New Jets For Old
New jets for old - Fast tracking Jaguar Logistics Support for Granby
On the very evening the UN deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal of its forces from Kuwait expired, the RAF Presentation Team was asked by the member of an audience whether, in the light of impending hostilities, it was intended to reintroduce the Ministry of Aircraft production.
The presenter told his audience tactfully that, as modern combat aircraft are so complicated and take such a long leadtime to build and bring into service, it was unlikely that any new aircraft ordered could be delivered in time to participate in the conflict. Whilst this is undoubtedly true, it ignores the fact that, in the runup to any hostilities, there might be an opportunity to enhance existing aircraft capability. Such an enhancement programme took place on the Jaguar aircraft in the months before the conflict and continued throughout its progress. Significantly, many of the enhancements installed in the Jaguar at the time, remain incorporated in the aircraft deployed currently on Operation Warden. My article describes the Operation Granby Jaguar Fast Track Modifications Programme by which the Jaguar aircraft's capabilities were enhanced.
The initial deployment of Jaguars to Thumrait was ordered on 8 August 1990 and by Saturday 11 August, when they departed UK, the 12 aircraft in this initial detachment, plus several spares, had been prepared to a basic standard to allow them to operate in the hot, humid and generally hostile climate of the Arabian Peninsula. Despite the well rehearsed deployment role of the Jaguar Squadrons this was no easy task for RAF Coltishall because the numbers required and the mix of Attack and Reconnaissance-capable aircraft changed frequently. In addition, other aircraft were required to provide crews with their essential low level flying training, in the course of which 4 aircraft suffered birdstrike damage. Nonetheless, RAF Coltishall generated the aircraft to an initial standard which incorporated those things which could be quickly fitted or which could be packed up and installed in theatre. The most obvious of these initial enhancements was the tasteful shade of Laura Ashley pink, applied to most aircraft in a single night's work by a scratch team of painters. Other enhancements included a revised mounting tray to accept the fitment of the Mk 12 IFF (Identification friend or foe), changes to the ALE40 flare/chaff system, removal of some non-essential instruments to improve forward visibility, a series of changes to aid cooling of both equipment and pilot and various additional, individually minor but collectively important, enhancements. In the subsequent event this initial work, undertaken without any careful thought to the long term plans became known as 'Stage 1'. The overall bill for this work, which was in addition to the normal preparation for deployment, was about 2600 manhours. It included some very rapid responses from units as far apart as RAF Wyton and RAF Sealand, whilst various components appeared, as if by magic, from the training schools at RAF Cosford and RAF Halton. This unselfish, corporate response, which was subsequently extended to industry was a key factor in ensuring that the work went ahead smoothly and made coordination much easier.
Following the initial deployment there was an opportunity to take stock of what further improvements could be made to Jaguar and also take a more considered view on how to proceed. Several important factors came into play here. First, we knew a great deal about the Royal Air Force of Oman's 'International' version of the Jaguar, there wee some pilots who had been seconded to that air force and initially the RAF Jaguars were actually based alongside the Omanis. In consequence we had a considerable degree of confidence in what was practical and necessary to operate in a climate which is, of course, far removed from the Jaguars' normal haunts in northern Europe. Secondly, a 'Jaguar War Measures Paper' had been written some time before and this pointed out some areas where improvements to the aircraft's capability could be made. In addition there was a list of items which were undergoing trials, already approved as modifications or thought to be worthwhile fitting to Jaguar and these were all analysed to see which could be made available and in what timescale. The availability of these enhancements and the likely time to instal them, were matched against a need to replace the initial aircraft in theatre as these came due for maintenance and against a need to ensure that the aircraft used in hostilities should be the best equipped that could be made ready at that time but, of course, with little idea then as to when that time might be. Those modifications which could be made available within the timescale for the preparation of the first roulement of aircraft were, therefore, classified 'Stage 2', those which would probably become available for any subsequent roulement were classified 'Stage 3', whilst those for which there was no realistic delivery or about which there was insufficient knowledge were classified at 'Stage X'. It quickly became apparent that these stages were not inviolate and items migrated from one stage to another, fortunately almost always forward, and new items were added to the lists as they were evaluated and confirmed as appropriate.
