Jaguar Retirement 2007

The Wildcat Finally Tamed

Martin Keen reports for Cottemore Aviation Group from 6 Sqn at RAF Coningsby 


In 2004 the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence announced the Jaguar force would reach the end of its operational life with the Royal Air Force during 2009. A later announcement brought his date forward by two years to October 2007; however after months of rumour and speculation Officer Commanding 6 Squadron, Wing Commander John Sullivan, announced to his personnel on Tuesday 24th April 2007 that from the 30th April of that year - just six days later, the Sqn and the Jaguar would no longer be considered a deployable Royal Air Force asset. The Sqn was given until the end of May to complete all ceremonial flying, with the first aircraft leaving RAF Coningsby for the final time on the 18th of May; their new home being the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE) at RAF Cosford, Shropshire.

Not only would the RAF be losing a versatile, cost-effective and reliable ground-attack aircraft that was days away from celebrating 34 years of sterling service, but the decision also brought to a close a record 93 years of uninterrupted service by 6 Sqn – a service record that includes operations from a staggering 91 bases on three continents with more time spent abroad than on UK soil.

The decision also meant that formal plans to mark the type’s retirement at the end of October were regrettably withdrawn.

With 11(F) Sqn's Typhoons soon to become Air to Ground capable and ever shrinking MoD budgets, the RAF saw no need to keep the Cold War veteran in operational service, thus ending a career that saw the Jaguar deployed to all corners of the globe, including combat action in the first Gulf war and the Balkans conflicts.

During 6 Sqn's disbandment parade on 31st May, Wing Commander John Sullivan, said "It's with great regret that I have to concede the Jaguar has come to the end of its service life. It's still a very capable platform and has some unique capabilities that are not yet fielded by any other aircraft out there - so it is with frustration the end has come. I'm proud that the Jaguar is going out at the pinnacle of its capability".

"The Jaguar has contributed less since 2003 - we were due to be involved in the Second Gulf conflict but Turkey's decision not to get involved removed our only basing option. Since then we have not contributed directly to the deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan - however, I would point out that with most of the RAF's offensive assets committed, the Jaguar has taken up the vast majority of the training of the Forward Air Controllers that go out to those theatres and for many the only pilots those controllers will have spoken to will have been Jaguar pilots, so I'm proud to say that we have made a real and direct contribution to deployments right up until our last day of service".

Although it has not been deployed operationally for the last few years, the Jaguar benefited from upgrades right up until its last year of service, offering capabilities that are currently missing from the RAF's front-line offensive aircraft – the Harrier, Tornado and somewhat ironically the Jaguar’s replacement; the Typhoon.

Courtesy Squadron Prints

Wing Commander Sullivan continued with his candid description of the Jaguar’s capabilities "We have a number of discrete capabilities, which when brought together provide an enhanced overall capability". "For example, we have a helmet-mounted sight (HMS), which instantly enables us to generate co-ordinates for a point of interest on the ground; we don't have to bring the aircraft to bear to generate accurate co-ordinates. These can then be used to bring a laser-guided bomb to the target or to take a recce picture. We can also receive co-ordinates from a ground-based controller, which contracts the cycle of bringing a pilot to bear onto a target. We can then use the helmet in the reverse sense, not to generate co-ordinates but to follow the steering cues in the HMS to guide the pilot's eyes to the target. Providing he confirms they are talking about the same target from what he sees, he can then be much quicker engaging with the target. One of the Jaguar's strengths is the cannon - unlike the Harrier or Typhoon at the moment, precisely for this air-to-ground support role".

When pressed further about the Jaguar’s slightly premature demise, Wing Commander Sullivan commented "Early disbandment means we can posture ourselves to meet the operational task that's before us" and after a pause, he admitted "I'm choked up - it's a very emotional day. It's the first time that 6 Sqn has had to surrender its standard and a record of unbroken service - we are the longest continuously serving Sqn in the world. I'm disappointed and reluctant to give up that mantle, but the directive was clear to me and as a loyal military man I had to execute my orders".

