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Today's Hobbies Inc. TOD-J-3 Northrop F-5E Tiger II
Wingspan: 13" 1/24 Scale
Building Skill / Flying Skill: Experienced / Experienced

Northrop F-5E Tiger II

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TOD-J-1 F-16A Fighting Falcon 15"

TOD-J-2 F-18 Hornet 20"

TOD-J-3 F-5E Tiger II 13"

TOD-J-4 F-14A Tomcat 32"

TOD-J-5 F-4E Phantom II 19-3/8"

[IMAGE The Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and the F-5E/F Tiger II are part of a family of widely used light supersonic fighter aircraft, designed and built by Northrop. Although less complex and advanced than some contemporary aircraft such as the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, it was significantly cheaper to procure and operate, and the type became a popular aircraft on the export market. While not procured in volume by the United States, it was perhaps the most effective air-to-air fighter possessed by the U.S. in the 1960s and early 1970s. Strengths included the aircraft's compact size, a high level of maneuverability, favorable flying qualities and a low accident rate, and a high sortie generation rate. The capabilities, reliability, and maintainability of the F-5, similar to a Soviet counterpart, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, led to hundreds of F-5s remaining in service into the 21st century.

The F-5 started life as a privately funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s. The design team wrapped a small, highly aerodynamic fighter around two compact and high-thrust General Electric J85 engines, focusing on performance and low cost of maintenance. Armed with twin 20 mm cannons and missiles for air-to-air combat, the aircraft was also a capable ground-attack platform. The F-5A entered service in the early 1960s. During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies. While the USAF had no acknowledged need for a light fighter, it procured roughly 1,200 trainer aircraft of an F-5 derivative, the Northrop T-38 Talon, instead.

As a result of winning the International Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970, a program aimed at providing effective low-cost fighters to American allies, Northrop introduced the second-generation F-5E Tiger II in 1972. This upgrade included more powerful engines, higher fuel capacity, greater wing area and improved leading edge extensions for a better turn rate, optional air-to-air refueling, and improved avionics including air-to-air radar. Though primarily used by American allies, it also served in U.S. military aviation as a training and aggressor aircraft. A total of 1,400 Tiger II versions were built before production ended in 1987. More than 3,800 F-5 and T-38 aircraft were produced in Hawthorne, California.

The F-5 was also developed into a dedicated reconnaissance version, the RF-5 Tigereye. The F-5 also served as a starting point for a series of design studies which resulted in the Northrop YF-17 and the F/A-18 navalized fighter aircraft. The Northrop F-20 Tigershark was an advanced variant to succeed the F-5E which was ultimately canceled. The F-5N/F variants are in service with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps as an adversary trainer. The F-5 is in service in the air forces of more than 25 nations as of November 2013.

In the mid-1950s, Northrop started development on a low-cost, low-maintenance fighter, with the company designation N-156, partly to meet a U.S. Navy requirement for a jet fighter to operate from its escort carriers, which were too small to operate the Navy's existing jet fighters. That requirement disappeared when the Navy decided to withdraw the escort carriers, but Northrop continued development of the N-156, with both a two-seat advanced trainer (the N-156T), and a single-seat fighter (the N-156F) planned.

The design effort was led by Northrop vice president of engineering and accomplished aircraft designer Edgar Schmued, who previously at North American Aviation had been the chief designer of the highly successful P-51 Mustang and F-86 Sabre fighters. Schmued recognized that an efficient supersonic light fighter could be developed, taking advantage of the compact but high thrust-to-weight ratio General Electric J85 turbojet engine and the transonic area rule, seeking to reverse the trend in fighter development towards greater weight and cost. The J85 powerplant was developed to power McDonnell's ADM-20 Quail decoy employed upon the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.

Another highly influential figure was chief engineer Welko Gasich, who convinced Schmued that the engines must be located within the fuselage for maximum performance. Gasich also for the first time introduced the concept of "life cycle cost" into fighter design, which provided the foundation for the F-5's low operating cost and long service life. The first Northrop YF-5A prototype

[IMAGE The N-156T was selected by the United States Air Force as a replacement for the T-33 in July 1956. Development proceeded quickly, with the first prototype aircraft, later designated YT-38 Talon, taking its first flight on 12 June 1959. A total of 1,158 Talons would be built by the time production ended in January 1972.

Development of the N-156F continued at a lower priority as a private venture by Northrop, which was rewarded by an order for three prototypes on 25 February 1958 as a prospective low-cost fighter that could be supplied under the Military Assistance Program for distribution to less-developed nations. The first N-156F flew at Edwards Air Force Base on 30 July 1959, exceeding the speed of sound on its first flight.

