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Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter / N-156F


A team under Welko Gasich designed the N-156F in the mid-1950s as an economical, light fighter, cheaper to buy and operate than the large Mach 2 designs then being con-structed. The Department of Defense showed little interest, but a two-seat trainer version (at first for the Navy, later the USAF) bore fruit and was produced in quan-tity as the T-38 Talon. This provided an underpinning for the N-156F, which after various changes was released to manufactur-ing in late 1957, Northrop deciding to build three. The first, by this time called the Freedom Fighter, flew on July 30, 1959. The prototype had a Department of Defense (Air Force) serial number but no national mark-ings. On April 25, 1962, the US government announced that it was ordering the aircraft into quantity production as the standard fighter to be supplied through the Military Assistance Program to Allied and friendly nations. Since then further contracts have followed, paid for by the recipient governments.

Redesignated F-5A (single-seat) and F-5B (tandem dual-control version), the Freedom Fighter began to come off the production line in 1963. Powered initially by two General Electric J85-13 engines each rated at 1383 kg (3050 lb) static thrust with full afterburner, the F-5A was a simple machine with no radar other than a ranging set for the two 20-mm (0.79-in) Pontiac M-39 cannon mounted above the nose.


1966 Northrop F-5B


Total internal tankage was 2200 litres (484 Imperial gal), and two Sidewinder air-to-air missiles could be carried on the wing-tips in place of area-ruled (Coke-bottle shape) drop tanks. Early in development five further hard-points were added for a total external load of 2000 kg (4410 lb), the total load of ordnance of all kinds, including guns and ammunition, being 2812 kg (6200 lb).

More than 1000 of this first-generation F-5 series were produced, including more than 300 built under licence in Canada, Spain and Taiwan. Canadian aircraft, assembled by Canadair incorporated parts built in the Netherlands in a two-nation production  programme, with J85-CAN-15 engines built by Orenda. In all except the first production version, the -13 engines were rated at 1850 kg (4078 lb) thrust, except for the CF-5 (Canadian) and NF-5 (Netherlands) versions in which the rating was 1950 kg (4299 lb).

Recipients of these F/CF/NF-5A, B, D and G aircraft included Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Greece, Iran, Jordan, South Korea, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Vietnam. The USAF also bought a small number to equip a foreign-customer training squadron at Williams Air Force Base, and in 1965 also bought one squadron of single-seat F-5A aircraft for evaluation in South Vietnam. The equipment fitted was varied for richer customers, and eventually included inertial navigation-for Saudi Arabia - and various changes to improve short-field performance including increased wing incidence, two-position nose gear, arrester hook, provision for ATO rockets and uprated engines. These customers options were specified by Canada, the Netherlands and, except for uprated engines, Norway.


1966 Vietnam F-5


In 1969 the US government held a competition for a successor to the F-5 called IFA (International Fighter Aircraft). Northrop had already fitted an F-5 with two of the more powerful J85-GE-21 engines, each rated at 2227 kg (4910 lb) thrust, and fully investi-gated the improved performance envelope thus obtainable. It proposed an improved F-5, called F-5E Tiger II, as the IFA, and this won the competition in November 1970. The F-5E has a broader fuselage - increasing fuel capacity and wing span - a redesigned wing with leading-edge manoeuvre flaps, based on an earlier flap fitted to the NF-5A and B, positioned by a switch on the pilot's throttle working in conjunction with the landing flaps on the trailing edge. It also has large wing-root leading-edge extensions, Emerson APQ-159 X-band radar, hard-points for a total external load of 3175 kg (7000 lb) and consid-erably altered and enhanced avionics. Provision is made for a detachable probe for in-flight refuelling, and a further list of customer options includes ATO rockets, antiskid brakes (the arrester hook is standard), the 'FR' nose, chaff/ECM pods, improved ejection seats and a wide range of special target sensing or designations, weapon-guidance and countermeasure kits. The first F-5E was flown in August 1972

