The F-5E was an improved variant of the F-5A "Freedom Fighter" built primarily for foreign military sales. Designed by Northrop in 1953 as a low-maintenance, low-cost fighter, led to a company-financed supersonic trainer called the N-156F Freedom Fighter.
Though not purchased by the US military, the government supported the sale of F-5A's to friendly nations. The first contract for the production F-5A was issued in 1962, the first overseas order coming from Norway in February 1964. 836 F-5A/B were built before production ended in 1972.
A trainer version, the T-38 Talon, was adopted by the U.S. Air Force, NASA, Turkey and Portugal as a pilot's first introduction to supersonic flight.
In 1970 Northrop won a competition for an improved Fighter to replace the F-5A. With more powerful engines, greater fuel capacity, and aerodynamic improvements, the resultant aircraft, initially known as F-5A-21, subsequently became the F-5E.
Over 1,400 of the Tigers were made including some purchased by the US Navy and Air Force for use in the Top Gun and Aggressor programs to simulate enemy aircraft and tactics.
Various F-5 versions remain in service with many nations. The most advanced are those of Singapore re-designated F-5S/T and include new radar, updated cockpits with multi-function displays, and compatibility with the Rafael Python and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles.
Northrop attempted to develop an advanced version of the F-5E named F-20 Tigershark, similar in performance to the F-16. In the end, some 2,700 F-5 aircraft were built for the US and 30 other nations by the time production ceased in 1987.
Data for F-5E
Operators (all variants):
Video 1: Northrop F-5E - Patrouille Suisse Tribute
Video 2: Northrop F-5E Tiger II Aggressor Squadrons
Video 3: F-5Tiger II
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