Although testing of the N-156F was successful, demonstrating unprecedented reliability and proving superior in the ground-attack role to the USAF's existing North American F-100 Super Sabres, official interest in the Northrop type waned, and by 1960 it looked as if the program was a failure. Interest revived in 1961, but when the United States Army tested it, (along with the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and Fiat G.91) for reconnaissance and close-support, although all three types proved capable during Army testing, operating fixed-wing combat aircraft was legally the responsibility of the Air Force, which would not agree to operate the N-156 or allow the Army to operate fixed-wing combat aircraft, a situation repeated with the C-7 Caribou. VNAF F-5C Bien Hoa Air Base, 1971

In 1962, however, the Kennedy Administration revived the requirement for a low-cost export fighter, selecting the N-156F as winner of the F-X competition on 23 April 1962 subsequently becoming the "F-5A", being ordered into production in October that year. It was named under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system, which included a re-set of the fighter number series (the General Dynamics F-111 was the highest sequentially numbered P/F-aircraft to enter service under the old number sequence).

Northrop built 624 F-5As (including three YF-5A prototypes) before production ended in 1972. These were accompanied by 200 two-seat F-5B aircraft. These were operational trainers, lacking the nose-mounted cannon but otherwise combat-capable, while 86 RF-5A reconnaissance variants of the F-5A, fitted with a four-camera nose were also built. In addition, Canadair built 240 first generation F-5s under license, with CASA in Spain adding a further 70 aircraft.

In 1970, Northrop won the International Fighter Aircraft (IFA) competition to replace the F-5A, with better air-to-air performance against aircraft like the Soviet MiG-21. The resultant aircraft, initially known as F-5A-21, subsequently became the F-5E. It had more powerful (5,000 lbf) General Electric J85-21 engines, and had a lengthened and enlarged fuselage, accommodating more fuel. Its wings were fitted with enlarged leading edge extensions, giving an increased wing area and improved maneuverability. The aircraft's avionics were more sophisticated, crucially including a radar (initially the Emerson Electric AN/APQ-153) (the F-5A and B had no radar). It retained the gun armament of two M39 cannon, one on either side of the nose) of the F-5A. Various specific avionics fits could be accommodated at customer request, including an inertial navigation system, TACAN and ECM equipment.

The first F-5E flew on 11 August 1972. A two-seat combat-capable trainer, the F-5F, was offered, first flying on 25 September 1974, with a new, longer nose, which, unlike the F-5B that did not mount a gun, allowed it to retain a single M39 cannon, albeit with a reduced ammunition capacity. The two-seater was equipped with the Emerson AN/APQ-157 radar, which is a derivative of the AN/APQ-153 radar, with dual control and display systems to accommodate the two-men crew, and the radar has the same range of AN/APQ-153, around 10 nmi. Early series F-5E

[IMAGE A reconnaissance version, the RF-5E Tigereye, with a sensor package in the nose displacing the radar and one cannon, was also offered.

The F-5E eventually received the official name Tiger II; 792 F-5Es, 146 F-5Fs and 12 RF-5Es were eventually built by Northrop. More were built under license overseas: 91 F-5Es and -Fs in Switzerland, 68 by Korean Air in South Korea, and 308 in Taiwan. The F-5 proved to be a successful combat aircraft for U.S. allies, but had no combat service with the U.S. Air Force. The F-5E evolved into the single-engine F-5G, which was rebranded the F-20 Tigershark. It lost out on export sales to the F-16 in the 1980s.

The F-5E experienced numerous upgrades in its service life, with the most significant one being adopting a new planar array radar, Emerson AN/APQ-159 with a range of 20 nmi to replace the original AN/APQ-153. Similar radar upgrades were also proposed for F-5F, with the derivative of AN/APQ-159, the AN/APQ-167, to replace the AN/APQ-157, but that was cancelled. The latest radar upgrade included the Emerson AN/APG-69, which was the successor of AN/APQ-159, incorporating mapping capability. However, most nations chose not to upgrade for financial reasons, and the radar saw very little service in USAF aggressor squadrons and Swiss air force.

Various F-5 versions remain in service with many nations. Singapore has approximately 49 modernized and re-designated F-5S (single-seat) and F-5T (two-seat) aircraft. Upgrades include new FIAR Grifo-F X-band radar from Galileo Avionica (similar in performance to the AN/APG-69), updated cockpits with multi-function displays, and compatibility with the AIM-120 AMRAAM and Rafael Python air-to-air missiles.

One NASA F-5E was given a modified fuselage shape for its employment in the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration program carried out by DARPA. It is preserved in the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum at Titusville, Florida.

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) had their F-5s undergo an entensive upgrade program, resulting in the aircraft re-designated as F-5T Tigris. They are armed with Python III and 4 missiles; and equipped with the Dash helmet-mounted cueing system.

Similar programs have been carried out in Chile and Brazil with the help of Elbit. The Chilean upgrade, called the F-5 Tiger III Plus, incorporated a new Elta EL/M-2032 radar and other improvements. The Brazilian program, re-designated as F-5M, adds a new Grifo-F radar along with several avionics and cockpit refurbishments, including the Dash helmet. The F-5M has been equipped with new weapon systems such as the Beyond Visual Range Derby missile, Python IV short-range air-to-air missile, SMKBs smart bomb, and several other weapons.

The first contract for the production F-5A was issued in 1962, the first overseas order coming from the Royal Norwegian Air Force on 28 February 1964. It entered service with the 4441st Combat Crew Training School of the USAF, which had the role of training pilots and ground crew for customer nations, on 30 April that year, it still not being intended that the aircraft be used in significant numbers by the USAF itself.

