Deep Strike Fighter ability to hit enemy targets to increase significantly with the major upgrade to fleet.
In a major upgrade for the deep penetration fighter fleet, the first Jaguar jet equipped with a new-age radar is expected to take to the air this month, significantly increasing the air force’s capability to carry out cross border strikes.
At present, no Indian fighter is equipped with the new generation AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars that greatly increase detection range and ability of combat aircraft to engage multiple targets.
Sources told ThePrint that the first AESA radar sourced from Israel’s ELTA has been integrated into a Jaguar fighter that is being upgraded to DARIN-III configuration. The ground tests and technical trials on the fighter jet have also been completed, and the first flight could take place within a week.
AESA radars are at the heart of modern fighter aircraft, and are integrated on all cutting edge jets like the Dassault Rafale and Boeing F/A-18, besides the fifth generation F-22 and F-35 fleet. These radars enable jets to detect enemy targets from a standoff distance without being exposed. They can also track and target multiple threats simultaneously, giving one jet the ability to take down several targets.
Earlier, India had selected Israeli company ELTA to equip 58 of its Jaguars with AESA radars as part of the upgrade plan. It has taken aircraft engineers several months to integrate them to the Jaguar fleet that was acquired in the 1980s.
While the radar upgrade for the Jaguar fleet is on, the ability of the jets to stay competent in a modern battlefield will be impacted with the delays in contracting new engines to power the aircraft. The air force wants new Honeywell F-125N engines for the jets, but the procurement has been stuck for over two years at the defence ministry, with sources indicating that the project could even be shelved.
The upgraded Jaguars will also have the new DARIN-III navigation and combat system, and will get smart CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed weapons that have been procured from the USA. Given the shortage of fighters due to late replacements to the ageing MiG fleet, efforts are on to ensure that platforms acquired in the 1980s are modernised and given life extensions.
The Jaguar fleet is currently operated only by India and Oman, creating problems for spares and supplies as factories producing them have shut down. India is acquiring 31 retired Jaguar jets from the French Air Force to cannabalise them for parts in order to keep its fleet running for the next few years.