Air to Air Photography
Flying with the RAF's SAOEU
(Later renamed the Fast Jet and Weapons OEU before becoming 41(R) Squadron)
March 4, 2004

The SAOEU Jaguar GR.3A conducting fuel consumption trials on a more efficient engine
Jaguar GR.3A (XZ113) callsign 'Gauntlet 86' from the Strike Attack Operational Evaluation Unit (SAOEU) based at QinetiQ Boscombe Down. Seen here turning away at 18,000 feet after a 5 hour fuel consumption trial conducted in Air to Air Refuelling Area 7 (AARA 7) on March 4, 2004.
The  Royal Air Forces Strike Attack Operational Evaluation Unit (SAOEU) describes it's mission as; "to enhance the operational capability and survivability of the Tornado IDS, Harrier II and Jaguar forces." Their role is to evaluate new and existing equipment and to develop fast-jet ground attack tactics for the frontline squadrons. Apart from the Jaguar GR.3A, the SAOEU has 5 Tornado GR.4s and 2 Harrier GR.7s. The SAOEU is the only unit in the RAF where crews from all three ground attack aircraft types regularly fly together in a tactical environment.
The SAOEU is currently using its only Jaguar GR.3A (XZ113) to evaluate modifications to its twin Turbomeca/Rolls-Royce Adour 106 turbofans. The on-going trial is centred around a more efficient engine which should give the Jaguar increased range whilst on extended air to air refuelling missions.
The Jaguar remains in RAF service with four squadrons at RAF Coltishall namely 6, 16(R), 41(F) and 54(F) squadrons. Each squadron operated around 13 or 14 Jaguars, composed of one T.4 with the rest being GR.3As. The exception being 16(R) Squadron which had seven T.4s and just seven GR.3As. The Jaguar, which entered service in 1973 was expected to continue in the RAF until 2010/12 when it's role would be taken over by the Eurofighter Typhoon. It was announced in July 2004 that the Jaguar will go in 2005/2006 later extended to 2007.
It was in 1983 that the first OEU was formed at Boscombe Down (later under QinetiQ) with the Tornado GR.1. In 1988 it was renamed the SAOEU when Harriers and later a Jaguar were added. Meanwhile in 1987 the Tornado F.3 OEU was formed at RAF Coningsby. From April 1, 2004 the SAOEU moved their operations from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to form a new and larger OEU. The Tornado F.3 OEU and Air Guided Weapons OEU having moved here from RAF Valley with their Hawks, combined to form the newly-named Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJ&W OEU).

On March 31, 2006 the FJ&W OEU was renamed 41(Reserve) Squadron still at Coningsby following the disbandment of 41(F) Squadron at Coltishall the previous day.