F-5 Tiger: Wikis


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F-5A/B Freedom Fighter
F-5E/F Tiger II
A late production F-5E Tiger II for the USAF, differentiated by the longer dorsal spine
Role Fighter / attack aircraft
Manufacturer Northrop
First flight F-5A: 30 July 1959
F-5E: 11 August 1972
Introduction 1962
Status Operational
Primary users United States Navy
Philippine Air Force
Brazilian Air Force
See Operators for others
Number built A/B/C: 847[1]
E/F: 1,399[2]
Unit cost F-5E: US$2.1 million[3]
Developed from T-38 Talon
Variants Canadair CF-5
F-20 Tigershark

The Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and F-5E/F Tiger II are part of a family of widely used light supersonic fighter aircraft, designed and built by Northrop in the United States, beginning in 1960s. Hundreds remain in service in air forces around the world in the early 21st Century, and the type has also been the basis for a number of other aircraft.

The F-5 started life as a privately funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s. The first generation F-5A Freedom Fighter entered service in the 1960s. Over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies during the Cold War. The USAF had no need for a light fighter, but it did specify a requirement for a supersonic trainer and procured about 1,200 of a derivative airframe for this purpose, the T-38 Talon.

The improved second-generation F-5E Tiger II was also primarily used by American Cold War allies and, in limited quantities, served in US military aviation as a training and aggressor aircraft; Tiger II production amounted to 1,400 of all versions, with production ending in 1987. Many F-5s continuing in service into the 1990s and 2000s have undergone a wide variety of upgrade programs to keep pace with the changing combat environment. The F-5 was also developed into a dedicated reconnaissance version, the RF-5 Tigereye.

The F-5 serves as a starting point for a series of design studies which resulted in the twin-tailed Northrop YF-17 and the F/A-18 series of carrier-based fighters. The F-20 Tigershark was an advanced version of the F-5E that did not find a market. The F-5N/F variants remain in service with the United States Navy as an adversary trainer.[4]


Design and development

The first Northrop YF-5A prototype aircraft

In the mid 1950s, Northrop started development a low-cost, low-maintenance fighter, with the company designation N-156, partly to meet a US Navy requirement for a jet fighter to operate from its Escort Carriers, which were too small to operate the Navy's existing jet fighters. This requirement disappeared when the Navy decided to withdraw the Escort Carriers, but Northrop continued development of the N-156, with both a two seat advanced trainer (the N-156T), and a single-seat fighter (the N-156F) planned. The N-156 was based on the use of a pair of an afterburning version of the General Electric J85 engine which was originally designed to power the tiny McDonnell ADM-20 Quail decoy, then carried by the B-52 bomber. This requirement created a very small engine with a very high thrust-to-weight ratio.[5]

The N-156T was selected by the United States Air Force as a replacement for the T-33 in July 1965, allowing development of the trainer to progress at full speed, the first example, later designated YT-38 Talon flying on June 12, 1959, with a total of 1,158 Talons being built by the time production ended in January 1972.[6][7]

Development of the N-156F continued at a lower priority as a private venture by Northrop, which was rewarded by an order for three prototypes on February 25, 1958 as a prospective low cost fighter that could be supplied under the Military Assistance Program for distribution to less-developed nations. The first N-156F flew at Edwards Air Force Base on July 30, 1959, exceeding the speed of sound on its first flight.[8]

Although testing of the N-156F was successful, demonstrating unprecedented reliability and proving superior in the ground-attack role to the USAF's existing F-100 Super Sabres, official interest in the Northrop type waned, and by 1960 it looked as if the progam was a failure. Interest revived in 1961, however, when the U.S. Army tested it, (along with the A-4 Skyhawk and Fiat G.91) for reconnaissance and close-support, but although all three types proved capable during Army testing, operating fixed-wing combat aircraft was legally the responsibility of the Air Force, which would neither agree to operate the N-156 nor to allow the Army to operate fixed-wing combat aircraft (a situation repeated with the C-7 Caribou).[9] In 1962, however, the Kennedy Administration revived the requirement for a low-cost export fighter, selecting the N-156F as winner of the F-X competition on April 23, 1962 subsequently becoming the F-5A, being ordered into production in October that year.[10] It was named under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system which included a re-set of the fighter number series (the General Dynamics F-111 was the highest sequentially numbered P/F- aircraft to enter service under the old number sequence).