Although there is no denying the aircraft was nearing the end of its service life, many proponents continued to argue that with recent updates the Jaguar was still an extremely capable and cost effective aircraft. It was widely recognised as the RAF’s cheapest combat jet to operate, having a much lower cost per flight hour compared to the Harrier and Tornado. With the on-going high intensity operations conducted by Joint Force Harrier, a Jaguar deployment to an operating area such as Khandahar would have provided an equally effective force and a welcome respite in the deployment cycle for the Harrier personnel. We won’t dwell on the politics behind the decision, this has been covered extremely well by other sources elsewhere, however there’s no doubting the end of the Jaguar will be a recurring topic for discussion on aviation forums for many more years.

Progression on to the Typhoon was the way forward for many of the Sqn’s pilots and personnel, however the early retirement also raises some difficult questions regarding the sensibility of the MoD’s decision to close Coltishall in 2006 and relocate the Sqn and service families to Coningsby for such a short period of time.

The Jaguar History
Courtesy Marcus Jellyman

Proposals for an advanced jet trainer were put forward in the 1960s. "Air Staff Target 362" (AST362) specified the requirement for a replacement aircraft for the Folland Gnat T.1 and the Hawker Hunter T.7. As well as a trainer, the aircraft would also be required to serve in the Light Attack Strike role. The British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) came up with a design that would feature twin afterburning engines and have a top speed of Mach 1.7. Funding for the project was to be a problem, after problems with the TSR.2 and the cost associated with it, the government of the day were reluctant to fund the project. At the same time in France the "Ecole de Combat et Appui Tactique"(ECAT) - (School of Combat and Technical Support) were looking for a replacement for the Fouga Magister and Lockheed T-33 in the training role, and the Republic F-84, North American F-100 and Super Mystere B2 in the Attack role. The ECAT requirement had been won by a design from the Breguet Company, the Breguet Br121 which was an updated design of the Br1001 that had lost out to the Fiat G.91 some years earlier.

Both Governments were keen on collaboration and discussions began. In March 1964 a joint provisional specification was announced, this was followed by a further detailed specification in October 1964. Differences on both sides about the specifics of the Trainer versus Attack requirements led to two collaborations, a Trainer based on the ECAT design for the RAF and a Trainer / Light Attack aircraft for the Armee de l’Air (AdA). Another advanced swing-wing fighter version known as the "Anglo-French Variable Geometry" (AFVG) aircraft would be destined for both the RAF and the AdA. A "Memorandum of Understanding" (MoU) to build both aircraft was signed by Britain and France in May 1965, with the aircraft formally being named the Jaguar in June of that year. In May 1966 a joint company was formed by BAC and Breguet Aviation under the name "Societe Europeanne de Production de l’Avion Ecole de Combat et Appui Tactique", and would be known as "SEPECAT". The AFVG design would eventually be cancelled with the British government unhappy at the French allegedly transferring funds over to a solely built AFVG designed by Dassault.

The British government were not overly impressed with some of the capabilities of the Br121 design and amongst other things pushed for the airframe to be larger. Eventually these changes were agreed to by the French and a second MoU was signed in January 1968 with both parties pledging to purchase at least 200 airframes each. The RAF would receive 110 Jaguar "B" Trainers and 90 single seat Jaguar "S" Strike fighters. Engines for the aircraft would again be an Anglo-French concern with the Rolls Royce RB.172 engine being merged with the Turbomeca T-260 Turbojet from France, the result being named the RT-172 Ardour (Mk101) afterburning turbofan. The Ardour Mk101 was soon replaced with the Mk102 due to problems with the re-heat. The Mk102 cured the problems and all RAF Jaguars would be fitted with the up-rated engine.

The maiden flight of the Jaguar took place on 8th September 1968 from Istres in the south of France. French Jaguar E-01 piloted by Breguet’s chief test pilot Bernard Witt took to the air for the 25 minute flight at an altitude of 17,000ft, during the flight no problems were reported except for the less than perfect Ardour Mk101 engines. All four Jaguar variants had flown by the end of 1971, with the French Jaguar "E" twin seat trainer prototype being the first to fly, followed by the French Jaguar "A" single seat strike variant in March 1969. The RAF "S" single seat strike variant flew for the first time in October 1969, with the RAF "B" two seat trainer last to fly in August 1971. With the prototypes already flying the British did a u-turn on their original order by signing for 165 Jaguar "S" strike versions and a reduced order for 35 for the "B" trainer version.

