Country of origin United States
Manufacturer Northrop Corporation
First flight F-5A: 30 July 1959
F-5E: 11 August 1972
Produced 1962 - 1987
Numbers built A/B/C: 847
Unit costs F-5E: US$2.1 million
Max speed Maximum speed: 917 kn (1,060 mph, 1,700 km/h, Mach 1.6)
Rate of climb: 34,400 ft/min (175 m/s)
Max range Range: 760 nmi (870 mi, 1,405 km)
Ferry range: 2,010 nmi (2,310 mi, 3,700 km)
Service ceiling: 51,800 ft (15,800 m)
Dimensions Length: 47 ft 4¾ in (14.45 m)
Wingspan: 26 ft 8 in (8.13 m)
Height: 13 ft 4½ in (4.08 m)
Wing area: 186 ft² (17.28 m²)
Weight Empty weight: 9,558 lb (4,349 kg)
Loaded weight: 15,745 lb (7,157 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 24,722 lb (11,214 kg)
Powerplant 2 x General Electric J85-GE-21B turbojet
Armament Guns: 2× 20 mm (0.787 in) M39A2 Revolver cannons in the nose, 280 rounds/gun
Hardpoints: 7 total (3× wet): 2× wing-tip AAM launch rails, 4× under-wing & 1× under-fuselage pylon stations holding up to 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) of payload.
2× LAU-61/LAU-68 rocket pods (each with 19× /7× Hydra 70 mm rockets, respectively); or
2× LAU-5003 rocket pods (each with 19× CRV7 70 mm rockets); or
2× LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4× Zuni 127 mm rockets); or
2× Matra rocket pods (each with 18× SNEB 68 mm rockets)
4× AIM-9 Sidewinders or
4× AIM-120 AMRAAMs
2× AGM-65 Mavericks
Bombs: A variety of air-to-ground ordnance such as the Mark 80 series of unguided iron bombs (including 3 kg and 14 kg practice bombs), CBU-24/49/52/58 cluster bomb munitions, napalm bomb canisters and M129 Leaflet bomb, and laser guided bombs of Paveway family.
Others: up to 3× 150/275 US gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for ferry flight or extended range/loitering time.
Operators Current Operators:
Bahrain, Botswana, Brazil, Republic of China (Taiwan), Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia,Singapore,Spain,Sudan,Switzerland,Thailand,Tunisia,Turkey,United States (Navy and Marine), Venezuela, Yemen
Austria, Canada, Chile, Ethiopia, Greece, Libya, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, South Vietnam, United States (Air Force), Vietnam, Soviet Union (evaluation purpose)
No less than 2,000 units of F-5s of all variants had been produced. As a matter of fact, hundreds of F-5 remain serving with some air forces as of 2012 including Bahrain Air Force, Botswana Air Force, Brazilian Air Force, Chilean Air Force, Republic of China Air Force, Indonesian Air Force (in reserve), Royal Jordanian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Mexican Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, Spanish Air Force and Swiss Air Force. Some display teams also operates the F-5s.
The F-5 had being seeing combats in several conflicts in the world including the Ogaden War in Ethiopia (1977–1978), the Polisario War in Western Sahara, Morocco in the 1980s, and Saudi Arabian F-5s also took part during the First Gulf War in 1991.
The Design and Development of F-5 Series
The F-5 was a privately funded program of Northrop Corporation in 1950s. The aircraft manufacturer tried to develop a low cost and low-maintenance fighter to fulfill the United States Navy requirements for a jet fighter that can be operated onboard its smaller aircraft carriers which known as Escort Carriers. Even though a few years later the US Navy withdrawn the Escort Carriers operation, the Northrop kept on developing their fighter design with internal designation N-156T (two seat advanced trainer) and N-156F (single-seat fighter).
In 1965, the company’s effort eventually paid off as the United States Air Force (USAF) stated its interest of the N-156T to replace the T-333 Shooting Star trainer aircraft. The first model then designated YT-38 Talon which had its first flight in June 1959. As of January 1972, a total of 1,158 Talons had been built and served with the USAF.
Meanwhile, the single seat variant (N-156F) was also under development and finally in February 1958, Northrop got a reward to develop three prototypes of it. The first N-156F had its maiden flight on 30 July 1959 and flew beyond the speed of sound.
Despite its achievement of performing better than the USAF’s existing North American F-100 Super Sabres, at the time the N-156F failed to get the USAF official’s interest. In 1961, the US Army showed interest to the prototype as this military branch wanted a reconnaissance and close-support aircraft. Along with the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and Fiat G.91, the N-156F was under test and evaluation and proved capable during the Army testing. However, at the time any operation of fixed-wing combat aircraft was under the authority of the USAF. Obviously the USAF was not interested to operate the N-156F. Again, the N-156F program found an obstacle.
One year later, the Kennedy Administration resurrected the requirement for a low-cost export fighter, awarding the N-156F as winner of the F-X competition on 23 April 1962 which later on using designation F-5A. Northrop was granted to start the production of F-5A in October 1962. Since then, there were a total of 636 F-5As had been manufactured until the production ended in 1972. A total of 200 trainer variants (F-5B) had been built. The F-5B did not have any cannon.
Still in early 1970s, as the Soviet MiG-21 was still a big threat to the USA and its NATO allies, a program called International Fighter Aircraft (IFA) awarded Northrop to develop an aircraft which should have better performance than the F-5A and surely could beat the MiG-21 in the sky. The company then improved the design of older F-5A and installed more powerful General Electric J85-21 engines on the new aircraft design. Along with some other modifications including the use of radar as the F-5A/B did not have any radar, a lengthened and enlarged fuselage to store more fuel, and enlarged leading edge extensions to provide an increased wing area and enhanced maneuverability.
The new design then designated F-5E took its first flight on 11 August 1972, followed by the first flight of the two-seat trainer version (F-5F) which armed with a single M39 cannon on 25 September 1974.
Similar to the F-5A/B, the F-5E/F series were also manufactured under license outside the US including Switzerland, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Northrop F-5 videos
Northrop F 5 Freedom Fighter – Switzerland Air Force
Discovery Channel Great Planes Northrop F 5 Freedom Fighter