with no airforce, no MANPADS and no regular army. France retired the Jag two years earlier in point of fact (2005) so I don't think we were the only ones to be doing the arithmetic on that.

Jaguar really needed to go to make way for cash to integrate A/G systems on Typhoon and release pilots and ground crew to support that growing fleet of younger aircraft.

Unless you want to run Jaguar on til the point they start falling out of the sky just in case you need to do CAS in a very permissive environment, binning Jag at the time we did was a shame but short of a lot more money being available, it was the only choice available.
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Old January 1st, 2013   #11
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From everything I've heard (all out there in the public domain, including the very few inputs from people who worked on Jags), the lack of power was only an issue when taking off in hot & high conditions. On the average day in central Europe, it had plenty of power, & even on a hot summer day there was no real problem. Since that's where it was expected to operate, the RAF & AdlA had no complaints.

It had no problems in the Gulf in 1990-91 (well, it was winter & taking off more or less at sea level), either, & was perfectly adequate in Tchad in slightly less favourable conditions. An Afghan summer & that bit of extra altitude just pushed it over the line, & unfortunately in 2004 that's where we wanted CAS, & were expected to for as long as the Jag could have lasted without major & expensive work, so when someone was looking for something to cut, it was an obvious candidate.

A pity, but I understand it. What's more of a pity is that we didn't & don't have any new equivalent for all the low-intensity warfare we've been doing ever since, i.e. a cheap to operate bomb truck which can do a bit more than a UAV with a pencil-thin field of view & light weapons only.

Re. the Indian re-engining. As I understand it, the F125 (afterburning F124) offers a bit more power for a bit less weight & with better fuel economy. RR offered to rebuild & upgrade the existing engines, which would have been cheaper & lower risk (the upgraded engine had already flown in a Jaguar), & retained commonality with Hawk engines, but India decided to specify new-build engines only, so RR withdrew & there was no competing evaluation.
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Old January 4th, 2013   #12
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Apologies to Swerve you were right the French did not operate the Jaguar in Afghanistan but I'm still of the opinion that Tornado / Typhoon / Lightning is overkill in this environment and it is a pity there aren't the funds for a lower specification aircraft.
I appreciate that the UK will be ending operations by 2014 but I feel the Afghans may need our support for many more years and living in a volatile world you can never say the UK wont be involved in other operations requiring simpler, less expensive aircraft.

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Old January 4th, 2013   #13
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Apologies to Swerve you were right the French did not operate the Jaguar in Afghanistan but I'm still of the opinion that Tornado / Typhoon / Lightning is overkill in this environment and it is a pity there aren't the funds for a lower specification aircraft.
I appreciate that the UK will be ending operations by 2014 but I feel the Afghans may need our support for many more years and living in a volatile world you can never say the UK wont be involved in other operations requiring simpler, less expensive aircraft.
Do it with Reaper then - as long as the platform is above AAA fire (about 15K) then you're fine. A couple of airbus with hard points could do the job in fact. Afghanistan doesn't *require* cheaper aircraft - it permits their use. It's very unlikely we'd see enough of this situation in future to justify acquiring and maintaining a cheaper platform however. One of the biggest drivers is for aircraft with good sensors, which is one of the outstanding points of the Apache - Jaguar didn't have anything of that sort, just a simple laser ranging system in the nose - I'd rather spend the cash on putting Brimstone etc into Typhoon.
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Old January 5th, 2013   #14
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...It's very unlikely we'd see enough of this situation in future to justify acquiring and maintaining a cheaper platform however.
Except that we've just been through almost 15 years in which a cheaper platform (though not airliners, or Reapers) could have met most of our strike needs. An AMX-type aircraft with suitable sensors could have done everything Tornado & Harrier have done in Afghanistan, most of Kosovo, most of Iraq in 2003, & most of Libya.

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One of the biggest drivers is for aircraft with good sensors, which is one of the outstanding points of the Apache - Jaguar didn't have anything of that sort, just a simple laser ranging system in the nose - I'd rather spend the cash on putting Brimstone etc into Typhoon.
Jaguar could have had better sensors fitted - see what the Indians have done. A cheaper to buy, cheaper to fly aircraft needn't be limited to a laser ranger.

It's certainly not worth developing & building a cheaper, simpler aircraft than Typhoon or F-35 for the RAF. It'd be worthwhile only if it was going to be bought in significant numbers, & development costs were modest. The latter criterion probably means an adaptation of a high-end trainer or an update of an existing low-end strike aircraft. The first criterion means buy in by several countries - but that won't happen.
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