Jaguar Prototype XW560

Production lines were set up in both countries, one at Warton in the UK and the other in Colomiers, Toulouse, south west France. Sub-assemblies were built in each country, the wings, rear fuselage, engine intakes and tail assemblies were built in the UK, with the landing gear, centre fuselage section and nose built in France. These sub-assemblies were then shipped to each production line. The Ardour engines would also be built in each respective country, with the UK engine built in Derby and the French in Tarnos. Once initial deliveries commenced, the RAF variant designations were changed, the single seat Jaguar "S" became the "Jaguar Ground Attack / Reconnaissance Mk1 (GR.1)", with the two seat Jaguar "B" becoming the "Trainer Mk2 (T.2)", The French however retained the "A" and "E" designations.

From the early days of service the Jaguar has had a steady stream of upgrades. In 1983 RAF Jags were fitted with a new and improved navigation system, the Ferranti FIN 1064 was a much more capable unit, it was also considerably smaller and lighter than the original type. Aircraft were given the designations "GR.1A" and "T.2A" after the conversions.

After the type’s god showing in the Gulf War, and with delays in the Typhoon programme, further upgrades began in 1994. A GEC-Marconi TILAD (Thermal Imaging and Laser Designation) 200 targeting pod was introduced, this would allow LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) to be carried, aircraft were designated "GR.1B". Known as the "Jaguar 96" programme, a new MIL-STD 1553B data bus, new flat panel multi-function display, improved "Head up display (HUD)", "Hands on Throttle and Stick" (HOTAS), and a improved Nav-Attack system were integrated, bringing airframes up to "GR.3" standards.

Another series of upgrades began in 1997. The "Jaguar 97" programme made enhancements to the "96" programme, with a new colour multifunctional display screen, a new mission planning system, a "Night Vision Goggle (NVG)" capable cockpit and a "Helmet Mounted Sight System (HMSS)". The upgraded aircraft were delivered as the "GR.3A" and "T.4". Further upgrades to the Ardour engines would bring them up to Ardour 106 standards, similar to the Ardour 871 fitted to the US Navy T-45 Goshawk.

RAF Jaguar Squadrons

In March 1973, 226 Jaguar Operational Conversion Unit (JOCU) formed at RAF Lossiemouth, Morayshire. The unit were the first to receive the Jaguar, with XX111 arriving in May 1973. March 1974 saw 54 Sqn re-form at Lossiemouth, becoming the first operational Jaguar Sqn. Following operations with the F-4 Phantom at Coningsby, as a purely administrative exercise, 6 Sqn disbanded and re-formed within 24 hours at Lossiemouth in September 1974. Aircraft were displaying the now familiar chiselled features of the Laser Rangefinder and Marked Target Seeker nose for the first time. By the end of the year both 54 and 6 Sqns had relocated to RAF Coltishall in Norfolk, with 54 Sqn becoming combat ready in January of 1975. By April 1977 41(F) Sqn had become the third Jaguar squadron at Coltishall, also transferring over from the Phantom at Coningsby.

RAF Germany (RAFG) would become the largest user of the Jaguar with five Sqns based at RAF Bruggen and RAF Laarbruch. Bruggen was home to 14, 17, 31 and 20 Sqns, all being combat ready by the end of 1978. Laarbruch’s one and only Jaguar unit was that of 20(AC) Sqn, carrying out the Tactical Reconnaissance role. Jaguar operations in Germany were to last a decade, but with the new more advanced Panavia Tornado GR.1 coming on-line, Jaguars began to return to the UK. Last to leave were II(AC) Sqn, leaving in December 1987. Most of the RAFG aircraft were either flown into storage at RAF Shawbury, or were moved on to one RAF’s Technical Training Schools at Cosford and Halton.

RAF Coltishall now became the home of the Jaguar fleet, comprising of 6, 41(F) and 54 Sqns. Also at Coltishall the formally named 226 OCU had re-located from Lossiemouth and re-named 16(R) Sqn, tasked with the training of aircrew, along with running Weapons Instructor and Instrument Rating Examiner courses. With resurgence in Jaguar activity and on going upgrades taking place, the OCU conversion courses had a steady stream of students from the three remaining squadrons.

