Some six months ago the French airforce offered to sell its Jaguar ground attack fighter jets which were earlier used in French airforce and these were retired in 2005 and since then have been kept as reserve but now the French govt has offered the sale of 31 of these jets and India has showed keen interest in these 31 jets.
According to sources the Indian Govt has started negotiations for these 31 fighters jets. As IAF chief has headed to France for his 4 day visit it is expected that he will hold talks for the acquisition of these 31 jaguar jets along with visiting the manufacturing facilities of Rafale fighter jets and fly sorties in one of the jet himself.
India airforce already operates Jaguar aircraft as deep penetration strike aircraft. IAF historically bought 40 jaguars offshelf from Europe followed by 120 licence made jets by HAL. Currently IAF operates 130 jaguar fighter jets. HAL is currently upgrading the IAF's fleet of jaguar jets to "DARIN III" configuration by upgrading its avionics and systems and also a possible engine upgrade. This has ensured that the fighter service life is extended by another 20 years.
Though no price of these 31 jaguar fighters is known, India is expected to buy these fighters after negotiations. Now coming to the question "why IAF is buying these old fighters?"
There are many reasons for it but the main reasons are
- As a number of old jets are being retired or are nearing the retirement the number of squadrons of IAF is dwindling and so it is becoming a problem for IAF. Earlier governments did not pay much attention to this problem and today even when the airforce is inducting new fighters but still the rate of acquisition is not enough to plug the gap. This is one major reason why IAF is looking forward to buying retired jaguars and Mig 29 etc fighters from various nations. Also trials are being done for selection of a new fighter jet as discussed in my post MMRCA II - Is it necessary ?.
- As these jets are in reserve and the governments are offering them the jets are dirt cheap compared to what they would cost if they were new, this economical factor also plays a major role as IAF is investing in many projects and acquisitions and due to this they have their hands tied when it comes to spending.
- These jets can be obtained faster and we will get these jets directly and there will not be long waiting time like in case of buying new jets so the rate of acquisition will be faster and this is big relief for IAF which is currently having only 35 squadrons opposed to the allowed 42 squadrons.
- These old jets can be easily refurbished and used by airforce directly or they can even use them as spares providers for the current fleet. The airframe of these jets itself can be used which will be very helpful for the existing fleet.
So these are the few reasons why IAF is looking to acquire the 31 jaguar jets of French airforce. If bought for right price these 31 jets can be an effective solution as these itself will be equal to nearly two squadrons (36 + training or reserve). Also the jet itself is very capable and if upgraded to DARIN-III configuration it can be very effective even today.
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