Northrop built 636 F-5As (including the YF-5A prototype) before production ended in 1972. These were accompanied by 200 two-seat F-5B aircraft. These were operational trainers, lacking the nose-mounted cannon but otherwise combat-capable, while 86 RF-5A reconnaissance variants of the F-5A, fitted with a four camera nose were also built. In addition Canadair built 240 first generation F-5s under license, with CASA in Spain adding a further 70 aircraft.[11]


F-5E and F-5F Tiger II

Early series F-5E

In 1970 Northrop won a competition for an improved International Fighter Aircraft (IFA) to replace the F-5A, with better air-to-air performance against aircraft like the Soviet MiG 21. The resultant aircraft, initially known as F-5A-21, subsequently became the F-5E. It had more powerful (5,000 lbf) J-85-21 engines, and had a lengthened and enlarged fuselage, accommodating more fuel. Its wings were fitted with enlarged leading edge extensions, giving an increased wing area and improved manouverability. The aircraft's avionics were more sophisticated, cruicially including a radar (initially the Emerson Electric AN/APQ-153) (the F-5A and B had no radar). It retained the gun armament of two M39 cannon, one on either side of the nose) of the F-5A. Various specific avionics fits could be accommodated at customer request, including an inertial navigation system, TACAN and ECM equipment.[12] The first F-5E flew on August 11, 1972.[13]

A two-seat combat-capable trainer, the F-5F, was offered, first flying on September 25, 1974, with a new, longer nose, which, unlike the F-5B which did not mount a gun, allowed it to retain a single M39 cannon, albeit with a reduced ammunition capacity.[14] The two-seater was equipped with the Emerson AN/APQ-157 radar, which is a derivative of the AN/APQ-153 radar, with dual control and display systems to accommodate the two-men crew, and the radar has the same range of AN/APQ-153, around 10 nm. A reconnaissance version, the RF-5E Tigereye, with a sensor package in the nose displacing the radar and one cannon, was also offered. The latest radar upgrade included the Emerson AN/APG-69, which was the successor of AN/APQ-159, incorporating mapping capability, however, most nations chose not to upgrade due to financial reasons, and the radar only saw very limited service in USAF aggressor squadrons and Swiss air force.

Official roll-out of first USAF F-5E Tiger-II

The F-5E eventually received the official name Tiger II. The F-5E experienced numerous upgrades in its service life, with the most significant one being adopting a new planar array radar, Emerson AN/APQ-159 with a range of 20 nmi to replace the original AN/APQ-153. Similar radar upgrades were also proposed for F-5F, with the derivative of AN/APQ-159, the AN/APQ-167, to replace the AN/APQ-157, but was never carried out.

USAF F-5F with AIM-9J Sidewinder, AGM-65 Maverick missiles and auxiliary fuel tanks over Edwards Air Force Base, in September 1976.

Northrop built 792 F-5Es, 140 F-5Fs and 12 RF-5Es.[11] More were built under license overseas: 91 F-5Es and -Fs in Switzerland;[15] 68 by Korean Air in South Korea,[16] and 308 in Taiwan.[17]

The F-5 proved to be a successful combat aircraft for US allies, but had only limited combat service with the US Air Force in Vietnam. The two-seat F-5B actually preceded the F-5A and was actually a fighter development of the T-38 Talon supersonic trainer. The design was grown into the F-20 Tigershark, which lost out on export sales to the F-16 in the 1980s.


Various F-5 versions remain in service with many nations. Singapore has approximately 49 modernized and re-designated F-5S (single-seat) and F-5T (two-seat) aircraft. Upgrades include new FIAR Grifo-F X-band radar from Galileo Avionica (similar in performance to the AN/APG-69), updated cockpits with multi-function displays, and compatibility with the AIM-120 AMRAAM and RAFAEL Python air-to-air missiles.[18][19]

Similar programs have been carried out in Chile and Brazil with the help of Elbit. The Chilean upgrade, called the F-5 Plus, incorporated a new Elta 2032 radar and other improvements. The Brazilian program, whose product is called the F-5M (Modernized), is armed with Python V coupled to the DASH helmet-mounted cue system, and new GRIFO radar, cockpit displays and navigation electronics. The Brazilian F-5M is also equipped with the Israeli Derby missile and can operate in a BVR environment. In the Cruzex 2006 multinational war games, a Brazilian F-5 made simulated kills on two French Air Force Dassault Mirage 2000N aircraft, which were supported by an E-3 Sentry and escorted by other two Mirage 2000C. This result was achieved by using the Derby and the information relayed by datalink from an AEW&C plane, the Embraer R-99, fitted with the Erieye AESA radar.[20]

NASA F-5E modified for DARPA sonic boom tests

Other upgrade programs have been carried out in Royal Thai Air Force by Israel being called the F-5T Tigris, armed with Python III and 4 (with the Dash helmet-mounted cueing system). Unlike other F-5s which have undergone updates, the RTAF aircraft cannot use BVR missiles.

