Great news for aviation enthousiasts who love great designs: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) just sent its first SEPECAT/HAL Jaguar Darin III upgraded maritime strike aircraft with improved features airborne last week.
The flight – lasting 15 minutes on 25 March 2015 – was confirmed by Indian officials to OneIndia, with the Indian news channel publishing pictures as well. HAL itself has not released any official footage yet.
Despite the joy of this flight, the Darin III program – short for display, attack, range and inertial navigation – has hit significant delays. A maritime strike Jaguar Darin III already went airborne at Bengaluru in November 2012, but the Indian Air Force was reportedly unhappy with the improvements. A new schedule was put in place and the upgraded Jaguar is now aiming for its final test evaluations at the end of 2017.
The IAF has assigned three Jaguars to the modification test program: a strike, a maritime strike and a training version of the Jaguar. With last weeks flight the maritime strike version made two confirmed flights, the standard strike version has made four flights so far, while the trainer hasn’t been airborne yet.
The Darin III gives the Jaguar a new mission computer, developed by HAL, as well as better radar functions. The cockpit will see the installation of two multifunctional displays, while the aircraft’s weapon, navigation and electronic warfare systems will be improved as well. Moreover, the Jaguars are getting a new engine.
An initial batch of 60 Jaguars is planned to undergo the Darin III upgrade as soon as the test and evaluation is done. But more might follow. The Indian Air Force has 100 to 115 operational strike and maritime strike versions of the Jaguar on strength, plus 30 operational trainers.
The SEPECAT Jaguar was designed and developed in the late 1960s by Breguet of France and British Aerospace of the United Kingdom, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited constructing the strike aircraft under license. More than 540 have been built. The French Air Force retired the type in 2005 in favour of the new Dassault Rafale. London forced the Royal Air Force to stop flying the type in April 2007, causing a shortfall in the strike capabilities of the RAF that haven’t been quite replaced yet even though Eurofighter Typhoons have entered service in numbers.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An Indian Air Force (IAF) 14th Squadron SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1 Shamser in 2004 (Image © Staff Sergeant Mathew Hannen / US Air Force)