The F-5's small, thin wing is mounted low on the fuselage well aft of the cockpit. It has 24 deg of leading-edge sweep, leading edge flaps and single-slotted trailing-edge flaps inboard of the inset ailerons. The wingtips have long missile rails. On the F-5E Tiger II, the leading and trailing edge flaps have automatic combat-maneuver settings to increase turn rate. The F-5E also has a leading-edge root extension (LERX) with compound sweep that improves the aircraft's handling at high angles of attack. Turn rates -- both continuous and peak -- increased by more than 30 percent over the F-5A.
The tail group shape and position have remained constant throughout F-5 development. The double-taper fin has a two-section inset rudder. The cropped-delta, all-moving tailplanes are mounted at the bottom of the fuselage in line with the fin. Controls are assisted by two independent hydraulic systems, and the aircraft is fitted with a stability augmentation system.
The two J85 turbojets are buried side by side in the aft fuselage with the after-burning nozzles extending well beyond the tail group. The air intakes are located low on either side of the fuselage. A boundary-layer splitter plate is fitted on the fuselage side of each intake and the lip is curved aft as it moves away from the fuselage. The Tiger has uprated J85s and auxiliary inlet doors for takeoff and low-speed flight. Internal fuel tankage is confined to the fuselage. Iranian F-5s were fitted with a "buddy" refueling system in 1988 that permits one F-5 to refuel another.
The fuselage has a long pointed nose that slopes up to a low canopy; behind the canopy, a thick dorsal spine slopes down to the tail. The nose shape has varied with some aircraft being fitted with a flattened "shark nose." The RF-5E Tigereye reconnaissance variant has a chisel-shaped nose with an underslung pallet for cameras. Area-ruling is applied to the wing-fuselage junction in both the F-5A and F-5E/F, with the F-5E/F's fuselage being wider.
The main landing gear struts retract from mid-wing pivots, the wheels being housed in fuselage wells. The nose gear in many F-5As and all F-5E/Fs has a two-position strut to raise the static angle of attack by 3.3 deg, thereby increasing the wing's lift and shortening takeoff roll. Side-by-side airbrakes are mounted on the fuselage bottom, forward of the landing gear.
The single-seat cockpit of the F-5A and F-5E is enclosed by a single-piece canopy hinged at the rear. The two-seat F-5B trainer and F-5F trainer-interceptor have two canopy sections that are hinged to the side. The F-5A had an austere avionics fit including a radar gunsight. The F-5E is equipped with an Emerson Electric AN/APQ-153 or -159 pulse-Doppler radar. The F-5F has the Emerson Electric APQ-157. In addition to a more comprehensive communications and navigation fit, the F-5E also has the General Electric AN/ASG-29 or -31 lead-computing optical sight (LCOS), a central air data computer and an attitude and heading reference system. Several F-5E users have the Litton LN-33 inertial navigation system (INS). Saudi aircraft have General Instruments AN/ALR-46 radar warning receiver (RWR), Tracor AN/ALE-40 countermeasures dispenser and Hughes AGM-65 Maverick missiles. Swiss and South Korean aircraft are being refitted with the Dalmo Victor AN/ALR-87 threat warning system. Several air forces have avionics upgrades underway or planned (see "Variants").
Armament consists of two Pontiac-built M39 20-mm cannon in the upper nose (the F-5F has one M39 cannon, the other having been removed to make room for camera pallets). Each wingtip missile launch rail carries an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM). All variants have one centerline hardpoint and four wing pylons for external stores including AAM, air-to-ground missiles, bombs, gun pods, rocket pods and external fuel tanks.
Initial operational capability (IOC) with the U.S. Air Force was achieved in 1964 (F-5A). The F-5E attained the milestone in 1973. First flight of Northrop N-156 took place on July 30, 1959. All F-5s in U.S. service are F-5E/F variants. The F-5A through D variants continue to serve with many other countries.
Developed for export through the Military Assistance Program (MAP ). Iran was the first nation to fly the F-5 under this program on Feb. 1, 1965.
Northrop built 879 F-5A/Bs, while Canadair and Spain's CASA built 320 F-5A variants. More than 1,400 F-5E/Fs were built, including license assembly by Korean Air in South Korea, F and W in Switzerland and AIDC in Taiwan. When production ended in February 1990, 2,600 F-5s had been built in the U.S. The last eight (for Singapore) were assembled from factory spares. Approximately 1,500 F-5 variants remain in military service with various nations.
Ethiopian F-5A, F-5E and F-5F aircraft had been unserviceable for several years before they were discarded in 1990. Royal Netherlands Air Force NF-5s were in service from 1969 to March 15, 1991. The Royal Netherlands Air Force donated 60 NF-5s to the Turkish air force and 12 to the Greek air force and sold seven to Venezuela.