One NASA F-5E was given a modified fuselage shape for its employment in the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration program carried out by DARPA. It is preserved in the Valiant Air Command Museum at Titusville, Florida.

Operational history

United States

The first contract for the production F-5A was issued in 1962, the first overseas order coming from the Royal Norwegian Air Force on February 28, 1964. It entered service with the 4441st Combat Crew Training School of the USAF, which had the role of training pilots and ground crew for customer nations, on April 30 that year, it still not being intended that the aircraft be used in significant numbers by the USAF itself.[21]

In October 1965, this changed when the USAF began a five-month combat evaluation of the F-5A titled Skoshi Tiger. Twelve aircraft were delivered for trials to the 4503rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, and after modification with probe and drogue aerial refueling equipment, armor and improved instruments, were redesignated as the F-5C.[22] Over the next six months, they performed combat duty in Vietnam, flying more than 2,600 sorties, both from the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Bien Hoa over South Vietnam, and from Da Nang Air Base where operations were flown over Laos. One aircraft was lost in combat.[23] Though declared a success, with the aircraft generally as capable a ground-attack aircraft as the F-100, but suffering from a shorter range,[24] the program as much a political gesture intended to aid the export of more F-5s than a serious consideration of the type for U.S. service.[22] From April 1966 the aircraft continued operations as 10th Fighter Commando Squadron with their number boosted to seventeen aircraft. (Following Skoshi Tiger the Philippine Air Force acquired F-5A and B models in 1965, putting twenty-three into service. These aircraft, along with remanufactured F-8 Crusaders, eventually replaced the F-86 Sabre in the air defense and ground attack roles.)

In June 1967 the 10th FCS's surviving aircraft were turned over to the air force of South Vietnam, which previously had only A-37 Dragonfly and A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft. This new VNAF squadron was titled the 522nd. The president of Vietnam had originally asked for F-4 Phantoms used by the Americans, but the VNAF flew primarily ground support as the communist forces employed no opposing aircraft over South Vietnam, MiG or otherwise. Ironically, when Bien Hoa was later overrun by Communist forces, several of the aircraft were captured and used operationally by the NVAF, in particular against Khmer Rouge. In view of the performance, agility and size of the F-5, it might have appeared to be a good match against the similar MiG-21 in air combat; however, US doctrine was to use heavy, faster, and longer-range aircraft like the F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II over North Vietnam. Several of the F-5s left over from the Vietnam war were sent to Poland and Russia, for advanced study of US aviation technology,[25] while others were decommissioned and put on display at museums in Vietnam.

Although the United States does not use the F-5 in a front line role, it was adopted for an opposing forces (OPFOR) "aggressor" for dissimilar training role because of its small size and performance similarities to the Soviet MiG-21.

New Jersey Air National Guard F-4 Phantom II aircraft flying in close formation with a Norwegian Air Force F-5A Freedom Fighter aircraft during an exercise in 1982

The F-5E saw service with the US Air Force from 1975 until 1990, serving in the 64th Aggressor Squadron and 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and with the 527th Aggressor Squadron at Alconbury RAF Base in the UK and the 26th Aggressor Squadron at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The Marines purchased ex-USAF models in 1989 to replace their F-21s, which served with VMFT-401 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. The U.S. Navy used the F-5E extensively at the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) when it was located at NAS Miramar, California. When TOPGUN relocated to become part of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada, the command divested itself of the F-5, choosing to rely on VC-13 (redesignated VFC-13 and which already used F-5s) to employ their F-5s as adversary aircraft. Former adversary squadrons such as VF-43 at NAS Oceana, VF-45 at NAS Key West, VF-126 at NAS Miramar, and VFA-127 at NAS Lemoore have also operated the F-5 along with other aircraft types in support of Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT).