All four Sqns remained at Coltishall until March 2005 when defence spending cutbacks brought forward the Jaguar retirement date by two years, from 2009 to 2007. 16(R) and 54 Sqns disbanded, followed by the retirement of the Jaguar flying with the Strike Attack Operational Evaluation Unit (SAOEU) at Coningsby.

41 Sqn disbanded at the end of April 2006, this coinciding with the closure of Coltishall and the relocation of the last Jaguar Sqn, 6, to Coningsby in Lincolnshire. 41 Sqn became the shadow Sqn for the re-named SAOEU, by now the Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU). 6 Sqn was expected to convert to the Typhoon at Coningsby by October 2007, followed by a move north to RAF Leuchars as the station’s first Typhoon Sqn, however under current plans this will now happen some 18-24 months after disbandment.

RAF Jaguar Squadrons and roles:

II(AC) Sqn RAF Laarbruch (strike/recce) 1976-1989; then conversion to Tornado GR.1A

Jaguar GR.1A XZ109

6 Sqn RAF Coltishall (strike) 1974-2006; to RAF Coningsby 2006-2007

Jaguar GR.3 XX112

Jaguar GR.3 XZ114

Jaguar T.4 XW835

14 Sqn RAF Bruggen (strike) 1975-1985; then conversion to Tornado GR.1

Jaguar GR.1A XX750

16(R) Sqn RAF Lossiemouth (training) 1991-2005; to RAF Coltishall as Jaguar Operational Conversion Unit (OCU)

Jaguar GR.3 XX116

Jaguar GR.3A XX117

Jaguar GR.3A XX776

17 Sqn RAF Bruggen (strike) 1975-1985; then conversion to Tornado GR.1

Jaguar GR.1A XX746

20 Sqn RAF Bruggen (strike) 1977-1984; then conversion to Tornado GR.1

Jaguar GR.1A XX734

 31 Sqn RAF Bruggen (strike) 1976-1984; then conversion to Tornado GR.1

Jaguar GR.1A XZ387

41 Sqn RAF Coltishall (recce/attack) 1976-2006

Jaguar GR.1A XZ107

Jaguar GR.1A XZ363

Jaguar GR.1A XZ398

Jaguar GR.3A XZ103

54 Sqn RAF Coltishall (recce/attack) 1974-2005

Jaguar GR.1A XZ112

Jaguar GR.3 XX725

Jaguar GR.3A XZ112

226 OCU RAF Lossiemouth (training) 1974-1991; to 16(R) Sqn

Jaguar GR.1A XX116

Fast Jets & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU) RAF Coningsby 2004-2006; formerly the Strike/Attack OEU Boscombe Down

Jaguar GR.3 XZ113

Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) RAF Boscombe Down

Jaguar T.2 ZB615

Foreign Operators

France purchased 200 Jaguars (160 single seat Jaguar A and 40 twin seat Jaguar E), the last of these were retired from Armee de l’air service during 2004. Jaguars were also exported to a number of overseas countries. The largest single customer was the Indian Air Force, which received around 40 Jaguars and manufactured under license around 100 more as the 'Shamsher' for service in five Sqns, with another one expected to form in the near future. The type is still in limited production and under going a mid-life update.

The Jaguar International was an export version which was sold to Ecuador, Nigeria and Oman. Oman's 24 Jaguars have been brought to full GR.3A standard and currently serve with two Sqns. Ecuador continues to fly the Jaguar, with six aircraft believed to be in service. The current status of the 18 Nigerian aircraft is unknown.

Jaguar E

Jaguar GR.1


Jaguar GR.1 FAE

Jaguars in the Gulf - Operation GRANBY & DESERT STORM

The Desert Cats

Just as things looked to be winding down for the Jaguar, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In August 1990, aircraft and personnel from all three Sqns at Coltishall (6, 41 & 54), along with added support from 226 OCU were deployed to Thumrait in the Sultanate of Oman - a total of 12 aircraft and a peak of 22 pilots.