In February 2001, Embraer received the first two F-5 aircraft to be upgraded under the F-5BR program for the Brazilian air force. The Brazilian government approved the program on Dec. 30, 2000. The first fully modernized aircraft was unveiled publicly in December 2003.
The F-5N's first flight occurred in March 2003 (see "Variants" for more information).
On Oct. 1, 2005, the Philippines officially decommissioned the last of its F-5 fighter jets. The Philippines originally received 37 F-5 fighters from the U.S. By the time of the final decommissioning, only five of Manila's aircraft were still flying.
On Feb. 12, 2006, Brazil said it would buy nine used F-5 jet fighters from Saudi Arabia at a cost of US$24 million. The aircraft are to receive upgrades from Embraer and Elbit (see "Variants" for more information).
On March 31, 2008, Embraer announced that it had delivered the 23rd modernized F-5BR to the Brazilian air force. Upgraded aircraft are designated F-5M by the service.
The Navy completed a six-year program in 2008 to buy and refurbish 44 retired Swiss air force F-5s. The Swiss F-5N replacement program was designed to replace Navy F-5Es with low-time F-5Ns, allowing the U.S. to operate the F-5N aircraft to fiscal year 2015. These aircraft are assigned to NAS Key West, Fla., MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and NAS Fallon, Nev. The final aircraft was delivered to the Navy by Northrop Grumman in April 2009. Forty-one aircraft were modified to the F-5N standard, while three single-seat aircraft were modified to the two-seat F-5F configuration.
In February 2010, the Iranian air force announced that it had inducted into service a new squadron of Saeqeh fighter-bombers. In October 2009, the air force said that it had taken delivery of five of the indigenously built aircraft.
The 11 F-5E/F fighters in Yemeni service have been overhauled and upgraded with support from Singapore, according to the March 2010 edition of Combat Aircraft (U.K.).
In July 2010, the South Korean air force announced that it would modernize the ejection seats on its F-5 fighters. The decision followed a month-long investigation into a crash that killed two pilots when their aircraft encountered sea fog on landing. The aircraft's older ejection system reportedly failed because the aircraft was not at an altitude of more than 2,000 ft (600 m). About US$4.2 million was set aside to modify ejection seats for about 150 F-5s in South Korean service between 2011 and 2013. At the time, eight F-5s had crashed since 2000, claiming the lives of 13 pilots.
Iran's oldest F-5A made its first flight in December 2010 after being refurbished for a return to service. Earlier in the decade, the Iranian air force planned to withdraw some of its older F-5A/B aircraft as part of a cost-reduction program. Two F-5Bs and two RF-5As were placed into storage. However, in 2009 plans were changed and these aircraft are being returned to service.
On April 14, 2011, Embraer announced that it had signed a US$85 million contract with the Brazilian air force to modernize an additional 11 F-5 fighters under the F-5BR program and supply another flight simulator. The project encompasses eight two-seat F-5Fs and three single-seat F-5Es. These aircraft were reportedly acquired from Jordan in 2008. The agreement brought the total number of aircraft to be modernized to 57. Work on the second batch is scheduled to begin in October 2012, with first deliveries scheduled for 2013. At the time, 39 of the aircraft had been modernized. The last 11 aircraft are slated to be based at Manaus in support of the air force's Amazon protection system.
On June 19, 2012, Embraer announced that it had delivered the last two upgraded F-5M aircraft of an initial batch of 46.
Northrop Grumman Corp., Hawthorne, Calif.
