The origins of the Jaguar date back to the early 1960s in Britain and France. In 1963 the RAF issued Air Staff Target 362, for a trainer to replace the Gnat and Hunter in 1974. The 1957 White Paper had said nothing about trainers; accordingly, AST.362 called for a rather impressive aircraft capable of a front-line strike role. It was to use two engines and have a maximum speed of about Mach 1.7. BAC's P.45 design would have met AST.362 quite easily, but this was not to be. Other submissions to AST.362 included the Hunting H.155, the Folland Fo.147 and the Hawker Siddeley P.1173.

In France, the Air Staff had been considering a light tactical trainer for the Armée de l'Air and possibly the Aéronavale as well. By January 1964 they had drawn up a requirement called ECAT (Ecole de Combat et Appui Tactique). It specified a simple subsonic aircraft, for use at low and medium altitudes, that could be developed quickly and at moderate cost. The Armée de l'Air had a number of obsolescent types which needed to be replaced from 1969/70.

On June 30th 1964 Breguet offered their Br.121, which was based on the Br.1001 Taon, as a candidate for ECAT. This was joined by the Dassault Cavalier, the Nord 3600 Harpoon, the Potez P.92 and Sud-Aviation with their SA-12. Dassault was not best pleased when the Br.121 was selected as the winner of ECAT in January 1965.

On February 18th 1965 the French Air Ministry announced that the RB.172/T.260 has been selected as the powerplant for ECAT. This brought together the British RB.172 and French T.260 Turmolet engines. An engine comprising the front of the T.260 and the middle and rear of the RB.172-45R was proposed, with some parts of joint design and all produced to metric drawings.

By March 1964 the British had begun to think about a possible joint programme, in order to help overturn the French veto on Britain's joining the Common Market. Two programmes were agreed by Government minsters Thorneycroft and Messmer: the "simple strike-trainer" was to be French-led and based on the ECAT, and a much more ambitious variable-geometry multi-role aircraft, later called AFVG, would be British-led.

Various submissions were received from both sides of the Channel, and around ten were on the final shortlist, but the Br.121 was eventually selected as the basis of the joint venture, even though it did not fully meet RAF requirements. However, by April 1965 the two air forces had agreed on a joint requirement. The British and French governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding on May 17th 1965, which put the project on a firm legal footing. Breguet and BAC were nominated as the French and British partners respectively. The MoU set out a requirement for 300 aircraft: 150 trainers for the RAF, and 75 trainers and 75 strike aircraft for the Armée de l'Air.

The Jaguar thus started out as the most politically contrived aircraft it is possible to imagine. The British had the P.45 but couldn't use it; the French had the ECAT requirement, which by May 1965 had been completely changed; the BR121 had essentially to be turned into the P.45; there had been no competitive tendering either for the engine or the airframe. Against the odds, a very capable aircraft began to take shape.

The name Jaguar was announced at the 1965 Paris Air Show. The name of the engine had already been announced as the Adour.

During 1965 an immense engineering effort went on, mostly at BAC Warton, to turn the BR121 into the Jaguar. Most of the changes were internal, but the airframe was made longer, the wing was enlarged but made thinner, the vertical tail was made taller and thinner and the tailplanes were made bigger and thinner. The design was frozen in November 1965.

All this work was done in advance of any contract (except for the engine and some major systems for the British aircraft). In May 1966 a joint BAC/Breguet company called Sepecat (Société Européenne de Production de l'Avion ECAT) was set up to build the airframe. Rolls-Royce Turboméca Ltd was registered in London on June 22nd 1966 for the engine. The airframe contracts for both parties were issued by the DCTA (Direction Technique de Construction Aéronautique).

