It was intended as a fighter plane for U.S.-allied countries. However, its capabilities proved that the F-5 can be used as a light MRF for the United States Air Force too. The F-5 also as "aggressor" units in the US Navy's Top Gun school due to its high maneuverability characteristics. We now talk about the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter or Tiger II.
One of the most enduring military aircraft designs ever introduced, Northrop Grumman Corporation’s F-5 tactical fighter series has served its customers over more than four decades. The F-5’s initial flight was July 31, 1963, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The F-5 is an agile, highly maneuverable, reliable supersonic fighter, combining advanced aerodynamic design, engine performance and low operating costs. More than 2,600 were built by Northrop Grumman and under co-production and licensing agreements with Canada, the Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Spain and Switzerland.
From the F-5’s first delivery in 1964 to its final one in 1989, every aircraft was delivered on schedule, at or below the contract price, and with performance as promised. Approximately two-thirds of the original production F-5’s remain operational in 26 countries, including the United States. The U.S. Navy operates the F-5 in its adversary squadrons to simulate enemy aircraft in aerial combat training exercises. The U.S. Air Force used the F-5 in a similar training role.
As the original manufacturer, Northrop Grumman has the expertise in F-5 weapons systems integration and logistics to support the fleet for its projected life. The company can maintain and enhance the structural integrity of the airplane to ensure satisfactory, cost-effective structural integrity for the newly extended service life and at the more severe operational spectrums anticipated by countries operating the F-5.
Since two-thirds of F-5 user countries also operate F-16s, F/A-18s, F-15s or Mirage aircraft, the F-5’s role has shifted from a prime fighter to a lead-in trainer. Many of the international F-5 operators are considering (and some have committed to) basic structural life extension programs and avionics/subsystems upgrade packages to obtain an effective lead-in trainer with a modest investment.
Because this new projected role will extend the life of the F-5, Northrop Grumman has focused on a total system support plan approach that will ensure current F-5 users can obtain the necessary structure spare parts and systems upgrades.
The U.S. Air Force selected Northrop Grumman in 1995 as the manufacturer for 14 major structural elements and related replacement parts for international RF-5 (reconnaissance) and F-5 aircraft. Based on foreign military sales, the structural upgrade program contract covers all F-5 models and includes a new wing (with optional provisions for Maverick missiles), upper and lower cockpit longerons, horizontal stabilizers, specific fuselage bulkheads, dorsal longerons and engine inlet duct skins.
In addition to structural upgrades, Northrop Grumman expanded its F-5 spare parts business to include selected, quality companies as licensed suppliers of F-5 parts to provide a “one-stop shop” team for total support. This team is licensed to use Northrop Grumman F-5 data and technical support to provide each F-5 user with the highest quality, most affordable spares available.
Since 1999, Northrop Grumman has been under contract to the U.S. Navy to perform depot level maintenance for the Navy’s fleet of F-5E/F aircraft. This phased depot maintenance is performed at the company’s facility in St. Augustine, Fla.. The goal of the maintenance program is to provide structurally sound F-5 aircraft that will operate safely in the severe spectrum associated with the adversary role of the F-5 fleet. This activity, along with the Navy’s structural upgrade program, is being extended to include the additional F-5E aircraft that will permit the Navy to maintain its F-5 adversary capability in the future.
Based on the new role of the F-5 as a lead-in trainer aircraft, there is a need for additional two-place training aircraft. Northrop Grumman is offering a conversion kit that will modify a single cockpit F-5E aircraft to a dual cockpit F-5F aircraft. This conversion will replace the F-5E forward fuselage with a newly manufactured F-5F forward fuselage at the basic manufacturing attachment assembly point.
In addition to the basic structural upgrade and F-5F conversion programs, Northrop Grumman has provided subsystems upgrade retrofit kits that include an INS/GPS navigation system, an anti-skid brake system, and an onboard oxygen-generating system that reduces operating cost compared to the current liquid oxygen system.
Northrop Grumman continues to support F-5 user air forces with cost-effective support solutions through the U.S. Air Force (under foreign military sales agreements) and through direct contracts with the user air forces. Key to this technical assistance capability is the F-5 engineering and manufacturing team that has supported the F-5 fleet for more than 40 years.