On 20 December the only flying UK military-registered Sepecat Jaguar left in service bowed out, showing off to RAF personnel at several of its old bases to celebrate.
The 32-year-old Qinetiq-owned Jaguar T.2A, (XX833), which has been operated in conjunction with the UK Ministry of Defence as part of the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre operation, was used for trials flights, at the end of which the airframe was out of certificated hours.
The final flight was piloted by Sqn Ldr Andy Blythe, accompanied by Wg Cdr Paul Shakespeare, both from the Fast Jet Test Squadron (FJTS) based at RAF Boscombe Down.
At around 11:30 the aircraft took off from its home base for a medium-level flight, routed via a series of airfields closely associated with Jaguar operations: RAF Coltishall, RAF Coningsby and BAE Systems Warton (where XX833 was built in 1975), carrying out a slow and fast fly-past at each.
The aircraft also overflew RAF Marham where a number of the engineers that worked on the Jaguar are now based, before returning to Boscombe Down. Then at around 15:00, XX833 took to the air for the final time with a low-level flight around Wales, including an overflight of St Athan, eventually returning to Boscombe Down for a final flypast before landing at around 15:45. The Jaguar was also accompanied by one of QinetiQ’s Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets on these flights to obtain air-to-air photographs.
XX833 was manufactured at Warton as a two-seat operational advanced trainer and delivered to the RAF in February 1975. It was transferred to RAE Farnborough in February 1989, moving to Boscombe Down in April 1994 and finally becoming a QinetiQ asset in July 2001.
On retirement, XX833 had flown around 4,700 sorties, clocked up over 5,335 flying hours with more than 7,690 landings. In the 12 years of service at Boscombe Down, the aircraft has flown 1,070h, suffered five birdstrikes, one lightning strike, consumed nine engines (with an average life of 122.33h each), and carried out over 864 sorties.
XX833 is powered by two Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk 104 afterburning engines, producing a maximum speed of Mach 1.1 and a service ceiling of 14,023m (46,000ft). Its internal fuel capacity of 4,200 litres plus external fuel tanks gave an operational radius of around 1,400km (760nm).
Sepecat was a Franco-British project, conceived in 1966, to develop an advanced jet trainer and tactical strike aircraft. Partner companies were Breguet (later Dassault Breguet) and BAC (later British Aerospace) on the airframe, and Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca on the engine. Jaguars are still in active service with the Indian air force and the Royal Air Force of Oman. The last French air force Jaguar was retired in 2005.