The U.S. Navy F-5 fleet continues to be modernized with 36 low-hour F-5E/Fs purchased from Switzerland in 2006. These were updated as F-5N/Fs with modernized avionics and other improved systems. Currently, the only U.S. Navy units flying the F-5 are VFC-13 at NAS Fallon, Nevada and VFC-111 at NAS Key West, Florida.[4]

Republic of China (Taiwan)

The Republic of China Air Force received its first batch of seven F-5As and two F-5Bs under the US Military Assistance Program in 1965. By 1971, the ROCAF was operating 72 F-5As and 11 F-5Bs.[26][27] During 1972, the US decided to borrow 48 F-5As from Taiwan to boost the South Vietnam Air Force strength before withdrawing US forces from South Vietnam. By 1973 most of those loaned F-5As in South Vietnam were not in flying shape consequently the US decided to return 20 F-5As to Taiwan by drawing nine F-5As from US reserves while repairing a further 11 from those still in flying shape in South Vietnam. These were sent to Taiwan to make necessary repairs, with gave 28 F-5Es issued to Taiwan by May 1975 in return.[28][29] By 1973, Taiwan's AIDC started local production of a first batch of 100 F-5Es in Taiwan, this was the first of six Peace Tiger batches. By end of 1986 when the production line closed after completing Peace Tiger 6, the AIDC had produced 242 F-5E and 66 F-5F, making Taiwan the largest F-5E/F operator at one time.[30] A bit of F-20 influence can be seen in the last batch of F-5E/F by AIDC in Taiwan that featured the F-20's shark nose.

With the introduction of 150 F-16s, 60 Mirage 2000-5s and 130 F-CK-1s in mid to late 1990s, the F-5E/F series became second line fighters in ROCAF service and mostly are now withdrawn from service as squadrons converted to the new fighters entering ROCAF service. Seven low airframe hours F-5Es were sent to Singapore Aerospace to convert them to RF-5E standard to fulfill a reconnaissance role previously undertaken by the retiring RF-104G in ROCAF service.[31] As of 2009, only about 40 ROCAF F-5E/Fs still remain in service in training roles with about 90-100 F-5E/Fs held in reserve. The other retired F-5E/F are either scrapped, or used as decoys painted in colors representing the main front line F-16, Mirage 2000-5 or F-CK-1 fighters, and deployed around major air bases.[32][33]

Taiwan also tried to upgrade the F-5E/F fleet with AIDC's Tiger 2000/2001 program. The first flight took place on 24 July 2002. The program would replace the F-5E/F's radar with F-CK-1's GD-53 radar and allow the fighter to carry a single TC-2 BVRAAM on the centerline. But lack of interest from the Taiwan/ROC Air Force eventually killed the program. The only prototype is on display in AIDC in Central Taiwan.[34][35][36]

The only air combat actions ROCAF F-5E/F pilots saw were not over Taiwan, but in North Yemen. In 1979, a flareup between North and South Yemen prompted the US to sell F-5E/Fs to North Yemen to boost its air defense. Since no one in North Yemen knew how to fly the F-5E, US and Saudi Arabia arranged to have 80+ ROCAF F-5E pilots plus ground crew and anti-air defense units sent to North Yemen, from 1979 to 1985. The F-5E scored a few kills in a few air battles, but the ground early warning radar crews and anti-air units also suffered from air attacks from South Yemen, the aircraft being piloted by Soviet crews.[37]


The Imperial Iranian Air Force received extensive US equipment in the 1960s and 1970s. Iran received its first 11 F-5A and two F-5Bs in February 1965 which were then declared operational in June 1965. Ultimately, Iran received 104 F-5A and 23 F-5Bs by 1972. From January 1974 with the first squadron of 28 F-5Fs, Iran received a total of 166 F-5E/F and 15 additional RF-5Es with deliveries ending in 1976. While receiving the F-5E and F, Iran started selling its F-5A and Bs to other countries including Ethiopia, Turkey, Greece and South Vietnam; by 1976, they were all sold apart from some F-5Bs retained for training.

