The Armée de l'Air took delivery of the first production Jaguar in 1973, one of an eventual 160 single-seat Jaguar As. For type conversion training, France also took 40 of the two-seat Jaguar E. While the Jaguar was capable of carrying a single AN-52 nuclear bomb, the French government did not assign any Jaguars for use in the Force de frappe, France's strategic nuclear deterrent; this task was carried out by the Dassault Mirage IV, and the later Mirage 2000-N. Nuclear armed Jaguars were instead assigned the "Pre-Strategic" role, to clear a path for the Strategic strike force. The AN-52 nuclear bomb was retired from service in September 1991, when the formerly nuclear-armed squadrons of Escadron de Chasse 7 then concentrated on conventional attack. French Jaguars also performed in the role of Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) aircraft, bearing the Martel anti-radiation missile, capable of staying airborne to suppress enemy defences for long periods of time through mid air refuelling.
In French service, Jaguar was frequently deployed in defence of national interests in Africa during the 1970s, a policy sometimes referred to as "Jaguar diplomacy" (la diplomatie du Jaguar). Jaguars made their combat debut against Polisario Front forces in Mauritania in December 1977, as part of Opération Lamantin. In August 1978 a conventionally armed rapid reaction squadron was established, intended to deploy in support of French forces and interests to anywhere in the world.
France had been involved in the conflict in Chad for many years, and 2,000 men of the Force d'Intervention along with helicopters and Jaguars were deployed to defend central Chad in 1978, further forces arriving later as part of Opération Tacaud. The Jaguars were engaged in May and June 1978, contributing significantly in halting an offensive by Goukouni Oueddei's FROLINAT forces, who were routed. One aircraft was shot down, but the pilot was recovered by helicopter.
In support of the further military action in the region, known as Operation Manta, Jaguars were deployed to Bangui, Central African Republic, in 1983, before being rebased inside Chad at N'Djamena International Airport. On 25 January 1984, Jaguars attacked a rebel column that was withdrawing after raiding the town of Zigey. One aircraft was shot down and the pilot, Captain Michel Croci, was killed; the Libyans denied involvement. The "Manta" forces were withdrawn in 1984, as part of a de-escalation agreement, whereby both Libyan and French forces were to be withdrawn from Chad. The Libyans did not respect the agreement, and Jaguars returned to Chad in 1986, as part of Operation Epervier, this time with a more forceful role. On 16 February 1986, 11 Jaguars, escorted by Mirage F-1 fighters and supported by C-135F tankers and Breguet Atlantic aircraft, launched a raid on the airfield at Wadi Doum, which the Libyans had constructed in Northern Chad, using BAP-100 anti-runway bombs. In response to Libyan incursions, another strike was carried out on 7 January 1987, when a Jaguar destroyed a Libyan radar with a Martel missile. The Jaguars stationed at Ndjamena were an objective for Libyan sabotage due to their effectiveness against enemy forces, but the attempts were unsuccessful.
As France was not a full member of NATO, joint operations with British Jaguars were limited in the 1980s. Jaguars from France were dispatched to participate in several coalition campaigns in the 1990s, from the 1991 Gulf War to the 1999 Kosovo conflict. In Operation Deliberate Force, the NATO bombing campaign over Bosnia in 1995, six Jaguars, based in Italy, conducted 63 strike missions. The last Jaguars in French service were retired in 2005, being replaced in the ground attack roles by the Dassault Rafale.
The RAF accepted delivery of the first of 165 single-seat Jaguar GR1s (the service designation of the Jaguar S) with 54(F) squadron in 1974. These were supplemented by 35 two-seat trainers, the Jaguar T2 (previously Jaguar B). The Jaguar S and B had a more comprehensive nav/attack system than the A and E models (consisting of a Ferranti/Marconi NAVWASS (NAVigation and Weapon-Aiming Sub-System) and a Plessey 10 Way Weapon Control System) used by the Armée de l'Air. RAF Jaguars were used for rapid deployment and regional reinforcement, and others flew in the tactical nuclear strike role, carrying the WE.177 bomb.
