They were always very good Tac Recce assets and the US really appreciated them over many years on Operation Northern Watch. I think that capability has been picked up by Tornados now and a rationalisation of the orbat has to be a good thing for costs, however, we should acknowledge that they were good at what they did, even if they were originally developed as an advanced jet trainer!
Smoothbore is correct. The original spec for what became the Jag originated in the mid 60's to provide a single seat CAS/BAI jet and a twin seat advanced trainer for the RAF and French AF/Navy. When the latter version became too expensive the Hawk/Alpha jet resulted and the twin sticker was used only for conversion trg. The French also cancelled their naval variant (not before it had flown off their carriers) and developed the Super Etendard.
More discussion on the retirement of the Jag on ARRSE here.
The F-4s were canned earlier than originally envisaged in about 92 as RAFG wound down. There had been plans to upgrade them with new avionics to maintain them until Typhoon came along (ala Luftwaffe) but this upgrade had already been binned. However, they still had far more notice than this and there was not such a high operational demand for the F-4's capabilities.
At a time when there is heavy demand for CAS and CAS capable aircraft to train FACs etc, this is a disappointing decision. It will be all the more disappointing if the Saudi Typhoon purchase delays declaration of an RAF CAS capability.
Spoke to some of the Jaguar RAF groundcrews about this very situation when I was on Magic Carpet. They said that the airframes were well past their flying hours and were suffering massively from fatgue cracks - they reckoned they were flying on a wing and prayer much of the time.
I don't doubt that the Jag had to go & it's right to rationalise airframe types where possible but to move them from Coltishall to Coningsby just 13 months ago (I think) & then to give just 3 days notice that the OSD has been brought forward massively, leaving uncertainty over short to medium term "employment" does show how BADLY broke the defence budget really is. Its a fact that Iraq & Afghanistan are bleeding us dry with no extra money available from the treasury.
There will be more cut backs to come & they will be more drastic than this, IMHO.
We have dozens of them in stroage with low fatigue indexes. Remember that the Jag was meant to soldier on until 09 under the original Typhoon plans.
It's right to rationalise aircraft. If it was up to me I'd bin the GR4 fleet for Tranche 3 Typhoons from 2012 ish, and an expanded purchase of JCA and TLAM. The money saved from the early retirement of the GR4 could fund all the bells and whistles we want on JCA and Typhoon.
What I don't agree with is the increasingly common habit of taking 'capability holidays' until replacements are put into service (eg FA2-JCA, Canberra PR9-ASTOR/MQ-9. This move has saved absolute peanuts.
Perhaps if the faceless civil servants only got the same allowances as the military (especially on detachment) or didn't spend millions of pounds renovating the Basra Palace pool and bar for themselves, we wouldn't need to make such cuts. I think this weekend I'm going to request via FOI the figures for how much taxpayers money the FCO has spent on reconstruction in Basra in comparison to how much they spent on the pool/bar/hardened en suite accommodation which they refused to allow the military to use even when they vacated it for hotels in Kuwait.
It's right to rationalise aircraft. If it was up to me I'd bin the GR4 fleet with Tranche 3 Typhoons from 2012 ish, and an expanded purchase of JCA and TLAM. The money saved from the early retirement of the GR4 could fund all the bells and whistles we want on JCA and Typhoon.