Bahrain Air Force  (8 F-5E, 4 F-5F) Botswana Air Force  (10 F-5A, 5 F-5D) Brazil Air Force  (6 F-5E, 51 F-5EM/FM) Chile Air Force  F-5E/F Honduras Air Force  F-5E Indonesia Air Force  (8 F-5E, 4 F-5F) Iran Air Force [89+] (20+ F-5B, 60+ F-5E/F, 6 Azarakhsh, 3 Saeqeh) Jordan Air Force  F-5E/F Kenya Air Force  F-5E/F Malaysia Air Force  F-5E/F Mexico Air Force  (8 F-5E, 2 F-5F) Morocco Air Force  (8 F-5A, 2 F-5B, 20 F-5E, 3 F-5F) Saudi Arabia Air Force  (14 F-5B, 22 F-5B/F-5F/RF-5E) Singapore Air Force  (28 F-5S, 9 F-5T) South Korea Air Force  (20 F-5B, 142 F-5E, 32 F-5F) Spain Air Force  F-5B Switzerland Air Force  (42 F-5E, 12 F-5F) Taiwan Air Force  F-5E/F (some in storage) Thailand Air Force  F-5E/F Tunisia Air Force  F-5E/F Turkey Air Force  F-5A/B USA Navy  (5 F-5F, 41 F-5N) Venezuela Air Force  (7 F-5A, 3 F-5B) Yemen Air Force  (2 F-5B, 10 F-5E)
CREW F-5B/F 2 All others 1 WEIGHTS F-5A empty 8,085 lb ( 3,667 kg) max weapons load 6,200 lb ( 2,812 kg) max takeoff 20,576 lb ( 9,333 kg) F-5E empty 9,723 lb ( 4,410 kg) max weapons load 7,000 lb ( 3,175 kg) max takeoff 24,722 lb (11,214 kg) DIMENSIONS F-5A length 47 ft 2 in (14.38 m) height 13 ft 4 in ( 4.06 m) wingspan 25 ft 3 in ( 7.70 m) wing area 170 sq ft (15.79 m sq) F-5E length 47 ft 5 in (14.45 m) height 13 ft 4 in ( 4.06 m) wingspan 26 ft 8 in ( 8.13 m) wing area 186 sq ft (17.30 m sq) PROPULSION F-5A engine 2 x General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojet power dry 2,720 lb (1,234 kg) static thrust each afterburner 4,080 lb (1,851 kg) static thrust each fuel capacity 583 gal (2,207 liters) F-5E engine 2 x General Electric J85-GE-21B turbojet power afterburner 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) static thrust each fuel capacity 677 gal (2,555 liters) PERFORMANCE F-5A with 13,340 lb (6,055 kg) load speed at altitude 803 kts (925 mph, 1,489 kmh, Mach 1.40) at 36,000 ft (11,000 m) cruise 488 kts (585 mph, 904 kmh, Mach 0.85) stall 128 kts (147 mph, 237 kmh) rate of climb 28,700 ft/min ( 8,748 m/min) ceiling 51,800 ft (15,789 m) ferry range 1,359 nm (1,565 mi, 2,519 km) tanks dropped radius 170 nm ( 195 mi, 314 km) hi-lo-hi with max payload and combat reserves F-5E with 13,340 lb (6,055 kg) load speed at altitude 935 kts (1,077 mph, 1,733 kmh, Mach 1.64) at 36,000 ft (11,000 m) cruise 488 kts ( 585 mph, 904 kmh, Mach 0.85) stall 124 kts ( 143 mph, 230 kmh) rate of climb 34,500 ft/min (10,516 m/min) ceiling 51,800 ft (15,789 m) ferry range 1,545 nm (1,778 mi, 2,861 km) radius lo-lo-lo 120 nm ( 138 mi, 222 km) with 5,200-lb (2,358-kg) payload and combat reserves at altitude 570 nm ( 656 mi, 1,056 km) at 15,000 ft (4,575 m), max fuel, 2 AAM, combat reserves ARMAMENT Gun 2 x M239A2 20-mm cannon ammunition 280 rounds each Missile 2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM on wingtip launchers Other pylons 5 (4 underwing, 1 fuselage) Max weapons F-5A 6,200 lb (2,812 kg) F-5E 7,000 lb (3,175 kg) Ordnance 1 x 1,985-lb (900-kg) bomb 1 x AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile 9 x 500-lb (227-kg) bombs sub-munitions dispensers rocket pods 3 x GPU-5 30-mm gun pods max 3 x 150-or 275-gal (568- or 1,041-l) drop tanks max SENSORS/ELECTRONICS Radar AN/APQ-153 or -159 I/J-band pulse-Doppler (F-5E)
A US$20 million contract was awarded in February 1991, with the first NF-5 arriving in Buffalo in the same month and first delivery in May 1992. The program was completed in July 1994. Bristol Aerospace was contracted to supply new wings for some of these F-5s.
A December 1990 contract funded a CASA program to maintain the 22 Spanish SF-5B trainers past the year 2000.
The remaining 24 CASA-built SF-5A/SRF-5A/SF-5D aircraft were grounded in June 1989 after a series of accidents had wrecked five aircraft. Suspicions regarding the cause centered on the guns or other weapons systems.
First flight occurred in January 1979. Ten were exported to Saudi Arabia, two to Malaysia. In March 1990, Singapore announced that it would convert eight of its F-5Es into Tigereyes over a three-year period.
The contract called for two aircraft a month to be completed after the delivery of the first one in February of 2005. The program will extend the operational life of Brazil's F-5 aircraft for 15 years.
The modernization includes a new avionics package of navigation/armaments and aiming/self-defense systems, computers, Selex Galileo Grifo X multi-mode radar and Martin-Baker Mk 10 ejection seats. The aircraft also receive structural improvements and their armaments are standardized with other Brazilian air force weaponry, such as the MAA-1 Piranha air-to-air missile.
