IAF Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P V Naik told India Strategic defence magazine in an interview that the Jaguars needed urgent upgrades. Since there was still considerable life left in the airframes and systems, it was necessary to go ahead with the process as fast as possible.
IAF had actually issued a Request for Proposals (RfP), or tender, in November 2010 to Rolls-Royce, which had provided the Adour 102 engines when the aircraft were acquired beginning 1978 from the then British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), and the US Honeywell, which says it has offered to supply "more powerful engines at competitive rates."
Rolls-Royce however opted out recently, and faced with the single vendor situation, the Ministry of Defence cancelled the RFP.
Air Chief Marshal Naik said that the government had now decided to process the case on the "single vendor" basis keeping in view what is available, and most suited, and negotiate with the selected manufacturer.
IAF has nearly 125 twin-engine Jaguars, dubbed as Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) for ground attack role, when the deal was initially signed. The aircraft can carry nuclear weapons.
Jaguars were built for the Royal and French air forces. But today, most of them are operated by the IAF and the Royal Air Force of Oman. Indian aeronautical engineers also added overwing pylons on the aircraft to carry French Matra missiles and this innovation was adopted also by other air forces.
Upgrades of the IAF Jaguars would also include modernisation of avionics, sensors for night operations, and integration of helmet mounted sights for the pilots.
The deal for new engines, 250-plus, inclusive of spares, should be worth more than $ 2 billion.
Rolls-Royce had offered Adour 821, an upgraded version of Adour 811 engines fitted on IAF's Hawk advanced trainer jets, while Honeywell said it would supply the "lighter and more powerful" F 125 IN, at present installed on Taiwan's indigenous defence fighter.
Operationally, IAF deployed the Jaguars in the 1999 Kargil War to destroy fortified positions set up by intruding Pakistani troops on the Indian side of the border high in the mountains. In coordination with IAF Mirage 2000, they dropped both dumb and laser guided bombs but inside Indian territory.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) used the Jaguars to attack the Iraqi troops in the 1991 Gulf War.