After the revolution, the new Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force was partially successful keeping Western fighters in service during the war with Iraq in the 1980s and the simple F-5 had a good service readiness until late in the war. Initially Iran took spare parts from foreign sources, later it was able to have its new aircraft industry keep the aircraft flying.[38]

During the war with Iraq, IRIAF F-5s were heavily involved, flying air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties. Iranian F-5s took part in many air combats with Iraqi MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25, Su-20/22, Mirage F-1 and Super Etendards scoring many victories but also suffering many losses. However the exact combat record is not known with many different claims from Iraqi, Iranian and even Western and Russian sources. Also, it appears that many IRIAF pilots were victims of their own unstable regime - in many cases, they were imprisoned and executed by the Iranian government itself, often on vague charges. Adding to the haze surrounding the F-5's combat record is that many of the IRIAF's confirmed air-to-air kills were, for political reasons, attributed to the Revolutionary Guards. Nonetheless there are reports that an F-5E, piloted by Major Yadollah Javadpour, managed to shoot down a MiG-25.[39]

From a general standpoint, during the first years of service, Iranian F-5 fighter aircraft had the advantage in missile technology, using advanced versions of the IR seeking Sidewinder, later lost with deliveries of new missiles and fighters to Iraq.[40]

Today, Iran produces an indigenous aircraft titled the "Saegeh" which is built on the same platform as the F5.


Ethiopia received 10 F-5As and two F-5Bs from the US starting in 1966. In addition to these, Ethiopia had a training squadron equipped with at least eight T-33 Shooting Stars. In 1970, Iran transferred at least three F-5As and Bs to Ethiopia. In 1975, another agreement was reached with the US to deliver a number of military aircraft, including 14 F-5Es and three F-5Fs; later in the same year eight F-5Es were transferred while the others were embargoed and delivered to a USAF aggressor Squadron due to the changed political situation. The US also withdrew its personnel and cut diplomatic relations. Ethipioan officers contracted a number of Israelis to maintain American equipment.

The Ethiopian F-5 fighters saw combat action against Somali forces during the Ogaden War (1977–1978). The main Somali fighter aircraft was the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21MF delivered in the 1970s, supported by Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s delivered in the 1960s by the Soviet Union.

Ethiopian F-5E aircraft were used to gain air superiority because they could use the AIM-9B air to air missile, while the F-5As were kept for air interdiction and air strike. During this period Ethiopian F-5Es went on training against Ethiopian F-5As and F-86 Sabres (simulating Somali MiG-21s and MiG-17s).

On 17 July 1977, two Ethiopian F-5s were on combat air patrol near Harer, when four Somali MiG-21MFs were detected nearby. In the engagement, two MiG-21s were shot down while the other two had a midair collision while avoiding a AIM-9B missile. The nationality of the F-5 pilots (Israeli or Ethiopian) is disputed. The better-trained Ethiopian Air Force F-5 pilots swiftly gained air superiority over the Somali Air Force, shooting down a number of aircraft, while other Somali aircraft were lost to air defense and to incidents. However at least three F-5s were shot down by air defense forces during attacks against supply bases in western Somalia.[41]


F-5As and F-5Bs took part in the Polisario War in Western Sahara in the 1980s. During the war, the Polisario Front was aided by East European, Cuban and Algerian advisers. They were armed with heavy weapons and even with sophisticated heavy SA-6 anti-aircraft systems. Some 14 F-5s were lost during combat. 24 F-5Es have been upgraded to F-5TIII standard.[42]

Saudi Arabia

During the Gulf War, Saudi F-5Es flew close air support and aerial interdiction missions against Iraqi units in Kuwait. One RSAF F-5E was lost to ground fire on February 13, 1991.[43] In Saudi Arabian service, approximately 20 Tigers have been lost to various causes over the years.


The Royal Norwegian Air Force currently have 15 F-5As on the ground. Three aircraft used only for test flights (weapon evaluation of Naval Strike Missile, 2003–2005). Currently for sale.[44]


Single-seat versions

RTAF F-5 and USAF F-15 in the background
Single-seat fighter prototype. Only three aircraft were built.
The three prototypes were given the US Air Force designation YF-5A.
Single-seat fighter version of the F-5A.
F-5A (G)
Single-seat fighter version of the F-5A for the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
This designation was given to one aircraft used for static tests.
Designation of Spanish built F-5A which served in the Ejército del Aire
F-5C Skoshi Tiger
12 F-5A Freedom Fighters, were tested by the US Air Force for four and a half months in Vietnam.
F-5E Tiger II
Single-seat fighter version.
F-5E Tiger III
Upgraded version of the F-5E in use by the Chilean Air Force.
The temporary designation given to the F-20 Tigershark.
Ex-Swiss Air Force F-5Es used by the US Navy as "aggressor" aircraft, intended to replace high-time USN/USMC F-5Es in the adversary role, and see service through to 2015.[4]
Upgraded version of the F-5E in use by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, equipped with the Galileo Avionica's FIAR Grifo-F X-band radar and are capable of firing the AIM-120 AMRAAM.[18][19]
F-5T Tigris
Upgraded version of the F-5E of Royal Thai Air Force by Israel.
Upgraded version of the F-5E of Brazilian Air Force.
Upgraded version of the F-5E,in service with the Royal Moroccan Air Force.