The first tasks, having decided on a programme of enhancements, were to decide where to do the enhancement work and to generate some headroom to carry it out. The natural choice for the work was RAF Coltishall but this meant that the unit could not cope with its 2nd line maintenance work as well because 30% of its 2nd line engineering manpower had been deployed to the Gulf. It was, therefore, agreed that routine maintenance would be transferred to RAF Abingdon where it would in turn displace the routine modifications programme and some, but not all, of the Major maintenance work. Aircraft undergoing any 2nd or 3rd line maintenance which would not be needed for Granby (T2As and GR1As without an air-to-air refuelling capability) were moved off the maintenance tracks. A special team, the Jaguar Fast Track Modification Team, was set up at RAF Coltishall, using mostly indigenous manpower but with a few scarce trades being reinforced by 32 personnel drafted from elsewhere. Some of these personnel had no previous Jaguar experience but, nonetheless, they were quickly absorbed into the team and as subsequent detachments of the 'home players' took place, helped to provide much needed continuity. A working party from British Aerospace was employed on the highly specialised task of drilling holes in the wings to accept the overwing pylons for the Sidewinder missile and an RAF team carried out the aircraft preparation and recovery work for this aspect of the programme. The headroom needed was available because following the rundown of the Jaguar force in RAF Germany, there were several aircraft stored at RAF Shawbury after completion of Major maintenance. These were quickly generated and the rapid recovery of those aircraft undergoing maintenance and modification at both Coltishall and Abingdon released several others, which could then be programmed into the Fast Track Programme or used to support to the combat workup flying which went on throughout.
The Stage 2 programme started at the beginning of September 1990 and comprised 2 dedicated tracks working a 2 shift system varying between 8 and 12 hours each as circumstances dictated. Initially, the availability of equipment and the heavy concentration of work in the cockpit area restricted the speed of completion, but as experience was gained so did the speed of output. At this time there was no point in trying to flood the task with manpower and throughout the programme the careful matching of resources and skills to specific tasks was an important aim of management. The Jaguar Aircraft Investigation and Development Team (AEDIT) was in the forefront of the design work, since most of the new equipments were installed using the Special Trials Fit (SFT) procedures. A number of ingenious devices were invented and brought into use to improve production speed or to make a manually intensive task easier, including a tool for wrapping cable looms, which used a bicycle chain, wheel and crank, and there were numerous locally manufactured trays and brackets to assist in the installation of the new equipment and LRUs (Line Repairable Units). It's a tribute to the skill of those involved that most of these have subsequently been favourably commented on by the Design Authority, even though they may not now represent the final solution. As the aircraft came off the modifications line they were fed into the training programme to give the aircrew experience of the new equipment and to shake down the modifications. Where necessary, a 2nd line mainte3ncnce, to permit the aircraft to fly up to 250 hours in theatre, was undertaken. All 12 Stage 2 aircraft were completed by end October and the roulement took place at the end of that month and early November. The Stage 2 programme cost some 10,000 manhours in addition to the aircraft maintenance and deployment preparation. The programme incorporated all the Stage 1 enhancements and in addition, a new radar warning receiver (RWR) together with an improved cockpit display, limited night vision capability, a video camera fitted to the Head-Up Display for rapid post attack and training sortie analysis, and an ability to dispense flares from the ALE40 in a manner which better matched the threat from heat seeking missiles. There were also engine performance modifications to recover some of the thrust lost because of the high ambient temperatures in the Gulf. If the most obvious Stage 1 modification had been the paint scheme, Stage 2 saw the introduction of overwing pylons for the AIM9 Sidewinder. The design and manufacture of these pylons, machined by British Aerospace from solid billets of metal within 2 weeks of the order being given, was a major achievement. One problem at the end of the Stage 2 programme was that many of the experienced personnel at RAF Coltishall were now sent to the Gulf as replacements for those deployed initially. Nonetheless, essential continuity was preserved and the programme moved forward. Tragically, on 12 November a Stage 2 aircraft crashed in the desert killing the pilot and all efforts turned to generating a replacement aircraft. This was done by the beginning of December, taking the first of the Stage 3 aircraft by only completing it to Stage 2 standard, plus some other items which could be incorporated without detriment to the completion date.
Initial approval for the Jaguar enhancements covered a total of 28 aircraft and so the Stage 3 programme covered the update of 16 more jets, of which 8 were taken from those just returned from the Gulf. Although these particular aircraft contained the Stage 1 enhancements, some modifications had to be removed for UK operations and all needed a 2nd line maintenance taking up to 5 weeks each. About this time one of the most successful weapons to be used by Jaguar came on the scene, the high velocity Canadian Rocket Vehicle (CRV)7, and arrangements were made to clear it for use on the inboard pylons so that training with it could begin in the Gulf. This was one of those enhancements which was capable of being installed in-theatre. Another, altogether more subtle change, was GEC Farranti's amendment to the weapon aiming computer software to cater for the ballistics of the US CVU87 cluster bomb, which was cleared for use with Jaguar. This weapon was capable of being dropped from medium level and hence immediately endowed the Jaguar crews with a new operational option; one which they subsequently used extensively.
