The pencil-thin vapour trails of a Jaguar jet darting through the British skies were seen for the last time on Thursday 20 December, bringing a proud era in aviation history to an end. The farewell flight by the warhorse warplane included a buzz over the Norfolk airbase that was its home for more than 30 years.
A plane owned by defence evaluation agency QinetiQ took to the skies for a final time on Thursday, with a farewell flypast over bases with connections to the jet. It included a swoop over Coltishall, where the Jaguar was based between 1974 and last year, as well as the still-active Marham base, where some of the plane's former engineers are now based.
The Jaguar has a proud service history. It was designed in the 1960s as a joint Anglo-French project to replace the Gnat and Hunter, as a trainer and attack plane. It entered service in 1974 and played a major role as a fighter-bomber in the 1991 Gulf war, as well as in operations over Iraq and the Balkans.
The ageing airframe was updated over the years with improved engines, navigation and laser targeting gadgetry. Last year, the plane was replaced by the new Typhoon Eurofighter.
India still has Jaguars as part of its frontline fleet. The Indian Air Force is modernising its current Jaguar fleet and also placed an order for 29 additional upgraded Jaguar IM aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in 2005. The Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA), expected to go into mass production in 2015, will replace India's Jaguar fleet.
Among the Jaguars India bought and built are:
- Jaguar IS: Single-seat all-weather tactical strike, ground-attack fighter for the IAF, 35 built by BAe and 60 built by HAL
- Jaguar IT: Two-seat training version for the IAF, five built by BAe and 10 built by HAL
- Jaguar IM: Single-seat maritime anti-shipping aircraft for the IAF. Fitted with Agave radar and capable of carrying Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles, 12 built