A return visit to DCAE Cranwell to catch the last operating Jaguars in the RAF being was meant to give me another attempt to shoot them against blue skies after the mixed weather of my previous visit in August last year. Sadly the weather was worse! Thick cloud cover and a wind that was over 40 knots greeted me when I arrived. This was the final week of the Aerosystems (AS) training course for RAF Engineering Officers and there was due to be a number of simulated sorties. The first sortie of three Jaguars got under way despite the weather but after they returned the wind rose above 40 knots and past the limit that the cockpits of the Jaguar can be opened in causing operations to be halted.
Two of the Jaguars were operated with Carrier Bomb Light Stores (CBLS) under their wings and the final Jaguar was operated with and AN/ALQ-101 ECM Pod, a Phimat Chaff Dispenser and a TIALD Pod. Upon returning to the pan the final Jaguar was halted. Whilst none of the weapon systems are live all operations are done as if they were. Whilst the engineering officer made the weapon systems safe the pilot was instructed to place his hands on his head to ensure none of the weapon systems could be activated by mistake.
With the wind halting any further sorties I had the chance to look around the hangar and buildings. The hangar had XX965 with its ‘Saint’ logo on the tail. The ‘Saint’ logo is the adopted logo of 16(R) Sqn due to their formation at Saint Omer. 16(R) Sqn are a former Jaguar squadron and are also based at Cranwell now training pilots in Elementary Flying Training (EFT) on the Grob Tutor.
More interestingly was ZB615 in its QinetiQ Raspberry Ripple scheme. Finally running again after two and half years of work and will be joining the fleet of Jaguars as soon as it has a log book. The intention is to keep it in its current paint scheme and not paint it black like the others, although it will need a touch up when funds allow.
Also of note was Jaguar XX747 that is still in desert camo and is sporting mission marks from the Gulf War and Harrier XZ132 that took part in the Falklands conflict (although it only ever got as far as Ascention due to a fuel leak that that couldn’t be fixed).