Surprisingly, given the age, and with newer aircraft in service Jaguar’s were the first British Strike aircraft to arrive in the Gulf. Because of the low level operations they were to carry out aircraft were delivered in a temporary "Desert Sand" colour scheme, lacking any squadron markings with only small pale blue/pink roundels and black registration marks applied, these would be later changed to white.

The new paint was described as an "Alkaline Removable Temporary Finish" (ARTF), which could be quickly removed if needed. Aircraft were fitted with a mixture of Jamming Pods and Flare/Chaff dispensers, along with a number of Recce Pods. Air and Ground Crews immediately began training for the harsh Desert environment, and with new modifications and system constantly being bought on-line, the airfield must have been a lively place to be. One of the most visible modifications would be the introduction of the over wing missile pylons to carry the AIM-9L "Sidewinder" missiles. Trials back in the UK at Boscombe Down were quickly approved, and all further aircraft to deploy to the Gulf were fitted with the rails. These aircraft were to become the most effective Jaguars in the fleet.

By October 1990, with RAF Tornado GR.1s from Germany arriving in Oman, the Jaguars were re-deployed to Muharraq International Airport in Bahrain. In November 1990 during a low level training mission, a Jaguar from 54 Sqn was lost, sadly killing the pilot. This was to be the Jaguar detachments only casualty during the conflict. The accident raised concerns with low level operations in the Gulf, and after consideration over tactics, low level operations (ops) were cancelled in favour of higher level operations.

January 1991 saw the Jaguar begin operations in Kuwait as Allied forces began the task of driving out Iraqi forces. Led by Wing Commander Bill Pixton, the Jaguar Detachment was assigned to day ops. Crews were organised to provide two eight ship missions per day, but only four Jaguars flew in the first operation, flown on the opening day of hostilities, against an Iraqi army barracks in Kuwait. 

Later in the conflict Jaguars were used in bombing sorties against the Iraqi Republican Guard communication posts. Jaguars also carried out reconnaissance missions providing information to the rest of the Jaguar crews as well as other Allied Air Forces. During the seven weeks of Operation Desert Storm, the Jaguars logged 611 sorties over 920 hours and 15 minutes of flying. 750 1000lb bombs, 385 CBU-87 Rockeye II cluster bombs, 608 CRV-7 rockets and 9,600 rounds of 30mm ammunition had been expended, along with three accidental launches of AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles.

Within days of the ground war ending in March 1991 the Jaguar detachment returned home to Coltishall. However, no sooner had the Jaguars returned to the UK, another detachment was heading out to Incerlik Air Base in Turkey, to fly patrols over the "No-Fly" Zones in Iraq for the United Nation peace keeping force.

The conflict in the Balkans saw the Jaguar in action again, with 6 Sqn deploying to Italy in February 1993. Policing flights were carried out for the United Nation Protection Force (UNPROFOR) over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Several rocket attacks were carried out against the Bosnian Serb Army.

The Historic 'Big 6' Flypast

30th April 2007

To mark the final operational sorties of the Jaguar, on 30th April 6 Sqn launched 13 Jaguars. In itself this speaks volumes about the skill of the engineers involved, providing such a large number of serviceable aircraft, however what the many hundreds of on-lookers gathered around the airfield witnessed on the day provided an emotional and lasting memory of the skill, pride and commitment of all involved.

At 14:00 local, "Boxer 1-13" were cleared to take-off from Coningsby's runway 07. Following a 90 minute farewell tour taking in RAF Shawbury, Valley, BAe Warton, RAF Leeming, Topcliffe and Linton-on-Ouse the formation (12 aircraft with a T.4 acting as the formation whip) returned to Coningsby from the east in a perfect 'Big 6' formation.

Following a change of formation the aircraft returned over their HAS site heading to the north - this time we were treated to a diamond-nine followed by a box-four. A long sweeping bank to the right brought the formation round onto runway heading of 070 degrees, where two by two the Jaguars peeled away at high speed from the formation into the visual circuit, turning on to finals from both left and right as they landed in a thirteen-strong stream. With all aircraft back on the deck, they slowly made their way up the southern taxiway and back to their HAS site.

