The SEPECAT Jaguar is an Anglo-French jet attack aircraft, originally used by the British Royal Air Force and the French Armée de l'Air in the close air support and nuclear strike role, and still in service with the Indian Air Force.
Originally conceived in the 1960s as jet trainer with a light ground attack capability, the requirement for the aircraft soon changed to include supersonic performance, reconnaissance and tactical nuclear strike roles. A carrier-based variant was also planned for French service, but this was cancelled in favour of the cheaper Dassault Super Étendard. The airframes were manufactured by SEPECAT (Société Européenne de Production de l'avion Ecole de Combat et d'Appui Tactique), a joint venture betweenBreguet and the British Aircraft Corporation, one of the first major joint-Anglo-French military aircraft programs.
The Jaguar was exported to India, Oman, Ecuador and Nigeria. With various air forces, the Jaguar was used in numerous conflicts and military operations in Mauritania, Chad,Iraq, Bosnia, and Pakistan, as well as providing a ready nuclear delivery platform for Britain, France, and India throughout the latter half of the Cold War and beyond. In theGulf War, the Jaguar was praised for its reliability and was a valuable coalition resource. The aircraft served with the Armée de l'Air as the main strike/attack aircraft until 1 July 2005, and with the Royal Air Force until the end of April 2007. It was replaced by the Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon in the RAF and the Dassault Rafale in theArmée de l'Air. India plans in the long term to replace its Jaguar fleet with the developing Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
RAF Jaguar T2 in flight displaying underside, 1,187 litre tanks and CBLS (carrier, bomb, light store) fitted to its underwing pylons.
The Jaguar programme began in the early 1960s, in response to a British requirement (Air Staff Target 362) for an advanced supersonic jet trainer to replace the Folland Gnat T1 andHawker Hunter T7, and a French requirement (ECAT or École de Combat et d'Appui Tactique, "Tactical Combat Support Trainer") for a cheap, subsonic dual role trainer and light attack aircraft to replace the Fouga Magister, Lockheed T-33 and Dassault Mystère IV. In both countries several companies tendered designs: BAC, Hunting, Hawker Siddeley and Folland in Britain; Breguet, Potez, Sud-Aviation, Nord, and Dassault from France. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in May 1965 for the two countries to develop two aircraft, a trainer based on the ECAT, and the larger AFVG (Anglo-French Variable Geometry).
Cross-channel negotiations led to the formation of SEPECAT (Société Européenne de Production de l'Avion d'École de Combat et d'Appui Tactique – the "European company for the production of a combat trainer and tactical support aircraft") in 1966 as a joint venture between Breguet[N 1] and the British Aircraft Corporation to produce the airframe. Though based in part on the Breguet Br.121, using the same basic configuration and an innovative French designed landing gear, the Jaguar as built also incorporated major elements designed by BAC – notably the wing and high lift devices. Production of the aircraft components would be split between Breguet and BAC and these would be assembled on two production lines; one in the UK and one in France, There would be no duplication of work; each component for the aircraft had only one source. The British trainer requirement had been more demanding, requiring supersonic performance and superior avionics; as a result, the Br.121 needed a thinner wing, increased weapon load and more power, the latter to meet the RAF's ferry range of 2,600 miles (4,200 km). A separate partnership was made between Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca to develop the Adour afterburning turbofan engine. The Br.121 was proposed with Turbomeca's Tourmalet engine for ECAT but Breguet preferred the RR RB.172 and their joint venture would use elements of both. The new engine, which would be used for the AFVG as well, would be built in Derby and Tarnos.
Previous collaborative efforts between Britain and France had been complicated – the AFVG programme ended in cancellation, and controversy surrounded the development of the supersonic airliner Concorde. Whilst the technical collaboration between BAC and Breguet went well, when Dassault took over Breguet in 1971 it encouraged acceptance of its own designs, such as the Super Étendard naval attack aircraft and the Mirage F1, for which it would receive more profit, over the Anglo-French Jaguar.
The initial plan was for Britain to buy 150 Jaguar "B" trainers, with its strike requirements being met by the advanced BAC-Dassault AFVG aircraft, with France to buy 75 "E" trainers (école) and 75 "A" single-seat strike attack aircraft (appui). Dassault favoured its own Mirage G aircraft above the collaborative AFVG, and in June 1967, France cancelled the AFVG on cost grounds. This left a gap in the RAF's planned strike capabilities for the 1970s; at the same time as France's cancellation of the AFVG, Germany was expressing a serious interest in the Jaguar, and thus the design became more oriented towards the low-level strike role.
By October 1970, the RAF's requirements had changed to 165 single-seat strike aircraft and 35 trainers. The Jaguar was to replace the McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2 in the close air support, tactical reconnaissance and tactical strike roles, freeing the Phantom to be used for air defence. Both the French and British trainer requirements had developed significantly, and were eventually fulfilled instead by the Alpha Jet and Hawker Siddeley Hawk respectively. The French, meanwhile, had chosen the Jaguar to replace the Aeronavale's Dassault Étendard IV, and increased their order to include an initial 40 of a carrier-capable maritime version of the Jaguar, the Jaguar M, for the Aeronavale. From these apparently disparate aims would come a single and entirely different aircraft: relatively high-tech, supersonic, and optimised for ground-attack in a high-threat environment.
The first of eight prototypes flew on 8 September 1968, a two-seat design fitted with the first production model Adour engine. This aircraft later went supersonic on its third flight but was lost on landing on 26 March 1970 following an engine fire. The second prototype flew in February 1969; a total of three prototypes appeared in flight at the Paris Air Show that year. The first French "A" prototype flew in March 1969. In October a British "S" conducted its first flight.
An "M" prototype flew in November 1969. The "M" had a strengthened airframe, an arrestor hook and different undercarriage: twin nosewheel and single mainwheels. After testing in France it went to RAE at Thurleigh for carrier landing trials from their land based catapult. In July 1970 it made real take offs and landings from the French carrier Clemenceau. From these trials there were doubts about the throttle response in case of an aborted landing; the shipboard testing has also revealed problems with the aircraft's handling when flying on one engine, although planned engine improvements were to have rectified these problems. The "M" was considered a suitable replacement for the Etendard IV but the Aeronavale would only be able to purchase 60 instead of 100 aircraft.
Furthermore, the Jaguar M was expensive, limiting the size of the force the French Navy could afford. In 1971, Dassault proposed the Super Étendard, claiming that it was a simpler and cheap development of the existing Étendard IV, and in 1973, the French Navy agreed to order it instead of the Jaguar, although rising costs of the Super Étendard meant that only 71 of the planned 100 aircraft were purchased. The M was cancelled by the French government in 1973.