Jaguar engines have seen a 15-30% reduction in thrust, and the cost of the upgrade is too high, One Sukhoi can perform the same role as two Jaguars.
New Delhi: The Indian Air Force is set to shelve its plan for an engine upgrade of the jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft due to high cost involved. Instead, it could go in for additional Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs to replace the aircraft that will be grounded, Theprint has learnt.
Top sources in the defence establishment said the Rolls-Royce Adour 811 engines of the 1980s vintage twin-engine aircraft have seen 15-30 percent reduction in thrust. This means the jaguar cannot carry its full load.
The IAF planned to go on in for an engine upgrade and had selected from US firm Honeywell’s F-125IN engines. But sources termed the jaguar upgrade programme as being awkward state of affairs.
“The price quoted by Honeywell and the HAL for ‘re-engining’ is just too high, for the price of two such upgrades,we can get one basic Rafale, “a source said.
Currently, the IAF operates a total of six squadrons of the jaguar. However, in actual strength, there are only five squadrons, as sixth is not a complete squadron.
Avionics upgrade won’t help
The jaguar is already undergoing an avionics upgrade—from Darin-1 to Darin-111 standard— but this programme is seven years behind the schedule.
“The Darin-111 upgrade is all about avionics and a better cockpit system. However, the problem is with the engines. Since thrust factor is coming down, the aircraft is already flying with lower load during peacetime operations as a precautionary measure,” a second source said.
Souces added that there would come a time when aircraft would be grounded as and when their engine thrust comes below a specific point, as it would put the pilots’ lives at risk.
IAF pilots have morbid joke among themselves that the jaguar’s current engines are so under powered that in case of one engine failing, the second takes the aircraft to the crash site, not back to safety.
A Source said the plan to produce more Sukhois was being considered because it could fulfill a similar role.
“One plan is to order more Su-30 MKIs to replace those fighter that would be grounded, As far as role is concerned, one sukhoi can play the same role as two jaguars,” the source said.
“We can’t really afford to ground the entire fleet if the engines become a problem. If we do that, our fighter squadron strength will come down to that of Pakistan. Not to forget that one of those 24 squadrons, we still have some of ageing MiGs.”