The updated cockpit includes hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) capability, two high-performance computers and an integrated INS/GPS navigation system. Three multifunction monitors and a helmet-mounted display provide pilots with an excellent man-machine interface, according to Embraer. All cockpit systems are designed for use with night-vision goggles.
The only noticeable physical change in the aircraft is a larger nosecone to accommodate the larger radar antenna. One 20-mm cannon is also removed to house the avionics for the radar.
In 2005, the F-5s received a radar upgrade that replaced the AN/APQ-135 with the AN/APQ-159(V)5. This increased the fighters' search range to 46 mi (74 km) and allowed precise detection of targets within a range of 18 mi (29 km).
The Swiss aircraft were manufactured with improved handling quality systems and featured a sharper nose, different wing leading edge roots and automatic flaps compared to U.S. F-5Es. According to the Naval Air Systems Command, the refurbishment involved taking an old U.S. F-5E and a Swiss aircraft and coming out at the end with an F-5N.
The second batch of aircraft to go through the program was equipped with a new Russian computer navigation system and K-36D ejection seats.
The major modifications include twin tails, wings mounted above the intakes with the addition of leading edge strakes and new avionics.
Analysts believe that the design offers improved low-and-slow flight characteristics. The twin tails are said to boost takeoff and maneuvering performance.
Some reports have referred to the Saeqeh as a follow-on to the Azarakhsh program.
The latest variant was announced by Iranian officials in September 2006. It made a successful flight in August 2007. It has been described domestically as being equivalent to the F-5. Its nose is extended about 17 in (0.4 m) to accommodate a new radar.
The most notable upgrade program was the Northrop Grumman Co-operative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) with the San Antonio Air Logistic Center. The structural upgrade program (SUP) involved manufacture of 14 major structural elements and related replacement parts. As part of the program, all F-5 aircraft involved received new horizontal stabilizers, dorsal longerons and upper cockpit longerons. F-5Fs were to receive new wings and the Martin Baker Mk10 ejection seat. F-5A/Bs, CF-5s and NF-5s were to get new lower cockpit longerons, air intake duct skins and bulkheads at four fuselage stations.
An advanced avionics demonstrator began flying in April 1995 under another CRDA. Included in this particular avionics package: Mil-standard 1553B databus and the operational software from the F-20 Tigershark fighter program. As part of this program, level one and two upgrade kits received the AN/APG-66 pulse-Doppler radar, inertial navigation system, new head-up display and single multi-function display and SADC. Level three added hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls, advanced weapon delivery system and mission computer. Level four included a new instrument panel with dual multi-function displays, data transfer system and advanced TACAN. Additional options included: forward-looking infrared (FLIR), electronic countermeasures (ECM) system, advanced radar warning receiver (RWR), GPS and new communications gear.
There are an estimated 1,500 F-5s in service with more than 25 air forces. Roughly 1,000 of these are estimated to be F-5E/F models.
On April 5, 2004, a Saudi air force F-5 plane crashed. The pilot survived the accident, which occurred during a training mission at King Fahd air base in Taif.
On Nov. 8, 2004, a Jordanian F-5 crashed, killing its pilot.
On July 15, 2009, a Taiwanese air force F-5F crashed during a bombing drill near the Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait shortly after taking off from Chingchuankang Air Base. Both pilots were killed. The air force grounded its F-5Fs after the crash.
On Dec. 23, 2009, a Thai air force F-5E crashed in the Ubon Ratchathani province, killing the pilot.
On March 2, 2010, two South Korean F-5F fighters crashed into Mount Hwangbyeong near Gangneung shortly after taking off for a training mission. All three pilots in the two aircraft were killed. The crashes may have been the result of foggy weather at the time, said an air force spokesman.
On Sept. 12, 2011, a Taiwanese air force F-5F and RF-5E crashed in the Yilan mountains during a night training mission. The aircraft went down shortly after taking off from a base in Hualien. Local fishermen reported that they saw two aircraft flying out of control shortly before the crash.
An F-5 fighter belonging to the Turkish air force's Turkish Stars aerobatics team crashed on March 13, 2012, in the central Konya province. One pilot was killed and one was missing immediately after the crash. Initial reports suggested the aircraft suffered an engine failure shortly after taking off.
When the Philippines retired its F-5s, they had seen action in counterinsurgency operations against communist guerrillas and Muslim separatists as well as against unsuccessful military coup plotters in a in 1989. They were also used in reconnaissance missions over disputed areas of the Spratly Islands, a chain of islands in the South China Sea wholly or partially claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
LATEST UPDATE: 1 August 2011