Two volunteer guides at the Yorkshire Air Museum have been reunited with the Cold War jet they both piloted during their time as Royal Air force (RAF) fast jet pilots. The SEPECAT Jaguar XZ383, was recently donated by the RAF.  The volunteers who flew this Jaguar are particular jet are Gary Fairhurst and Derek Earp.

This Anglo-French-designed, single-seater attack aircraft first joined the RAF in the 1970s and was retired in 2007. SEPECAT was a collaboration between the British Aircraft Corporation (later BAE Systems) and the French firm Breguet, designed to serve as both a combat trainer and ground attack aircraft. In the 1990s, Jaguars equipped with conventional weapons participated in Operation Granby to liberate Kuwait and in Operation Deliberate Force over Bosnia.

Jaguar XZ383 was part of an order placed in 1974 and was delivered to RAF Bruggen in Germany in 1977. It was relocated to RAF Coltishall in Norfolk in 1985, and later moved to Cosford, where it was used for training RAF engineers.

The RAF donated Jaguar XZ383 to the Yorkshire Air Museum, and it was transported by road from RAF Cosford in the Midlands to the museum near York. It took several months of dedicated work by museum staff and volunteers to reassemble and restore the aircraft. During its service, the Jaguar was equipped with the WE177 nuclear bomb and would have been deployed to strike targets in the Soviet Union if the Cold War had escalated.

Gary Fairhurst (L) and Derek Earp (R) are museum volunteer guides who flew XZ383 during their RAF careers.

Derek, who has accumulated over 2,000 flight hours on RAF Jaguars as well as Omani and Ecuadorian versions, shared his experience: “I first flew XZ383 (AF) in March 1984 while serving with 14 Squadron at RAF Bruggen in Germany. Over the next two years, I flew the aircraft on numerous occasions.

In September and October 1986, I was reunited with XZ383 when my unit exchanged some of their Jaguar Mk1A aircraft for older RAF Coltishall Mk1 aircraft, including XZ383. I flew XZ383 on a detachment to Decimomannu in Sardinia. With so much time spent flying the Jaguar, it became a significant part of my life. Being reunited with an airframe I flew brings back many memories, mostly good ones!”

Derek Earp on the left

Fellow volunteer and former pilot Gary Fairhurst added: “In June 1983, after over three years of flight training, I was selected to fly the single-seat ground attack Jaguar GR1.

In November 1985, my squadron deployed to Decimomannu in Sardinia for intensive Air Combat Training. My logbook shows that on November 15th and 18th, I flew XZ383, known as ‘Alpha Fox.’ Fast forward almost 38 years, and that same aircraft arrives at the Yorkshire Air Museum, where I now volunteer. It’s amazing to see it become part of our growing collection. But how could that be? I can’t be old enough, can I?”

Yorkshire Air Museum’s Aviation Conservation Manager, Gary Hancock, led the project to move XZ383 to Elvington. He coordinated with the RAF and oversaw the dismantling, transportation, and reassembly of the aircraft. Gary Hancock commented:

“Jaguar XZ383 is a fantastic addition to our collection, one we’ve sought for around 15 years. We’re particularly delighted to have volunteers who have flown it, as it adds depth to the story. Additionally, it’s almost 100% complete (except for parts the RAF had to remove), which makes a huge difference. With this addition, our Cold War jet collection continues to grow stronger.”

A beautiful aerial photo of the Yorkshire Air Museum. Notice the WWII era Quonset huts.