Origins and prototypes
From the beginning of the sixties, the Air Force general staff had been looking for an aircraft able to replace its Lockheed T 33 and Fouga Magister in training maneuvers, as well as its Mystère IV in tactical support. Two companies were set in competition: Dassault with its Cavalier and Breguet with its Br 121. In the same period, the Royal Air Force wanted a two-seat supersonic aircraft to replace the Hunter (Operational requirement 362). In October 1964, the French and British general staffs recognized a certain convergence in their needs and planned to manufacture the new aircraft together.
January 15, 1965, Breguet won the market because its aircraft was smaller and lighter and because its price conformed with the project budget. On May 1965, British and French Defense ministers signed a cooperative construction agreement on a Jaguar training combat and support aircraft which was a direct adaptation of the Br 121 initially chosen for the French program. On May 1965, Breguet received confirmation to manufacture the aircraft in cooperation with the British Aircraft Corporation.
The military general staffs of the two countries changed perspective several times. The Jaguar, first conceived as a combat training and tactical support aircraft ended up as a heavy tactical support aircraft, with a price-tag incommensurable with the original program specifications.
Production and operational experience
The first official commercial document was signed January 9, 1968 in London by the French and British Ministries of Defense, confirming an order for 200 aircraft for each country. Seven prototypes were planned four in France, and three in Great Britain, manufactured by two parallel assembly lines, one in each country.
The technical contractorship of the French side was directed by a French-British consortium, SEPECAT (Société Européenne de Production de l’Avion d’Ecole de Combat et d’Appui Tactique) and theoretically entrusted to Breguet Aviation, bought over by Dassault in 1967.
The first flight of the Jaguar took place on September 8, 1968 at Istres, piloted by Bernard Witt. When the prototypes made their first flights, the RAF once again modified its defense policy: the training mission now appeared to be secondary and they wanted to transfer all credit lines to tactical support aircraft.
Finally, the RAF and French Air Force opted for 5 different types of aircraft:
- for France, the Jaguar A single-seat tactical support version, the Jaguar E twin-eat training combat version, the Jaguar M single-seat naval version ;
- for the United Kingdom, the Jaguar B twin-seat training combat and ground attack version, the Jaguar S single-seat tactical support version.
French and British versions were not identical, each country requiring national equipment for its model. They could not reach unanimity on the same weapons system and each country possessed its own, the British version being more modernized than the French one.
A version for the Navy, the Jaguar M 05, was abandoned because of the operational limits of the aircraft on aircraft carriers.
In the end, the global order was for 573 aircraft. France and Great Britain bought 403, to which were added 54 exported to three countries (Oman, Ecuador, Nigeria) and 116 to India of which 70 were produced under license in India.