Once considered an outdated aircraft, the Jaguar has proved extremely efficient in recent crises such as the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo. Henri-Pierre Grolleau reports from Saint-Dizier Air Base, home of the French Jaguar Fleet.
THE WHOLE of the French Jaguar force is now centred at Saint-Dizier (Base Adrienne 113 Saint-Exup4ry), in the east of France. Headed by Colonel Bertrand Moisy, Saint-Dizier Air Base is an essential element of the Force Adrienne de Combat (Air Combat Command). The base has extensive facilities, including numerous hardened aircraft shelters to enhance its survivability in the event of war. These shelters, although inherited from the Cold War era, are still very much in use. Three Jaguar escadrons have survived the reorganisation of the Arm£e de I’Air: — EC 1/7 ‘Provence’, EC 2/7 Argonne and EC 3/7 Languedoc. Both 1/7 and 3/7 are front line squadrons, whereas 2/7 is the operational conversion unit. EC 2/7 Argonne is also responsible for the Voltige Bravo’, the Jaguar display team that has delighted many British airshow audiences. The team specialises in very tight formation manoeuvres and opposition passes, and won the Lockheed Martin Cannestra Trophy at the RIAT ’96 for best display by an overseas performer. Squadron strength is 20 Jaguars, with all the two-seaters allocated to EC 2/7 and transferred to the other units when needed — this unit also fields five Alpha jets.
Saint-Dizier Air Base hosts a short-range air-defence unit, EDSA 05/950 Barrois, which is equipped with the latest Crotale New Generation (NG) and Aspic systems, and a commando unit in charge of security and ground defence. Finally, three establishments come under the direct responsibility of Saint-Dizier: the regional ammunition dump 06/651 at Allemant, a radar station at Prunay-Belleville and communication relay 11/805 at Montgueux.
A typical Jaguar Squadron
Escadron 1/7 ‘Provence’, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Duval, is divided into three flights (SPA15, SPA77 and SPA91), an engineering department and an intelligence/photographic interpretation cell.
The squadron fields 20 Jaguar As. Some of these operate from a hangar and the flightline — while others are concealed in hardened aircraft shelters. Each SPA is placed under the command of a Capitaine. The missions of EC 1/7 consist of day attacks on ground-based and maritime targets (both with precision-guided ammunitions and ‘dumb’ weapons) and reconnaissance. Pilots from the squadron deliver practice bombs and rockets on the French firing ranges on an almost daily basis, except when the ground is frozen — as it is regularly in the east of France during the winter (the bombs might bounce on the ground and endanger the aircraft!). The results of these firings are recorded by the unit to ensure that each pilot reaches the desired standard. Because of the Bosnian commitment and more recently Kosovo, the Jaguar pilots log about 200 flying hours each year, a slightly higher figure than the average of 180 hours for other French fighter pilots. Two of the unit’s Jaguars are part of the Armee de I’Air detachment stationed in Istrana, Italy, and take part in the peacekeeping operations over Bosnia and in the coalition effort over Kosovo.
Armee de I’Air Jaguars
The French single-seat Jaguars have been built in six different standards, numbered one to six. Most of the aircraft from the first four standards (c/ns 1 to 89) have been built or retrofitted with the nose-mounted Thomson-CSF TAV38 laser range finder (only the first few lack this piece of equipment). The TAV38 has a maximum range of 6 miles (10km) and is accurate to less than 10ft (3m). The distance measured allows a precise computation of the weapon release point for guns, rockets or bombs. The Standard 5 Jaguars — c/ns 90 to 130 — are compatible with the Elias laser spot tracker system. This can be used in conjunction with the Automatic Tracking Laser Illumination System (ATLIS), a ground-based laser designator or another friendly aircraft equipped with an airborne laser designator (such as a Mirage 2000D with a PDLCT (Pod de Designation Laser Camera Thermique). The Elias detects the laser spot of the illuminating laser reflecting on the target, helping to ensure quick visual acquisition. It is a kind of French equivalent of the Marked Target Seeker of the Tornado GR.ls or the AAS-35(V) Pave Penny laser tracker of the A-lOA/OA-lOAs. The last 30 aircraft built (c/ns 131 to 160) are the only Jaguars able to carry the ATLIS laser designation pod. For conversion training, 40 two-seater Jaguar Es have been delivered to the Armee de I’Air. These aircraft are fitted with an in-flight refuelling probe in the nose, but are not fully combat-capable.