By mid-1966 metal was being cut. Bregeut was responsible for the fuselage back to the engine bay, and BAC did the rest. On the engine, Turboméca made the compressors, casing and external pipework and Rolls did the rest

By the end of 1966 the number of Jaguar sub-types had risen to five. These were the French two-seat trainer (E) and single-seater (A), the French single-seat carrier-based strike aircraft (M), and the British two-seat trainer (B) and single-seat strike aircraft (S). The M and the S were announced on January 9th 1968, when an amendment to the MoU was signed, bringing the total number of aircraft up to 400. France increased its requirement to 75 A, 85 E and 40 M, and the RAF was to get 110 trainers and 90 S models. On February 9th an extra four prototypes were ordered, bringing the total to 8 plus a fatigue airframe.

In June 1967 Breguet was merged with Dassault. This did not not turn out to be an entirely satisfactory arrangement when it came to selling the Jaguar abroad. As already mentioned, Dassult had not been happy that the Br.121 had won ECAT, and after the merger with Breguet subsequently seemed to be willing to 'un-sell' what by then had become its own product.

On April 17th 1968 the first Jaguar, E-01, was rolled out at Vélizy-Villacoublay, near Paris. Between then and the end of the month Bernard Witt, Breguet CTP, carried out numerous ground tests. First flight was scheduled for June 15th, but this was delayed by French civil unrest and did not take place (at Istres) until September 8th. The first flight lasted 25 minutes. On the aircraft's third flight it was taken supersonic, and thereafter was regularly flown by Witt and BAC Preston's CTP, Jimmy Dell. Its mission was aerodynamics, handling, flutter and general systems behaviour.

E-02, also a French two-seater, first flew for 65 minutes on February 11th 1969 with Witt at the controls. It was assigned to engine and flight performance, and later to flutter.

The first single-seat attack Jaguar, A-03, flew supersonically on its first flight on March 29th 1969. Witt was again at the controls for its maiden flight. It was assigned to development of the French nav-attack system.

A-04, assigned to store carriage and weapons firing, flew on May 27th 1969, this time with Dell in the cockpit.

The Jaguar's first public appearance was probably at the Paris Salon in June 1969.

The first British prototype, S-06 (XW560), was rolled out at Warton on August 18th 1969, and flew for the first time on October 12th, with Jimmy Dell at the controls. It was assigned to British avionics and weapons, and in-flight refuelling.

The first naval prototype, M-05, flew at Istres on November 14th 1969, with Jaques Jessberger at the controls for a 30-minute flight. The M version's main external difference was the undercarriage, with smaller twin nosewheels and single main wheels being adopted to allow for catapult launch and arrested recovery. The undercarriage was also strengthened to withstand a sink rate of 19 ft/sec, compared with 11.8 ft/sec on land-based aircraft. The arrestor hook was strengthened and stressed to 5.5g. Avionics were basically the same as the A model, with the addition of a laser rangefinder and camera port below the top of the nose.

S-07 (XW563), assigned to development of the RAF nav-attack system, flew on June 12th 1970. It later carried out trials of the Matra Magic AAM.

The eighth prototype, B-08 (XW566), flew on August 30th 1971, with Paul Millet at the controls. B-08 was classed as a "pre-production" aircraft as it contained 80% production parts. It was assigned to test the two-seat cockpit and nav-attack system.

On March 26th 1970 E-01 was lost on approach to Istres when the aircraft suffered a catastrophic fire in its No 2 engine. The pilot shut down the engine and selected the fire supression system, losing in the process one of the aircraft's two main hydraulic systems. For some reason the pilot shut off the good engine as well, losing the other hydraulic system which caused the flying controls to lock solid. This led to the installation of an automated emergency power system, which cuts in in the event of double engine failure to maintain hydraulic power.

On April 20th 1970 M-05 was flown to RAE Bedford for initial carrier deck-landing trials on the RAE's dummy deck, which were a total success. On July 8th the aircraft was flown from Lann-Bihoue to the carrier Clemenceau, and between the 8th and 13th conducted twelve full-reheat catapult launches and arrested landings. The first cat launch occured on July 10th and was flown by Lt de Vaisseau Daniel Pierre. A second series of launches and landings from Clemenceau took place between October 20th and 27th 1971, again preceeded by a visit to RAE Bedford.