Reconnaissance versions

Single-seat reconnaissance version of the F-5A fighter. Approximately 120 were built.[45]
RF-5A (G)
Single-seat reconnaissance version of the F-5A fighter for the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
RF-5E Tigereye
Single-seat reconnaissance version of the F-5E fighter. The RF-5E Tigereye was exported to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Malaysia.
RF-5E Tigergazer
Seven upgraded single-seat reconnaissance version of the F-5E for Taiwan by Singapore Aerospace.
RF-5S Tigereye
Single-seat reconnaissance version of the F-5S for the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
Spanish reconnaissance aircraft

Two-seat versions

Chilean F-5F Tiger II just after delivery in 1977
A civilian F-5B (restored to include a U.S. Air Force paint scheme) flies a low pass down Runway 30 at the Mojave Spaceport
Temporarily designation given to the YF-5B.
One F-5B was fitted with a 5,000 lbf (2,268 kgf) General Electric J85-GE-21 engine, and used as a prototype for the F-5E Tiger II.
Two-seat fighter version for the Republic of Korea Air Force.
Two-seat trainer version of the F-5B for the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
Unbuilt trainer version.
F-5F Tiger II
Two-seat trainer version of F-5E Tiger II.
F-5F Tiger III
Upgraded trainer version of the F-5F in use by the Chilean Air Force.
Upgraded F-5F in use by the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
Upgraded trainer version of the F-5F for the Brazilian Air Force.

Foreign variants

Licensed versions

Fighter versions for the Canadian Forces Air Command built under license by Canadair. Its Canadian designation is CF-116.
Single-seat fighter version of the CF-5A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. 75 built.
Two-seat training version of the CF-5D for the Royal Netherlands Air force. 30 built.
Single-seat fighter version of the F-5A for the Spanish Air Force. Built under licence in Spain by CASA.
Single-seat reconnaissance version of the RF-5A for the Spanish Air force. Built under license in Spain By CASA.
Two-seat training version of the F-5B for the Spanish Air Force. Built under license in Spain by CASA.
Single-seat version of the CF-5A for the Venezuelan Air Force. This designation was given to some Canadair CF-116s which were sold to the Venezuelan Air Force.
Two-seat training version of the CF-5D for the Venezuelan Air Force.
F-5E built in South Korea for Republic of Korea Air Force. First introduction Time : September, 1982.
F-5F built in South Korea for Republic of Korea Air Force. First introduction Time : September, 1982.

Unlicensed versions

Imperial Iranian Air Force Golden Crown F-5E
F-5E built in Iran with unknown modifications and a mid wing.[46]
F-5E modified in Iran with canted, twin vertical stabilizers.


F-20 Tigershark

Northrop attempted to develop an advanced version of the F-5E, originally designated F-5G, as an export competitor for the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-5G was later redesignated the F-20 Tigershark. It received favorable reviews as a less expensive but capable alternative to early-block variants of the F-16 (and superior to the similarly never-purchased export variant F-16/79), but it never had the appeal of the much newer fighter design even at a lower cost.

Northrop YF-17

The Northrop YF-17's aircraft's main design elements date from the F-5 based internal Northrop project N-300. The N-300 featured a longer fuselage, small leading-edge root extensions (LERX), and more powerful GE15-J1A1 turbojets. The wing was moved higher on the fuselage to increase ordnance flexibility. The N-300 further evolved into the P-530 Cobra. The P-530's wing planform and nose section was similar to the F-5, with a trapezoidal shape formed by a sweep of 20° at the quarter-chord line, and an unswept trailing edge, but was over double the area. While the YF-17 lost its bid for the USAF lightweight fighter, it would be developed into the larger F/A-18 Hornet, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet currently in production.