By 1978 more than 1000 F-5Es and tandem seat F-5F Tiger IIs had been delivered, and orders had been placed for some 1500 from Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia (supplied by Iran after a US embargo), Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia and South Vietnam. In February 1978, the US government agreed to sell 50 (probably a mix of Es and Fs) to Egypt 'as a reward for President Sadat's peacemaking efforts'. Further aircraft had been supplied to the USAF and US Navy for use in DACT (Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training), the F-5E taking the part of aggressor' MiG-21 fighters which it resembles in size and to some degree in characteristics. The tandem-seat F-5F, of which some 100 have been delivered, has a longer fuselage, a single gun and reduced gross weight.




Derived from the earlier F-5A/B Freedom Fighter, the F-5E/F, powered by two 22.24kN General Electric J85 turbojets, first flew on August 11, 1972. Its armament comprises twin 20mm cannon, two AIM-9 Sidewinder, plus up to 3,l75kg of stores on one under-wing and one under-fuselage hard-points. Development of a two-seater conversion trainer counterpart of the F-5E Tiger II was approved early in 1974, and the F-5F Tiger II (73-0889) first flew on 25 September of the same year. The airframe is basically that of the F-5E lengthened by 3 ft 6.5 in (1.08 m) to allow the insertion of a second ejector seat, displays, and controls under a lengthened canopy. Though one of the F-5E’s two 20-mm cannon is removed, the F-5F still has the F-5E’s fire-control system with APQ-157 multi-role radar, and retains all five hardpoints for full combat capability. Some aircraft have an inertial navigation system and provision for a laser designator pod. About 200 F-5Fs were produced, and such aircraft serve with most F-5E operators. Many aircraft are being updated in a series of programs concerned mostly with the F-5E.

The F-5E/F has also been produced under licence in South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

The Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger family has also been developed to perform photographic reconnaissance duties; approximately 100 examples of the RF-5A and RF-5E Tigereye have been built to 1984. The first and thus far most numerous reconnaissance model to appear was the RF-5A, 89 examples of which were constructed by the parent company between 1967-72. Featuring a nose-mounted battery of four KS-92A cameras, the RF-5A entered development in October 1963 in response to a US Air Force directive calling for a daylight tactical reconnaissance model of the Freedom Fighter for supply to friendly nations as part of military assistance and foreign military sales programmes. The RF-5A flew for the first time during May 1968, deliveries beginning during the following month with the initial aircraft going to Iran, which received 13 production examples as part of the military aid programme then in being, Subsequent customers comprised Turkey (20 aircraft), South Vietnam (10), Thailand (4), Greece (16), South Korea (8), Morocco (2) and Norway (16) before production of this model ceased in June 1972.

In addition to those aircraft produced by the parent company, the Freedom Fighter was also built under licence in Spain, 17 examples of the reconnaissance model known locally as the SRF-5A being completed by CASA. Many of the 89 CF-5As, 75 NF-5As and 2 seat CF-5Ds completed by Canadair for service with the armed forces of Canada, the Netherlands and Venezuela also featured latent reconnaissance capability, being fitted with camera noses. A total of 204 CF-5s were produced.




More recently, Northrop developed the RF-5E Tigereye for reconnaissance duties and this is a rather more sophisticated machine based on the F-5E Tiger II and using up to six cameras or infra-red scanners on quick-change pallets which can be inserted into the extended nose. Making its maiden flight on 29 January 1979, the RF-5E has thus far failed to find a ready market, the only customers being Malaysia, which took delivery of two during 1983, and Saudi Arabia, which has ordered 10. Malaysia operates two Northrop RF-5E Tigereyes on reconnaissance duties, equipped with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on the winglips for protection. The type features an arrester hook in common with most US fighters.

Production of the F-5E/F light tactical fighter ended in 1986, and the last two aircraft were handed over to Bahrain on January 16, 1987. A total of 2,610 F-5s of all models were built over a 24-year period, includ-ing more than 1,400 F-5E/F Tiger IIs and RF-5E Tigereyes.