Unlike the British Jaguars, the French aircraft have not undergone any significant modernisation programme and retain the original low-rated Rolls-Royce/Turbom6ca Adour Mk.102 engines and the Martin-Baker Mk.4 ejection seats (with zero altitude/90kts capabilities). Their avionics suite has not been modified either, apart from the introduction of a Global Positioning System (GPS). The aircraft have nevertheless served with distinction in different conflicts: Operation Lamantin against the Polisario Front attacking Mauritania (December 1977), Operations Manta and Epervier in Chad, and raids against Wadi Doum Air Base in Libya, the Gulf War (28 aircraft flew 615 sorties), Bosnia and Kosovo.
The core of the Jaguar laser attack capability lies in the ATLIS laser designation pod. The original Mk 1 variant, which was extensively tested, was supplemented by the Mk 2 production variant, which is lighter and smaller. The ATLIS pod includes a TV camera twinned with a designating laser. The camera and laser have wide gimbal angles (360° in roll, -165° in pitch), allowing targets to be designated even when the aircraft is banking away after weapon release. The TV has four different magnifying possibilities (x2, x5, xlO and x20) and the autotracker can operate in two different modes (picture correlation and contrast) ensuring optimum performance. In the cockpit, a screen allows the pilot to check where the system is looking and what it is locked on. A joystick enables him to point the turret more precisely if necessary. Rather surprisingly, the ATLIS has now also been adopted by the Arm6e de I’Air Mirage 2000D fleet for day strike missions. Its TV system is considered more efficient and accurate in daylight than the IR system of the PDLCT laser designation pod of the Mirage.
The Jaguars can use the ATLIS pod to ‘buddy-lase’ for aircraft not equipped with a designator (Mirage FICTs or other Jaguars for example). The laser beam is not eye-safe and ‘live’ laser designations can only be practised on two training ranges: Captieux, north of Mont-de-Marsan, and Biscarosse, near Cazaux. The ATLIS system nevertheless features a ‘training mode’ which simulates the laser emission. Hundreds of potential ‘targets’ (radar sites, powerplants, factories, bridges) scattered all over French territory have been photographed by the Jaguar units, allowing simulated attack profiles to be flown all over the national territory.
When attacking with an AS30L, the ATLIS best method of acquiring a target is to aim the aircraft itself at it. When the target is centred in the head-up gunsight (the French Jaguars do not have a real Head-Up Display [HUD] and there are no speed, altitude or heading indications), the pilot just has to press a button on the joystick and the system will automatically make an acquisition, allowing the aircraft to manoeuvre within certain limits. He will then have to wait to be within missile range before firing the AS30L.
Reconnaissance is one of the least known roles of the French Jaguar Force. Two systems are available: the internal 0m6ra 40 camera and the RP36P reconnaissance pod. The 0m6ra 40 is fitted in the nose of the singleseat aircraft and is a highly regarded piece of equipment. The RP36P pod is a modified fuel tank (hence the designation RP meaning Reservoir Pendulaire, or drop tank in French) which can be found in two variants, the RP36P BA (Basse Altitude) for low-level missions and the RP36P HA (Haute Altitude) for medium- and high-altitude reconnaissance. Both are carried on the centreline station. The BA kit contains four cameras, one nose-mounted with a 150mm lens, two oblique (150mm) and one 44mm vertical. It is usually operated at altitudes varying between 150ft (46m) and 3,500ft (1,000m). The HA kit is equipped with three 600mm cameras, one vertical and two oblique, and is regularly used over Bosnia at altitudes ranging from 10,000ft (3,000m) to 15,000ft (4,000m). Any of the cameras can be selected but aircrews seem to prefer using all of them simultaneously. To obtain the best photo coverage, the pilots start filming 0.5nm before the target and keep on photographing until they have reached a point 0.5nm beyond it. Black and white films are used and are usually processed and interpreted in less than an hour.