In 1970 the British performed a massive re-think, in order to provide the RAF with a viable strike aircraft in the 1970s and 80s, and decided to buy 165 single-seat and only 35 two-seat Jaguars, enough to form nine squadrons. The original training requirement was met by the Hawker P.1182 (later known as the Hawk).

On February 23rd 1971 Paul Millett took Jaguar S-06 on a direct flight from Preston to Istres, a journey of 1366 km (738nm) which took 1hr 25min. By early spring 1971 the British portion of the test program was well underway, with S-06 and S-07 clocking up 263 hours in 261 sorties. S-07 made its 200th flight on March 17th.

Some changes were made to the airframe as a result of the development work. The short nosewheel door was extended to full length; the intake splitter plates were deleted; perforations were added to the airbrakes; the original 'short' tail was increased in height for better stability. Starting with B-08, the original one-piece starboard hinging nosewheel door was replaced with a 3-door unit.

On September 9th 1971 Paul Millett and Brian McCann flew E-02 from Cazaux near Bordeaux to Warton. The aircraft joined the Warton test program and undertook engine development trials. It was returned to France in 1980.

The first production aircraft came off the assembly line at Mont-de-Marsan, near Bordeaux, on May 4th 1972.

In January 1973 the Jaguar M was dropped by the Aéronavale, citing the aircraft's cost and the need to modify the catapults and decks of their carriers. They were also unhappy with the aircraft's single-engine recovery characteristics. In view of this, it is surprising that the Super Etendard, which was chosen instead, only had a single engine and therefore had no engine-out options other than a ditching. But it was a 100% Dassault product. The fifty aircraft intended for the Aéronavale were transfered to the Air Force. M-05 made its last flight on December 12th 1975 and was relegated to technical training at Rochfort.

S-06 (XW560) was destroyed by fire at Boscombe Down on August 11th 1972 after an uncontained engine failure ruptured a fuel tank.

The RAF's first production aircraft, XX108/S1, made its maiden flight from Warton on October 12th 1972, with DCTP Tim Ferguson at the controls. XX109/S2 was the first aircraft to have the definitive LRMTS and full avionics fit. The first British-built two-seater, XX136, first flew on March 28th 1973.

CA Release was obtained at Boscombe Down, and XX111/S4 was delivered to RAF Lossiemouth on May 30th 1973. S1 was retained by BAC and was later upgraded to become the first Jaguar International.

The Jaguar had always been intended to make an impact in the export market, and a version called Jaguar International (based on the RAF's GR.1 version) was developed for this purpose. Over 30 countries were targetted by the BAC overseas sales team, but in almost every case Dassault tried hard to unsell its own product in favour of the Mirage F.1. Sales to the Sultanate of Oman, Ecuador, Nigeria and India were won, but counties which chose not to buy the Jaguar were Belgium (Mirage V), West Germany (Tornado), Switzerland (Mirage III), Japan (Mitsubishi F-1), Kuwait (Mirage F.1), Turkey (F-4 Phantom), Eygpt (Alpha Jet), Abu Dhabi (Mirage III), Pakistan (Mirage V). BAC proposed a joint Jaguar/Mirage F.1 deal to Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway as an F-104 Starfighter replacement, but this was rejected by Dassault (but the F-16 won the deal in the end).

Jaguar International was publicly launched at the 1974 Farnborough Air Show, a month after Oman and Ecuador had placed orders. The first production aircraft for the RAF, XX108, was the launch aircraft, and was fitted for the occasion with a mockup of the Agave radar nose. Aircraft S-07, XW563, was also used in the development program.

On October 6th 1978 the Indian government announced that they had selected the Jaguar as the winner of the Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft competition.

The Jaguar's final export success was Nigeria, which ordered the type in July 1983.

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