NASA employed a single F-5E airframe with a revised, deeper fuselage for experimentation in DARPA's "Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration" program. The airframe survived its testing and became a permanent fixture at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Florida.


A further development, the F-5G, became the Northrop F-20.




Engines: 2 x GE J85 turbojet
Span: 7.70 m (25 ft 3 in)
Length: 14.38 m (47 ft 2 in)
Gross weight: 9379 kg (20 680 lb)
Maximum speed: 1489 km/h (925 mph)
External load: 2812 kg (6200 lb)
Seats: 1
Armament: 2 x 20mm cannon


Type: single-seat tactical reconnaissance aircraft
Powerplant: two General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojets, 1851 kg (4,080-1b) afterburning thrust
Maximum speed at 10975 m (36,000 ft) 1489 km/h (925 mph) or Mach 1.4
Combat ceiling 15240 m (50,000 ft)
Range w/max.payload: 592 km / 368 miles
Max range 2595 km (1,612 miles)
Empty weight 3667 kg (8,085 lb)
Maximum take-off weight 8952 kg (19,736 lb).
Span 7,70 m (25 ft 3 in)
Length 14.38 m (47 ft 2 in)
Height 4.01 m (13 ft 2 in)
Wing area 15.79 sq.m (170 sq ft)

Span: 7.70 m (25 ft 3 in)
Length: 14.12 m (46 ft 4 in)
Gross weight: 9300 kg (20 500 lb)
Maximum speed: 1424 km/h (885 mph)
Seats: 2


Span: 7.70 m (25 ft 3 in)
Length: 14.12 m (46 ft 4 in)
Gross weight: 9300 kg (20 500 lb)
Maximum speed: 1424 km/h (885 mph)

Span: 8.13 m (26 ft 8 in)
Length: 14.73 m (48 ft 31 in)
Gross weight: 11192 kg (24675 lb)
Maximum speed: 1704 km/h (1060 mph)

F-5E Tiger II
Engines: 2 x J85-GE-21 reheat 44.5 kN
External load: 3175 kg (7000 lb)
Span: 8.1 m
Length: 14 m
Wing area: 17.3 sq.m
Empty wt: 4410 kg
MTOW: 11,215 kg
Warload: 3175 kg
Max speed: 1.64 Mach
Initial ROC: 10,515 m / min
Ceiling: 15,790 m
TO run: 610 m
Ldg run: 762 m
Combat radius lo-lo-lo: 220 km
Fuel internal: 2563 lt
Air refuel: Yes
Armament: 2 x AAM, 2 x 20 mm
Hard points: 5 + 2 wing tips

F-5F Tiger II
Engines: two 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) reheated thrust General Electric J85-GE-21 B turbojets
Maximum speed 1030 mph (1,658 km/h) or Mach 1.56 at 36090 ft (11000 m)
Initial climb rate 32900 ft (10030 m) per minute
Service ceiling 50800 ft (15485 m)
Radius 599 miles (964 km)
Empty weight 10,576 lb (4,797 kg)
Maximum take-off 25,152 lb (11,409 kg)
Wing span 26 ft 8 in (8.13 m)
Length 51 ft 4 in (15.65 m)
Height 13 ft 1.75 in (4.01 m)
Wing area 186.0 sq ft (17.29 sq.m)
Armament: one 20-mm cannon, and up to 7,000 lb (3,175 kg) of disposable stores

Canadair CF-5 Mk.2
Engine: 2 x General Electric/Orenda J-85-15, 4000 lb
Wing Span: 25ft 10in
Length: 47ft 2in
Height: 13ft 2in (4m)
Speed: 1,150 miles/hr - mach 1.3
Armament: two 20mm Cannons 6,200lbs bombs, rockets & missiles


Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter





Focke-Wulf Fw189 (Germany)
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