The Omera 40 horizon-to-horizon camera is mounted on a short rail and constantly moves backwards and forwards in an effort to compensate for the Jaguar’s movement when flying at very high speed and very low-level. This movement is computed by a calculator linked to the Doppler radar (which measures the ground speed) and the radalt (which measures the exact altitude above the ground, up to 6,000ft [1,800m]). The Omera 40 is effective up to 5,000ft (1,500m) and is triggered by a button on the throttle. These reconnaissance capabilities are very useful to the Arm6e de I’Air and help relieve the heavily-tasked Mirage F1CR fleet.
The Jaguar can carry a large range of ordnance for a wide variety of roles. For the precision attack mission, three types of weapons are available. The best known is probably the Aerospatiale AS30L missile used during the Gulf War. This powerful 1,146lb (520kg) weapon has a range of about 6.2 miles (10km) and is usually carried on the starboard inner wing pylon, balanced by a fuel tank on the opposite side. Its 529lb (240kg) warhead, coupled to a very high impact speed (from Mach 1.3 to 1.5), ensures a devastating destructive power. During the Gulf War, 62 AS30Ls were launched against hardened targets such as command bunkers and aircraft shelters. The other French precision-guided weapon is the BGL1000 laser guided bomb, a 2,200lb (1000kg) device composed of a 1,873lb (850kg) Arcole bomb, a 132lb (60kg) guidance kit and a 176lb (80kg) tail-stabilising kit. Its precision is less than 16.4ft (5m). The third and last Precision Guided Munition (PGM) carried by French Jaguars is the recently-adopted American GBU-12, a weapon criticised by pilots as lacking real stand-off capabilities. Nevertheless, it is a very efficient method of destroying small pinpoint targets, such as tanks, on occasions when employing the heavy and expensive BGL1000 or AS30L would be a waste of resources. For operations over Kosovo, the Centre d’Experience Adriennes Militaires (Experimental Military Flight Test Centre) at Mont-de-Marsan has cleared a new weapon configuration with two GBU-12s mounted side-by-side on a centreline-mounted Alkan AUF1 adapter, allowing the carriage of two wing tanks. With such a configuration, the ‘buddy-lasing’ technique is used, with another Jaguar designating the target(s). The Elias laser spot tracker is not affected by this new configuration.
Bombs and rockets
The ’dumb’ weapons fall into two different categories: bombs or rockets. The rocket options include the LRF1 rocket pods (two are usually fitted to the inboard wing pylons, each containing 36 x 68mm rounds) and the LRF3 launchers (four 100mm rockets each). The small LRF2 six-shot 68mm rocket pod is only used for training. The 68mm rockets have an effective range of 6,500ft (2,000m) whereas the heavier and more powerful 100 mm round is still accurate at 9,800ft (3,000m). The TAV38 laser range finder considerably enhances accuracy when delivering this type of ammunition. The Jaguar inventory includes numerous types of bombs: the Thomson-Brandt 125 and 250kg bombs, the 250kg SAMP EU2SFA fitted with a retarded tail for very low-level delivery, the 400kg bomb (both retarded and slick variants) and the American Mk.82 500lb. The BAP100 and BAT120 area denial weapon dispensers are also regularly carried by the Jaguars. The BAP100 is a specialised weapon for airfield attacks, whereas the BAT 120 is a battlefield attack weapon for use against troops, supplies and armour. Both are carried in blocks of 18 and are released in quick succession to maximise hit probabilities. It should be noted that the Matra Durandal runway denial weapon used by the USAF has never been adopted by the Armge de I’Air. The BGL66 Belouga cluster bomb unit has now been withdrawn from service. Finally, two DEFA 553 30mm cannons with 150 rounds each are internally mounted in the lower forward fuselage. It is worth noting that, contrary to British Jaguar T.2s, the French two-seater Jaguar Es have two guns. Moreover, many types of training bombs are in service. They can simulate a wide range of stores and are usually hung on a light store suspension unit. The types include the 4kg BBF F3, used to simulate retarded bombs, and the BBL F4 (for slick bombs).