Beginning in 1975 with 6 Squadron, followed by 54 Squadron based at RAF Coltishall, and a 'Shadow squadron', a reserve unit with a peacetime training role 226 OCU based at RAF Lossiemouth, Jaguar squadrons were declared operational to SACEUR with the British nuclear weapon WE.177. 14 Squadron and 17 Squadron based at RAF Bruggen followed by 1977. 20 Squadron and 31 Squadron also based at RAF Bruggen brought the RAF Jaguar force to its peak strength of six squadrons plus the OCU, each of twelve aircraft equipped with eight WE.177 nuclear weapons. Two further squadrons, 2 Squadron and 41 Squadron based at RAF Laarbruch and RAF Coltishall respectively, were primarily tasked with tactical reconnaissance. From 1975 the OCU's wartime role was as an operational squadron in the front line assigned to SACEUR with 12 Jaguar aircraft, eight WE.177 nuclear bombs, and a variety of conventional weapons.
In April 1975, a single Jaguar was used to test the aircraft's rough airstrip capacity, by landing and taking off multiple times from the M55 motorway, the final test flight was conducted with a full weapons load; the ability was never used in service but was considered useful as improvised runways might be the only runways left available in a large-scale European conflict. In a high-intensity European war the role of the Jaguar was to support land forces on the Continent in resisting a Soviet assault on Western Europe, striking targets beyond the forward edge of the battlefield should a conflict escalate. The apparent mismatch between aircraft numbers and nuclear bombs was a consequence of RAF staff planners concluding that there would be one-third attrition of Jaguars in an early conventional phase, leaving the survivors numerically strong enough to deliver the entire allocated stockpile of 56 nuclear bombs.
From December 1983 75 Jaguar GR1s and 14 T2s were updated to the GR1A and T2A standards with FIN1064 navigation and attack systems replacing the original NAVWASS. At about the same time, most were also re-engined with Adour 104 engines and were fitted with the ability to carry Sidewinder air-to-air missiles or AN-ALQ-101(V)-10 electronic countermeasures pods under the wings.
The RAF Jaguar force was altered in late 1984, when 17 Squadron, 20 Squadron and 31 Squadron exchanged their Jaguars for Tornado GR1s, although their assignment to SACEUR and their wartime role remained unchanged. The two other RAF Germany units, 14 Squadron and 2 Squadron, followed suit in 1985 and 1989 respectively, which left the operational Jaguar force concentrated in 6, 41 and 54 Squadrons at RAF Coltishall.
In 1991 12 RAF Jaguars participated in the Gulf War. In 1994, in order to meet an urgent need to increase the number of aircraft able to designate targets for laser-guided bombs, 10 GR1As and two T2As were upgraded with the capability to carry the TIALD laser designator pod and redesignated Jaguar GR1B or T2B respectively. TIALD equipped Jaguar GR1Bs were deployed to Italy in August to take part in Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serb forces, being used to designate targets for RAF Harriers. During the Bosnian operations, a Jaguar of 41 Squadron carried out the first RAF bombing raid in Europe since the end of the Second World War fifty years before.
Following the success of the GR1B/T2B upgrade, the RAF launched a plan to upgrade its Jaguar fleet to a common standard, incorporating improvements introduced to some aircraft during the Gulf War, together with adding the ability to use TIALD and new reconnaissance pods. The upgrade came in two parts; the interim GR3 (Jaguar 96) upgrade added a new HUD, a new hand controller and stick top, integrated GPS and TERPROM Terrain Referenced Navigation. It was delivered in two standards, for recce and TIALD. The further upgraded Jaguar GR3A (also known as Jaguar 97) introduced fleet-wide compatibility with TIALD and the new EO GP1 (JRP) digital reconnaissance pod, a helmet mounted sight, improved cockpit displays, a datalink, and improved Night vision goggles compatibility. All GR3As were subsequently re-engined with the new Adour 106 turbofan.