The start of the Stage 3 programme in November 1990 also signalled an increase in impetus since it was realised that any hostilities would probably take place early in the new year and before the onset of the hot weather and the religious festival of Rammadan. The need, therefore, to provide aircraft modified still further to support another roulement in February or March, to reinforce the existing detachment or as attrition replacements, concentrated the minds wonderfully. The Stage 3 programme also contained some very labour intensive enhancements to the aircraft's self protection suite and which would require considerable additional time to instal. The 2 modification tracks were increased to 4 and an additional 48 personnel drafted in to help with the work. At about this time the Jaguar OCU was moved into RAF Wattisham as a temporary measure and the Phantom OCU closed to help release manpower for the Jaguar programme and other tasks. Whilst work continued on the aircraft at home, further enhancements capable of installation in-theatre were developed and kits sent to the Gulf. Principal amongst these were a 2nd VHF/UHF radio to enhance to talk with AWACS, and the ability to fire the CRV7 from both inboard and outboard pylons, separately or together. Work on the Stage 3 programme was completed on 14 February, with the exception of 20,000 more manhours but the end of the hostilities and the return of the Desert Cats to an emotional reception at RAF Coltishall, meant that these aircraft were not deployed and it became something of an anti-climax to recover the aircraft for routine operations in the UK and return to the status quo, although this wasn't finally achieved until RAF Abingdon completed the final 2nd line maintenance task in June 1991.
Before leaving the saga and looking at some of the lessons and implications it is worth remembering that at the end of that summer the Jaguar was again called on to deploy to the region and many of the Granby enhancements were required again in support of Operation Warden; a commitment which, at the time of writing, continues.
The lessons learned from the Jaguar Fast Track Mods Programme, and its success, can be attributed to a number of factors. First, there had been a high level of pre-planning through the Jaguar War Measures paper, the on-going modifications programme and feasibility work conducted by A&AEE, CTTO and others under the sponsorship of the MOD Air Staff. Second, there was a very considerable level of assurance that the modifications would work since most had been researched and pre-engineered by the AEDIT or had already been adopted as part of a low key philosophy for the continual enhancement of the aircraft's capability. Significantly, the only modification which failed was one which had not been properly planned, tested and installed - and it failed on all 3 counts! Third, the management of a programme like this requires strong central direction and an early decision to set up a small project control team within the Support Authority (SA) and channel all requirements through it was vital. Furthermore, the presence of the SA within the Joint Headquarters sharing facilities with the air operations staff they support, proved an important factor because communications were speeded, there were no misunderstandings as to requirements and decisions could be taken with all the facts available. The collocation of the Jaguar AEDIT and the Fast Track Programme proved invaluable from a technical viewpoint but also provided a considerable incentive to get the job done. The very strong working relationship which existed between the senior engineering and supply managers at RAF Coltishall and the SA staff at High Wycombe was also an important bonus.
Everyone involved with the planning and running of the Fast Tracks Mods Programme can take very considerable satisfaction in a job well done. The performance of the Jaguar in the Gulf conflict shows what a remarkable and very capable aircraft it is within the limits of its original design. Some statistics set its achievement in perspective; the 12 aircraft dropped nearly 1,200 bombs of various sorts, fired over 600 CRV7 rockets and 9,500 rounds of 30mm ammunition. Of this ordnance, all the rockets and over half the bombs were weapons which, at the start of Granby, had not been cleared for delivery from Jaguar. It conducted recce missions (using both its own recce pod and another type introduced at very short notice), interdiction sorties and combat air patrols of over 5 hours duration, in a total of 617 sorties. Its serviceability was of the order of 98% and it suffered minor battle damage to only 5 aircraft. On the human side the aircraft was flown by one of the youngest (23) and certainly the oldest (54!) pilots in the RAF deployment. The basic aircraft was 20 years old but its systems and weapons capability were made on a par with some of the more modern aircraft deployed and for the investment of a relatively small outlay. The 'Desert Cats' were certainly new jets of old.