This changed with testing and limited deployment in 1965. Preliminary combat evaluation of the F-5A began at the Air Proving Ground Center, Eglin AFB, Florida, during the summer of 1965 under project Sparrow Hawk, with one airframe lost through pilot error on 24 June. In October 1965, the USAF began a five-month combat evaluation of the F-5A titled Skoshi Tiger. Twelve aircraft were delivered for trials to the 4503rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, and after modification with probe and drogue aerial refueling equipment, armor and improved instruments, were redesignated as the F-5C. Over the next six months, they performed combat duty in Vietnam, flying more than 2,600 sorties, both from the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Bien Hoa over South Vietnam and from Da Nang Air Base where operations were flown over Laos. 9 aircraft were lost in Vietnam, 7 to enemy ground fire and two to operational causes. Although declared a success, with the aircraft generally rated as capable a ground-attack aircraft as the F-100, but suffering from a shorter range, the program was considered a political gesture intended to aid the export of more F-5s than a serious consideration of the type for U.S. service. From April 1966, the aircraft continued operations as 10th Fighter Commando Squadron with their number boosted to 17 aircraft. (Following Skoshi Tiger the Philippine Air Force acquired 23 F-5A and B models in 1965. These aircraft, along with remanufactured Vought F-8 Crusaders, eventually replaced the Philippine Air Force's North American F-86 Sabre in the air defense and ground attack roles.)

[IMAGE In June 1967, the 10th FCS's surviving aircraft were supplied to the air force of South Vietnam, which previously had only Cessna A-37 Dragonfly and Douglas A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft. This new VNAF squadron was titled the 522nd. The president of Vietnam had originally asked for F-4 Phantoms used by the Americans, but the VNAF flew primarily ground support as the communist forces employed no opposing aircraft over South Vietnam. When Bien Hoa was later overrun by Communist forces, several of the aircraft were captured and used operationally by the NVAF, in particular against Khmer Rouge. In view of the performance, agility and size of the F-5, it might have appeared to be a good match against the similar MiG-21 in air combat; however, U.S. doctrine was to use heavy, faster and longer-range aircraft like the Republic F-105 Thunderchief and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II over North Vietnam. 41 F-5s were captured by the NVA when they defeated South Vietnam on 30 April 1975, and the Russians were offered "their pick" of the captured equipment, at which time they quickly loaded up one complete F-5E, two spare engines, all spare parts, and all ground support equipment onto one of their waiting cargo ships. These, along with other samples were sent to Poland and Russia, for advanced study of U.S. aviation technology, while others were decommissioned and put on display at museums in Vietnam.

The F-5 was also adopted as an opposing forces (OPFOR) "aggressor" for dissimilar training role because of its small size and performance similarities to the Soviet MiG-21. In this role it has proven a dangerous opponent to more complex aircraft. In realistic trials at Nellis AFB in 1977, the F-14 scored slightly better than a 2:1 kill ratio against the much simpler F-5, while the F-15 scored slightly less. With further tuning of the rules that assigned a higher probability of kill to the long range missiles used by the F-14 and the F-15 and that handicapped use of guns and radar warning receivers by the F-5s, the F-14 scored slightly better than 1:1 while the F-15 scored nearly 2:1 against the F-5.

The F-5E served with the U.S. Air Force from 1975 until 1990, in the 64th Aggressor Squadron and 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and with the 527th Aggressor Squadron at RAF Alconbury in the UK and the 26th Aggressor Squadron at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The U.S. Marines purchased ex-USAF models in 1989 to replace their F-21s, which served with VMFT-401 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. The U.S. Navy used the F-5E extensively at the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) when it was located at NAS Miramar, California. When TOPGUN relocated to become part of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada, the command divested itself of the F-5, choosing to rely on VC-13 (redesignated VFC-13 and which already used F-5s) to employ their F-5s as adversary aircraft. Former adversary squadrons such as VF-43 at NAS Oceana, VF-45 at NAS Key West, VF-126 at NAS Miramar, and VFA-127 at NAS Lemoore have also operated the F-5 along with other aircraft types in support of Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT).

The U.S. Navy F-5 fleet continues to be modernized with 36 low-hour F-5E/Fs purchased from Switzerland in 2006. These were updated as F-5N/Fs with modernized avionics and other improved systems. Currently, the only U.S. Navy units flying the F-5 are VFC-13 at NAS Fallon, Nevada and VFC-111 at NAS Key West, Florida. Currently, VFC-111 operates 18 Northrop F-5N/F Tiger-IIs, of which 17 are single-seater F-5Ns and the remainder being a twin-seater F-5F, which was dubbed "FrankenTiger" and is one of only three in service with the USN, being a product of grafting the older front half fuselage of the F-5Fs into the back half fuselage of the newer low-hours F-5Es acquired from the Swiss Air Force.

According to the FAA, there are 18 privately owned F-5s in the U.S., including Canadair CF-5Ds.

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