6 Squadron – the Flying Can Openers

6 Sqn crest

Crown Copyright

6 Squadron was formed at South Farnborough on 31st January 1914 as an early unit of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Until its recent disbandment, the Sqn had the honour of being the oldest in RAF history. During WWI the Sqn operated the Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2; aviation pioneers Louis Strange and Lanoe Hawker were early members of 6 Sqn, combining their knowledge to develop the Aircraft Mounted Machine Gun. By the end of WWI the unit were operating the RAF RE.8 and 1919 saw the Sqn operating in Iraq. Officially an army co-operation unit, the Sqn was employed on general duties, patrolling dissident areas of Northern Iraq. After re-equipping with Bristol Fighters the Sqn moved to Egypt in October 1929 and when Fairey Gordons were received two years later, 6 Sqn was re-designated as a bomber Sqn.

The Gordons were replaced by Hawker Harts and Demons during 1935 and by 1938 the Sqn was operating the general purpose Hawker Hardy, these being supplemented by Gauntlets and Lysanders in 1939. The Lysander became the Sqn’s sole equipment by 1940 and once again took on the designation of army co-operation.

Detachments were provided for operations against the Italians in the Western Desert from September 1940 and early 1941 saw more potent equipment arrive in the shape of the Hurricane. Although by now flying a mixed bag of types including the Lysander, Blenheim, Gladiator and Hurricane the Sqn began pioneering operations in April 1942 when anti-tank operations began with the Hurricane IID; these canon armed aircraft earned the Sqn its nick name "Flying Can Openers". Conversion to rocket firing Hurricanes followed and the Sqn moved to Italy in February 1944 for operations over the Balkans for the remainder of the war.

Returning to Palestine in July 1945, the Sqn received a small number of Spitfire IXs but was destined to be the last front line unit to operate Hurricanes, giving these up in December 1946 for Tempest VIs. 

After a brief stint on the island of Cyprus, the Sqn moved back to the Middle East, with service in Sudan and Egypt prior to receiving its first jet aircraft, the De Havilland Vampire at the end of 1949.

The next few years saw a move back to Cyprus, operating Venoms and then three marks of the Canberra. After 45 years of operations abroad, the Sqn finally returned to the UK in 1969 to become the first F-4 Phantom Sqn, based at RAF Coningsby. The Sqn operated the Phantom for five years before and re-equipping with the Jaguar and moving to Coltishall. Whilst stationed at Coltishall 6 Sqn was involved in several Operations, including Operation GRANBY (Gulf War 1), Resinate North (Northern Iraq – until 2003) and Deny Flight in the Balkans. With the Closure of Coltishall in April 2006, 6 Sqn moved to Coningsby becoming the sole RAF Jaguar Unit. Overseas training continued throughout 2006/07, with the squadron attending various TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) exercises and only returning from a month long deployment to the United Arab Emirates weeks before the final announcement.

Five of the Sqn’s Jaguars were flown to DCAE Cosford on 18th May, for future use by No 1 School of Technical Training (1 SOTT). The delivery of the aircraft was in itself quite a feat, as Cosford's runway is a mere 3,890 feet in length with no permanent arrestor gear in place. When compared to the RHAG (Rotary Hydraulic Arrestor Gear) equipped 9,000 feet of tarmac at Coningsby, you can understand why the decision was made to install a temporary one.

The 12th June witnessed a further eight Jaguars depart for Cosford, with four aircraft returning at low level from the east in a poignant 'missing man' formation, pulling up over the ex 6 Sqn HAS site into a steady climb to altitude and on through the broken silver/grey lined clouds. A number of Sqn ground crew had gathered at a suitable vantage point to witness the departure and for the enthusiasts and well wishers gathered around the airfield this was a much appreciated but equally moving gesture from the Sqn.

6 Sqn formally disbanded at RAF Coningsby on the 31st May (see below) and the majority of the remaining Jaguars were due to leave for Cosford after the disbandment ceremony, however due to unsuitable weather conditions for the short runway at Cosford the eight Jaguars remained at Coningsby until 11th June.

