Yet, there's one warplane that plays a highly specialized role - the SEPECAT Jaguar.
First acquired by the IAF in the 1980s, the Jaguar, dubbed "Shamsher" by India, is designed for deep penetration strikes on land and sea-based enemy targets.
It's one of two IAF planes capable of mounting nuclear strikes. Here's all about it.
Jaguar was co-developed by France and the UK
In 1966, France's Breguet Aviation and Britain's British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) formed a joint venture, SEPECAT, to meet both countries' requirement for a ground-strike aircraft.
Interestingly, SEPECAT got permission from Jaguar Cars to use its iconic name.
The Jaguar's first prototype flew in 1968. Britain and France both inducted over 200 Jaguars each.
These saw action in the Persian Gulf War and in Kosovo.
How India acquired the SEPECAT Jaguar
SEPECAT first pitched the Jaguar to the IAF in 1968.
However, India was more interested in developing its indigenous HAL HF-24 Marut as a Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) but it was extremely underpowered.
The IAF then selected the Jaguar over France's Mirage F-1 and Sweden's SAAB 37 Viggen.
120 Jaguars were license manufactured in India while 40 were built in the UK.
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IAF's Jaguar is used to target maritime and ground-based targets
There are at least two variants of the IAFs Jaguars depending on their roles. The Strike version (IS) is aimed at eliminating ground-based targets.
Likewise, the Maritime Strike (IM) variant looks to counter enemy warships and sea-based threats using anti-ship missiles.
Besides the Mirage-2000, the Jaguar is the only warplane the IAF possesses that's capable of launching nuclear weapon strikes.
Jaguars have regularly proven their mettle
IAF Jaguars flying out of southern Indian conducted reconnaissance missions for the Indian Peace Keeping Force deployed in Sri Lanka from 1987-90.
During the 1999 Kargil conflict, they conducted several combat sorties, dropping conventional bombs on Pakistani troops and insurgents.
The warplanes have also performed satisfactorily and have proven their mettle in multiple international exercises, including the elite 2016 "Red Flag" exercise in Alaska.
The Jaguars are not without problems
When first inducted by the IAF, the Jaguars came equipped with the first-generation inertial navigation and attack system named NAVWASS which was outdated and not very reliable. Its Rolls-Royce Adour engines were also underpowered. The Jaguars also lack autopilots, a critical flying aid.
Latest DARIN-III upgrade ensure the venerable Jaguars serve until 2030
To address these problems, India launched DARIN program to upgrade the Jaguars with modern avionics over time.
On August 10, 2017, the HAL for the first time flew the Jaguar DARIN-III aircraft variant, equipped with state-of-the-art AESA radar, 28 new sensors, autopilot and more.
With the DARIN-III upgrade, the over 25-year-old venerable Jaguar is expected to serve India for at least another decade.
Indian Air Force
Indian Armed Forces