The Jaguars did not see service in the 2003 Iraq War; they had been planned to operate from bases in Turkey, to the north of Iraq, but Turkey refused access to its airbases and the northern attack was cancelled. Demands by the UK Treasury to cut the defence budget led to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon detailing plans on 21 July 2004 to withdraw the Jaguar by 2007. An expected date of October 2007 for the out of service date was brought forward at just five days notice to 30 April 2007. On 20 December 2007, a Jaguar operated by Qinetiq undertook the last ever British military Jaguar flight.
Following their retirement from flying service, many Jaguars continue to serve as ground instructional airframes, most notably at RAF Cosford, used in the training of RAF fitters.
India had been approached as a possible customer for the Jaguar as early as 1968, but had declined, partly on the grounds that it was not yet clear if the French and British would themselves accept the aircraft into service. A decade later they would become the largest single export customer, with a $1 billion order for the aircraft in 1978, the Jaguar being chosen ahead of the Dassault Mirage F1 and the Saab Viggen after a long and difficult evaluation process. The order involved 40 Jaguars built in Europe at Warton, and 120 licence-built aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under the local name Shamsher ("Sword of Justice").
As an interim measure, 18 Royal Air Force Jaguars were loaned to the Indian Air Force, with the first two loaned aircraft operational with Western Air Command on 27 July 1979. The second batch of aircraft for the Indian Air Force were 40 Jaguar Internationals built at Warton, the first aircraft being delivered in March 1981. Batch Three was the assembly of another 45 aircraft by HAL of kits shipped from the United Kingdom, the first kit being shipped to India in May 1981. In the following phases more aircraft would be built in India with less European content.
A pair of Indian Air Force Jaguars flying in formation besides a pair of Indian Navy Sea Harriers and a pair of U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets, flying over the Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Viraat during Exercise Malabar.
Indian Jaguars were used to carry out reconnaissance missions in support of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990. They later played an active role in the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan, dropping both unguided and laser-guided bombs, the IAF defining its role as a "deep penetrating strike aircraft". The Jaguar is also used in small numbers for the anti-ship role, equipped with the Sea Eagle missile. The Jaguar remains an important element of the Indian military as, along with the Mirage 2000, the Jaguar has been described as one of the few aircraft capable of performing the nuclear strike role with reasonable chances of success. It has been alleged that the Indian military rejected developing the Jaguar into an active nuclear platform due to a lack of ground clearance for deploying India's gravity-dropped nuclear bombs.
As the aircraft aged, the avionics were viewed as lacking suitable components for the ground attack mission such as terrain-following radar, GPS navigation, and modern night-flight systems; consequently, several upgrades were carried out in the mid-1990s, including the addition of the Litening targeting pod. India placed an order for 17 additional upgraded Jaguar aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics in 1999 and a further 20 in 2001–2002. The Indian Air Force plans to upgrade up to 125 Jaguars starting in 2013 by upgrading the avionics (including multi mode radar, auto-pilot and other changes) as part of the DARIN III programme and additionally is considering fitting more powerful engines, Honeywell F125IN to improve performance, particularly at medium altitudes.
Persian Gulf War
An RAF Jaguar from No. 41 Squadron deployed in the Middle East, taking off to participate in Desert Shield.