Operators of Northrop F-5 Tiger
Kenya Air Force F-5E Tiger II and an USAF C-5 Galaxy in the background
  • Botswana Air Force purchased 10 upgraded CF-5As and 3 CF-5Ds from Canada in 1996.[48] A further two CF-5Ds were purchased in 2000.[49]
  • Chilean Air Force: Chile purchased 15 F-Es and 3 F-5Fs in the 1970s, these being upgraded to Tigre III standard from 1993. In 1995, it supplemented its fleet with 10 F-5Es and 2 F-5Fs from Honduras.[51] The 16 F-5E Tigre IIIs are going to be replaced in 2009 by 16 F-16 MLU T5.[52]
  • Indonesian Air Force: All 16 F-5Es have been retired since late 2005 but are in reserve in case of future use.
  • Kenya Air Force: In July 2008, it was reported that Kenya will spend 1.5 billion KSh to buy 15 former Jordanian Air Force F-5, 13 F-5E and 2 F-5F[53] (plus training and spare parts). They will be added or eventually replace the current F-5 fleet [54]
  • Pakistan Air Force: On loan from the Royal Jordanian Air Force during a conflict against India.
  • Paraguayan Air Force: In 1996 Taiwan announced the donation of 10 F-5E and 2 F-5F to the FAP. The donation never materialized because the Paraguayan government in 1998 preferred more Bell UH-1H helicopters instead. Taiwan donated 10 UH-1H between 1996 and 2003.
 Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • Republic of China Air Force: First received the F-5A and B in 1965. From 1973 to 1986, Taiwan produced 308 F-5E and Fs under license. Later batches have F-20 style flattened nose and enlarged LERX.[56]
 Saudi Arabia
  • Royal Saudi Air Force: 110× F-5E/Fs withdrawn from active service aside from in the trainer role, some squadrons such as #10 based in Taif will be replaced with Eurofighter Typhoons.
An F-5S belonging to 144 Squadron, Republic of Singapore Air Force prepares for takeoff
 South Korea
  • Royal Thai Air Force: Older F-5A/B & F-5E/F slated for retirement in 2011, to be replaced by the JAS 39 Gripen. Upgraded F-5T Tigris will continue to serve on for the foreseeable future.
Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger II of the Patrouille Suisse aerobatics team arriving at RIAT 2008, England
NF-5B of the Turkish Stars aerobatic team at RIAT 2008, England
  • Turkish Air Force: More than 200 F-5A/Bs and NF-5A/Bs were bought from various countries. Between 40 and 50 of them were upgraded to F-5/2000 standard during the 2000s; Turkish Stars aerobatic team.[59] In total, 50 NF-5A and 25 NF-5B remain operational.[60]
 United States
  • Vietnam People's Air Force (several captured ex-VNAF aircraft). One F-5E (s/n 73-00867) was transferred to the Soviet Union for evaluation flights, i.e. against the MiG-21bis.[61]

Former operators

  • Philippine Air Force
    • 1967 22 F-5A (single seat) 8 F-5B (two seater), retired from service in 2006. Two F-5Bs are for upgrade. Received at least eight ex-Taiwanese F-5A in 1988/1989.[62]
 South Vietnam
 United States

Specifications (F-5E Tiger II)

An orthographically projected diagram of the F-5E Tiger-II.

Data from Quest for Performance[63]

General characteristics




Popular culture

Prior to the scene of the very famous line "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" in the 1979 classic movie Apocalypse Now, four F-5 fighters were shown dropping napalm on a battlefield. These aircraft belonged to the Philippine Air Force which provided not only the F-5s, but also the UH-1H helicopters, for the film. The aircraft were portrayed as American in the film.[65]

Top Gun (1986) features a number of F-5Es and F-5Fs in latex wash-off paint as the fictional MiG-28s that battle against US Navy F-14 Tomcats.