Two specially painted examples remain at Coningsby for the Jaguar Farewell weekend taking place at the end of June, both GR.3As - XX725 wears a 'GRANBY' desert paint scheme and XX119 an elaborate and colourful Jaguar 'spotty' scheme. Jaguar T.4 XX835 also remained behind sporting colourfully marked fuel tanks, originally destined for XX119 but it was felt these would detract from the 'spotty' scheme.

Jaguar GR.3A XX725

Jaguar GR.3A XZ119

In early July this trio made their way to Cosford; once again aviation enthusiasts were much in evidence around Coningsby’s fence line and the Jaguars lived up to the Squadrons retirement "Go Loud" catchphrase. Wing Commander John Sullivan took the lead in XX119, keeping the jet low along the entire length of the runway before pulling up into a dark moody sky. T.4 XX835 was next out, flown by Squadron Leader Ian Smith with SEngO Mark Hodge in the back seat. Last man out, very appropriately, was Flt Lt Matt D’Aubyn, the youngest pilot on the Squadron and the last Jaguar pilot to be trained.

For the record the final ever RAF Jaguar flight took place on 20th December 2007, when T.2A XX833, operated by QinetiQ at Boscombe Down, retired from flying duties - some forty years after the prototypes first flight.

6 Sqn is currently due to be resurrected at RAF Coningsby at some point during 2009 when they will receive the latest Typhoon aircraft, before making the move north to RAF Leuchars where they will take up permanent residence as the third front line Typhoon Sqn.

The Disbandment

Against a backdrop of two static Jaguar GR.3A aircraft – XX725 and XX112 – on Thursday 31st May 2007 the last Royal Air Force Jaguar Sqn, 6, disbanded 93 years after its formation at South Farnborough on 31st January 1914. As one of the original seven squadrons that were planned to create the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the Sqn has never been disbanded, holding the record for being the longest continually operating military flying unit in the World. The events today signalled an end to an unrivalled (worldwide) 93 years of continuous service, during which time operations have been conducted from 91 bases on three continents.

Watched by veterans, families and invited guests, the Parade marched on, lead by the RAF College Cranwell Band. Reviewing Officer, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy and RAF Coningsby Station Commander, Group Captain Stuart Atha arrived with a party of VIP guests, including Air Officer Commanding No1 Group, Air-Vice Marshall David Walker.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy took the General Salute as the first flypast by a 6 Sqn Jaguar 'Vixen' formation flew overhead; he then conducted an Inspection of the Parade followed by a speech to the Sqn about their proud history. 

The 6 Sqn Standard Handover to RAF Coningsby was conducted by Sqn Standard Bearer Flt Lt Bob Bailey and his party; Officer Commanding Regiment Flight, Flt Lt Charlie Lynn accepted the Standard on behalf of the Station which will be returned to RAF College Cranwell until 6 Sqn is re-formed.

To signify the departure of 6 Sqn a second Jaguar 'Vixen' appeared head on and performed a memorable 'bomb burst' break over the parade. A three-ship flypast comprising of a single Hurricane, Jaguar and Typhoon ended the Ceremony as a reminder of the past, present and future aircraft of 6 Sqn.

Given the public affection for both the Jaguar and the Sqn, it’s appropriate to leave the final words to Wing Commander Sullivan "I have an immense pride in the Squadron and the Jaguar formation display showed the highly skilled specialists that we are". "When I first arrived, I asked the entire Squadron to bear three words in mind and those were: Jaguar, Force, Excellence and that should colour everything they do. Today at the disbandment of 6 Squadron everybody saw Jaguar Force Excellence".

Final Jaguar flights from Coningsby:

To DCAE Cosford 18th May 2007

XX847 EZ, XX729 EL, XZ398 EQ, XX738 ED & XX748 EG

To DCAE Cosford 12th June 2007

XX840 EY, XX112 EA, XZ103 EF, XZ392 EM, XX970 EH, XX752 EK, XZ399 EJ & XX724 EC

To DCAE Cosford 2nd July 2007

XX725, XX119 & XX835


Martin Keen wishes to thank the staff of the RAF Coningsby Media & Communications Office, Caroline Hogg and Maureen Huddlestone, for their kind assistance. To Wing Commander Sullivan and all the 6 Sqn personnel, thank you all, and on behalf of the Cottesmore Aviation Group may I extend our sincere best wishes for the future.

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