Following the invasion of Kuwait, on 9 August 1990 the British government assigned an initial 12 Jaguar GR1A and 12 Tornado F3 aircraft to the Middle East in Operation Granby, these aircraft operated from bases in Oman and Bahrain. On 23 August 1990, a squadron of Tornado GR1 interdictors were dispatched to the region as well, but the Tornado GR1 was difficult to keep operational due to heat. Blackburn Buccaneers were dispatched in January 1991 to act as laser designators for the ground strike aircraft. The RAF's Jaguars gained several new weapons during the Persian Gulf War, including CRV7 high-velocity rockets and American CBU-87 cluster bombs which were used because the RAF's existing BL755 bombs were designed for low-level release, and therefore unsuitable for higher-altitude operations common over the Persian Gulf. The RAF's detachment of 12 Jaguars flew 612 combat sorties, with no aircraft being lost. XZ364 "Sadman" flew 47 missions; the highest number of missions of any aircraft.
France also committed military assets to the coalition; in October 1990 8 Jaguar A aircraft along with several Dassault Mirage F1CR reconnaissance aircraft were sent to the Middle East, with the Mirages, which had more advanced avionics, acting as guides for the Jaguars. Due to obsolete navigational systems being unable to provide the accuracy required, both French and British Jaguars were quickly modified with GPS receivers, RAF Tornadoes also required adaption to a lesser extent. The French Jaguar force in Saudi Arabia built up to a maximum of 28 aircraft, which carried out 615 combat sorties, with one Jaguar damaged by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile. Typical targets were Iraqi armoured units, Scud missile sites, and naval vessels.
On 15 January 1991, 12 French Jaguars bombed Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait; three were damaged in the attack but all returned to base. On 26 January, RAF Jaguars and Tornadoes raided several Silkworm missile batteries in Kuwait to encourage the perception of an imminent amphibious invasion to liberate the country. On the 30th two RAF Jaguars destroyed a Polnochny-class landing ship with rockets and cannon. The Iraqi Republican Guard, entrenched on the Kuwait-Saudi border, were subjected to a continuous intensive bombing campaign for weeks to demoralise them, allied Jaguars forming a portion of the delivering aircraft. The Jaguars also performed valuable reconnaissance of the combat area for Coalition forces. Both nations' Jaguars were withdrawn from the region in March 1991, at the end of Desert Storm.
Early in development, the Jaguar was intended for exporting abroad as well as for the purposes of the developing nations. In 1969, while still within the prototype stage of development, formal approaches had been made to Switzerland, India, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, promoting the aircraft for sale. Japan began negotiations towards licenced production of the Jaguar, but these plans failed in part due to the high royalty payments sought by SEPECAT. A proposal for Turkey to construct Jaguars under licence for their own air force also did not come to fruition. Attempts to export to Kuwait and Pakistan did not transfer into orders. Kuwait initially ordered 50 Jaguars and 16 Mirage 5s, but instead firmed up for F1s. Pakistan approached SEPECAT after the US refused to sell their aircraft of choice, the LTV A-7 Corsair II, due to an arms embargo; Pakistan eventually opted for Mirage 5s.
Jaguars were successfully sold to a number of overseas countries, India being the most prolific operator. The Jaguar International was an export version which was sold to Ecuador, Nigeria and Oman. The Ecuadorian Air Force, the only Latin American export customer, purchased 10 single- and 2 two-seat variants, officially designated Jaguars ES and EB, respectively. The first of twelve aircraft arrived in January 1977. They were used mainly for ground attack roles and occasionally for air superiority duties during the Cenepa War with Peru in 1995, but the main part of the fleet was held in reserve in case of a wider conflict with the Peruvians. Nigeria ordered 13 single-seat SN and 5 two-seat BN variants; SEPECAT delivered the first of these in May 1984. A subsequent order for an 18-aircraft second batch was cancelled. Some of those in service were withdrawn from operations on the grounds of economy, with the remaining aircraft put up for re-sale. The Royal Air Force of Oman, like Ecuador, ordered 10 single-seat and 2 two-seat variants, designated Jaguars OS and OB, respectively; the first was delivered in March 1977. A second identical 12-aircraft order was placed in the mid-1980s; these were joined by two ex-IAF and ex-RAF examples. The last of the Omani aircraft were retired on 6 August 2014.