|By Gulshan Luthra||Published: August 2017|
New Delhi. India’s state-run aerospace company HAL has successfully installed the powerful AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar on the IAF’s Jaguar aircraft for the first time.
The first test flight of the Jaguar with an AESA onboard was conducted August 10 from Bangalore’s HAL airport, the company said in a tweet but gave no details.
However sources said that the first flight results showed success and there would be many more test flights as part of the established procedures before the system is integrated into the aircraft’s avionics architecture. The radar has been supplied by Israeli Aerospace Industries’ ELTA division.
Incidentally, it was this writer who had first reported the selection of the Anglo-French Jaguar for the Indian Air Force as a correspondent for the UNI news agency some 40 years back. IAF inducted the nuclear capable Sepecat Jaguars as Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) from 1978 onwards. Sepecat was a joint venture between the then British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) and French Breguet.
Details of the AESA’s range and capabilities were not available but whatever model it is, it would greatly enhance the aircraft’s surveillance and precision strike capability.
Sources said that the Israeli radar is the state of the art, capable of tracking and engaging multiple targets. The imagery is high resolution and accurate, thanks to higher bandwidth of such systems and interleaved modes of operation.
An AESA radar has no moving parts, and transmits and receives signals real time. So far, only the IL 76 AWACS aircraft of IAF fitted with Isreali Phacon system have the AESA capability.
Jaguars will be second, and Rafales, when they are inducted in 2019 – or maybe earlier – the third.
Notably, IAF had specified the AESA requirement as a necessity for the first time in its tender for Medium Multi Role Aircraft (MMRCA) in 2007. As a policy decision, highly placed sources told India Strategic, all new aircraft to be acquired from now on, including the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, will have to have this capability.
HAL is already upgrading the Jaguars to what is called DARIN-III standards, for which it was granted Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) last year. The programme includes an Open System Architecture Mission Computer (OSMAC), Engine and Flight Instrument System (EFIS), Fire Control Radar, Inertial Navigation Systsme with GPS and Geodetic Height Correction. Installation of AESA is apparently part of this programme now,
An IAF proposal is also pending before the Government for fitting new Honeywell engines on Jaguars to make them more powerful and enable them to fly over and cross the mountains. Right now, the twin-engine aircraft are capable of flying only over the plains. If the proposal, costing about US $ Two billion, is approved then the aircraft would get some very modern systems and be able to cross the Himalayan terrain and go up to more than 400 km, its current range.
DARIN, coined by Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh in the 1980s, stands for Display Attack Ranging Inertial Navigation. DARIN-I and II have already been done and are over with as part of periodic upgrades. The aircraft was fitted with mid-air refueling capability during these upgrades from 2004 onwards.
It may be recalled that within a few years of Jaguars’ induction, HAL and IAF were also able to modify the aircraft with overwing pylons to accommodate the French Matra 550 Magic 2 air to air missiles.
The British took this innovation to some other Jaguars, including those for the Omani Air Force.
Significantly, thanks to the selection of Jaguars, and some naval systems and missiles, India also become the largest customer for the British in the early 1990s. The new avatar for the British now is the multi-dimensional BAE Systems which manufactures platforms and onboard systems for Army, Navy, Air Force, Space and Cyber.
IAF has more than 100 Jaguars, about 20 of them specifically deployed for Maritime Strike role on coastal bases. Their original French radars were replaced by multirole ELTA EL/M-2032 radars (not AESA) some 10 years back.