The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to keep its obsolete Jaguar fleet of fighter jets flying with spare parts scavenged from retired Jaguars from around the world.
Reacting to media reports about the plan that the IAF intends to carry out, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Birendra Singh Dhanoa, told reporters on Friday that there the deal to acquire airframes from retired Jaguar fighter jets is a good one.
“We are doing obsolescence management for the Jaguar aircraft, from wherever we’ll get the spares. We have to keep our fleet flying, it’s a good deal,” Dhanoa was quoted as saying by ANI.
On Thursday, The Times of India had reported that the IAF is planning to keep its 118-strong Jaguar fleet flying till 2035 with spares from decommissioned Jaguar fighters from countries such as France, UK and Oman.
While France is “gifting” 31 Jaguar airframes, the UK is charging Rs 2.8 crore for two twin-seat jets and 619 lines of rotables. Like France, Oman too is giving two airframes, eight engines and 3500 lines of spares for free.
According to the TOI, the search for spares from across the world was necessitated due to obsolescence, shortage of spares and closing down of assembly lines by the HAL.
But another major reason behind scavenging for spares is the fact that India is the only country which still flies the Jaguar.
It is also imperative for India to continue flying the Jaguar fleet because the IAF is down to just 31 squadrons instead of the required 42 to tackle the twin Pakistan-China threat. And of the existing squadrons, 10 comprise obsolete MiG 21s and MiG 27s which are due for retirement in 2024. The MiGs will be replaced by HAL Tejas, which are currently being produce at the rate of eight per year.
Besides obtaining spares, the IAF is also planning to upgrade the engine of 80 Jaguar fighter jets to increase the longevity of the aircraft.
Manufactured by SEPECAT, a joint venture between British Aircraft Corporation and France’s Breguet, the Jaguar entered the service of the IAF in 1981. While the first few fighters were made by UK, the remaining were license-manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Ageing fighter jets have been a serious problem for the IAF, with many pilots losing their lives while flying such aircraft.
The last crash involving a Jaguar happened only last month when a senior IAF pilot died after his Jaguar crashed in Gujarat’s Kutch soon after take-off from the Jamnagar air base.
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On July 18, a Squadron Leader died after his MiG 21 fighter crashed in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra.