Bangalore: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the state-owned military plane maker, will upgrade 68 so-called “deep penetration” Jaguar fighters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with modern avionics in a contract valued more Rs2,400 crore that will increase the life and efficacy of the fighter planes.
HAL will upgrade these British-designed planes with a new version of the avionics, called display attack ranging inertial navigation (Darin-3), replacing the initial version of the system, Darin-1, for the lo-ng range ground attack fighter.
Mid-life extension: A file photo of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s Jaguar workshop in Bangalore. (Photo: Jagadeesh NV/Reuters)
“These (68) planes were built in late 1980s to early 1990s, (and since then) aircraft avionics have improved phenomenally,” said a person familiar with the development, who did not wish to be named.
The Inertial Nav-Attack System Integration Organization (IIO), a multiple agency unit set up by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), IAF and HAL built the Darin system first in 1980s.
In 2001, DRDO’s defence avionics research establishment and HAL had to built the Darin-2 version, after Britain’s Smiths Aerospace backed out of a deal to build avionics for the planes. Since then, DRDO has gained expertise to build avionics for the Sukhoi 30 MkI fighter, the Tejas light combat aircraft and upgrade the avionics system for the Mig 21 fleet of the IAF.
“This is like a mid-life extension for these planes. It will be lethal for some more years,” said a former HAL official, who was involved in manufacturing Jaguar aircraft for the IAF. He did not want to be named.
IAF got the first batch of Jaguar planes in 1979. These 68 planes were among the first lot of Jaguars produced at its Bangalore factory by HAL under licence from BAE Systems Plc., (then known as British Aerospace). It had closed the Jaguar assembly line twice before opening it in 2000, to make 37 such planes.
HAL, the only manufacturer of Jaguars globally, has produced the last of these planes, called Shamsher in the IAF, this year.
The same assembly line is being used partly to produce BAE Systems’ Hawk advanced jet trainer for the IAF.