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ "Northrop F-5 Freedom Fight". National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 31 May 2009.
  2. ^ Johnsen 2006, p. 90.
  3. ^ Knaack, Marcelle Size. Encyclopedia of US Air Force Aircraft and Missile Systems: Volume 1, Post-World War II Fighters, 1945-1973. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1978. ISBN 0-912799-59-5.
  4. ^ a b c F-5N/F Adversary aircraft fact file, US Navy.
  5. ^ Braybrook 1982, pp. 111–114.
  6. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, pp. 50–51.
  7. ^ Braybrook 1982, p.114.
  8. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, p.51.
  9. ^ Harding 1990, pp. 118–119, 122–123, 188–189.
  10. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, pp. 52–53.
  11. ^ a b Lake and Hewson 1996, pp. 82–83.
  12. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, pp. 58–59, 70–71.
  13. ^ Braybrook 1982, p. 116.
  14. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, pp. 71–72.
  15. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, p.103.
  16. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, p.96.
  17. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, p.104.
  18. ^ a b "Grifo-F Radar Specifications". Official Finmeccanica website. http://www.finmeccanica.com/Holding/EN/Business/Elettronica_per_la_difesa/Prodotti/Grifo_Family_Galileo_Avionica/index.sdo. 
  19. ^ a b "Latest upgrades of Singaporean F-5E Tiger-II (pdf format)". The Italian Industries Association for Aerospace, Systems and Defence. http://www.aiad.it/upload/aziende/azienda_110/grifi.pdf. 
  20. ^ FAB buys Derby. DefesaNet. Retrieved September 11, 2007.
  21. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, p. 53.
  22. ^ a b Thompson 1996, pp. 4–6.
  23. ^ Thompson 1996, pp. 12, 14.
  24. ^ Thompson 1996, p.16.
  25. ^ Photo of a Northrop F-5E Tiger II in Kraków, Poland a gift of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
  26. ^ " ROCAF F-5A/B Program in CINCPAC History Series (Part 1)." taiwanairpower.org, 21 February 20009. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  27. ^ "ROCAF F-5A/B Program in CINCPAC History Series (Part 2)." taiwanairpower.org, 28 February 20009. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  28. ^ " F-5A/B Freedom Fighter (Part 1)." taiwanairpower.org, 16 July 2006. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
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  30. ^ "Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II." taiwanairpower.org, 13 April 2008. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  31. ^ "RF-5E Tigergazer." taiwanairpower, 12 June 2004. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  32. ^ " F-5E - a la Mirage." taiwanairpower.org, 8 August 2006. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  33. ^ "New Paint Scheme for F-5?" taiwanairpower.org 30 May 2006. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
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  35. ^ Hsu, Brian. "Unwanted fighter jet takes to the air in first test flight." taipeitimes.com The Taipei Times, 30 July 2002. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
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  37. ^ "Foreign Policy in Focus, Yemen, the United States, and Al-Qaida." fpif.org, 19 December 2001. Retrieved: 19 September 2009.
  38. ^ F-5
  39. ^ IRIAF
  40. ^ Iraq Air Force equipment
  41. ^ Ethiopia
  42. ^ Morocco
  43. ^ Saudi Arabia
  44. ^ Norway
  45. ^ Johnsen 2006, p. 81
  46. ^ Azarakhsh (Lightning), GlobalSecurity.org
  47. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, p.90.
  48. ^ "Botswana buys CF-5s". Flight International, 19–25 June 1996, p. 22.
  49. ^ Knott and Spearman 2003, p.76.
  50. ^ Lopes, Roberto and Maria Helena Passos. "Uma nova agenda militar" (in Portuguese).globo.com, 10 October 2008. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  51. ^ Lake and Hewson 1996, pp. 92–93.
  52. ^ "Chile to increase F-16 fleet." milaviapress.com. Retrieved: 9 January 2010.
  53. ^ Kenyan military aviation OrBat
  54. ^ "Kenya." eastandard.net. Retrieved: 9 January 2010
  55. ^ "Mexican military aviation." OrBat. Retrieved: 9 January 2010
  56. ^ Baugher, Joe. "Northrop F-5E/F in Service with Taiwan." Northrop F-5, 2 January 2000. Retrieved: 7 October 2009.
  57. ^ Baugher, Joe. "Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II in Service with Jordan."Northrop F-5, 2 January 2000. Retrieved: 7 October 2009.
  58. ^ "Sudanese Air Force."sudanesefuture.com. Retrieved: 9 January 2010.
  59. ^ "Turkish Air Force." scramble.nl. Retrieved: 9 January 2010.
  60. ^ "Turkish military aviation OrBat." milaviapress.com. Retrieved: 8 November 2009.
  61. ^ Gordon 2008, pp. 403–410.
  62. ^ "Arms, Transparency and Security in South-East Asia." books.sipri.org, p. 113. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  63. ^ Loftin, LK, Jr.. "Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft. NASA SP-468." NASA. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.
  64. ^ United States of America. Naval Training Equipment Center. Department of the Navy. Recognition Study Cards - U.S. and Foreign Aircraft. Device 5E14H. LSN 6910-LL-C006462. Orlando, Florida. 1982. 55 Cards. Card 3. Annotation: 3700 kilometers.
  65. ^ The Outside Lomcovak Club Apocalypse Now
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External links


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