Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday will hand over nine indigenous Jaguars and the first Lakshya aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) for combat operations and target practice, Indo-Asian News Agency (IANS) reported Thursday.
According to IANS report from Bangalore, built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at its Bangalore complex, the twin-seater Jaguars are deep-strike penetration fighters fitted with home- grown Navigation and Warfare Attack System (NAVWAS), which will help the IAF enhance fire power.
India's Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi will take charge of the upgraded Jaguars, and the pilot-less Lakshya, also built by HAL, will use in target practice, the news agency said.
The upgraded NAVWAS was jointly developed by HAL and the Defense Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) here over the past two years.
This was after Britain-based avionics firm, Smiths Aerospace, which was to develop the avionics-fitted mission computer, sought Rs. 140 million towards compensation for the delay in providing specifications by HAL.
"We took up the challenge to build the avionics suite for equipping the upgraded Jaguars with night attack capability, precision bombing and enough space for additional weapons," IANS quoted a senior HAL official as saying.
"The Jaguars completed the mandatory 500 hours of test flights for operational clearance and induction into the IAF squadron," the official added.
The IAF sought HAL's expertise to not only equip the Jaguars with the latest avionics, but also improve their airframe to fit in new armament pods for counter measures.
The decision to upgrade the Jaguar fleet by IAF was taken after its original manufacturer British Aerospace Systems (BAE) certified that the aircraft had a lifespan of a few more years in service.
The IAF flew Jaguars in the joint exercises with the US Air Force in Cope Thunder, Alaska in 2004 and drew special attention for their strike capabilities and maneuvers.
"As part of its modernization program, the IAF had ordered for 17 newly built Jaguars at 15 billion rupees and upgrading of its existing fleet in 2002. As IAF's main supplier and service provider, we had taken up upgrading of its Jaguar fleet, consisting of trainer and fighter aircraft," the official said.