In March 1999, the Jaguar Force relinquished its anti-radar role when the last AS-37 missile was withdrawn from use. Unfortunately, this means that the Arm6e de I’Air no longer has any suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) capabilities and that it will have to rely on friendly countries such as Great Britain (with its ALARM-equipped Tornado GR.ls and GR.4s) and Germany (with its AGM-88 HARM-equipped Tornado ECRs). The nuclear strike mission has now also been terminated and only the Mirage 2000Ns of EC 1/4 Dauphine and EC 2/4 ‘La Fayette from Luxeuil and EC 3/4 Limousin from Istres regularly practise nuclear attack mission profiles with the Aerospatiale ASMP missiles.
The French Jaguars can carry a wide range of self-defence systems, ranging from the Magic II missile to various Electronic Warfare (EW) pods. The Matra/BAe 550 Magic II infra-red-guided air-to-air missile has been the only self-defence missile currently carried by the aircraft since the withdrawal of the earlier Magic I. Only one is usually fitted to the starboard underwing outer pylon, with an EW pod on the other side (the French Jaguars are not equipped with overwing missile rails as found on RAF and Indian aircraft). Two jamming pods are carried by the French Jaguars — the Thomson-CSF Barracuda and the Dassault Electronics Barax. Two variants of the Barracuda are used: the first (earlier) one has just one bulge at the front and rear and can deal with only one threat in the front hemisphere whereas the second variant, with two bulges at both the front and rear, can deal simultaneously with two threats. Both the Barracuda and Barax have an internal threat library and can be used at speeds and altitudes up to Mach 1.9 and 65,000ft (19,800m) respectively. Worth noting is the Barem export designation of the Barracuda. The heavy 1,2121b (550kg) and powerful CT51J Caiman offensive jamming pod is now seldom used and has been replaced by the Barracuda and the Barax.
Two types of decoy dispensing systems are operational with the Armee de I’Air Jaguar fleet: the Phimat chaff dispenser, as carried by RAF Jaguars, and the Alkan 5020/21 conformal flare and chaff dispenser. The last mentioned contains seven modules of 18 decoys each (chaffs or flares) on both sides of the fuselage, providing a useful self-defence capability. The Alkan 5020/21 system is an efficient means of carrying large quantities of expandables while still leaving the pylons available for weapons, fuel tanks or other EW systems. The Lacroix flare dispenser which could be placed in the tailcone parachute housing has now been abandoned. The different EW means allow the Jaguars to tackle a large array of ground-based and airborne systems.
The Jaguar has always been known for its reliability and serviceability. Jaguar maintenance is divided between three different bodies: the squadrons, the base maintenance support squadron and industry. The squadrons deal with the daily servicing and minor faults, and the base support unit is in charge of second line maintenance. Finally, industry (either Sogerma at Bordeaux or Dassault), takes care of the major inspections (every 1,500 hours or 68 months, depending upon which figure is reached first). Out of the 20 Jaguars As of EC 1/7, eight to ten are available for training every day but, during a recent surge, 16 of the unit’s aircraft were operational. When the author visited Saint-Dizier Air Base, the unit’s oldest aircraft, Jaguar A58, had flown 5,095 hours whereas the youngest one, A157, had logged only 3,200 hours. However, a recurring technical problem has emerged in the past few years on the attachment point of the main undercarriage on frame 25 of the fuselage. A cure has been found, but engineers will have to constantly monitor the problem with non-destructive testing methods to ensure that no further damage appears.
Arm6e de I’Air Jaguars have now been serving with distinction for over 25 years and will soldier on for a few more years. The aeroplane is getting old though, and budget reductions will force the disbandment of two squadrons in 2001. The remaining large squadron will maintain laser attack and reconnaissance capabilities until 2005. Although the Jaguars are at the forefront of the Armee de I’Air effort over Bosnia and Kosovo, the Jaguar detachment in Africa (Chad) has now been replaced by a Mirage FI detachment (with aircraft of the CT [attack] and CR [reconnaissance] variants). Replacement is in sight — the first production Rafale has already been delivered to the French Air Force, and Saint-Dizier could well become the first operational Rafale base.