The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page - Home
Aerea Brasileira / Brazilian
Last update 10-10-2012
UPGRADINGS / MODIFICATIONS
F-5E / F-5F
Continous use and ageing aircraft components has led
after some years to the
need to strengthen the airframe and
install modern equipment to keep F-5s from the first batch operational.
Unfortunately little is known about early modifications
to the fighters; the Northrop ejecton seat was replace by superior
Mk10L lightweight zero-zero ejection seat during the mid-eighties and
beginning of the 1990s the FAB seriously considered the necessity to
the fleet. Various alternatives were studied, but no action taken.
The second batch of F5s, former USAF aggressor aircrafts,
were not equipped
with VHF radios, VOR or GPS; these instruments were urgently installed
1988/1989, shortly after arrival in Brazil. Additionally the Northrop
seat was replaced with the same Martin Baker seat as the aircrafts of
Homestead AFB April 1989 before delivery with Brazilian and USAF
Photo: Archives The Northrop F-5
To improve air-to-air missile capacity, old AIM-9B
Sidewinder were still
in use, Rafael Python 3 medium range missiles were tested starting from
and finally operationally introduced in 2001 or 2002, live shooting taking
place on 12/16-09-05 by F-5Es of the 1°/14°GAv against bengalas dropped by Super Puma helicopters.
After a prolongued development
phase domestic short range Mectron MAA-1 Piranha were introduced in
service during the year 2003.
F-5E 4841 with Python 3 missiles seen in June 2003
Photo:Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
F-5EM / F-5FM
To asses the F5s airframe state an analysis was performed in the mid
90s by the
US Southwest Research Institute; the load spectrum was obtained from 5
F-5s operating at Santa Cruz AB,
prompting a life extension programm.
Northrop offered in 1994 to team with Embraer for an
programm, which would have covered
structural modifications and installing mainly locally produced
including Technasa’s SCP-01 multi purpose
radar (originally developed for the Embraer AMX) and Israel’s Elop model 967
head-up-display built under licence
Another upgrade was offered by Elbit under the name
F-5BR. This included the installation of Elta's EL/M2032 radar, Night Vision Goggles compatible cockpit, a self defense
suite, new avionics and
navigation systems, as well as Rafael Python III and (eventually) Derby
air-to-air missiles. Combat training was to be assured by an ACCMI system.
This upgrading promised to extend the operational life of the aircrafts
for 15 years, the avionics being at the level of fourth generation
fighters. On the negative side was the removal of one 20 mm cannon to
avionics for the new radar.
Elbit's proposal was accepted, with the exception of the replacement of
radar with a new Italian Fiar Grifo X.
On 30-12-01 the Brazilian Senate appoved financement of the USD 285
programm which foresaw the upgrading of 43 Northrop F-5E and 3 Northrop
F-5F; first delivery was planned in
July 2004 and final in September 2007 at a rate of two aircrafts per
To house the conversion and tests programms for the fighter a new area
built at the Embraer's
factory, inaugurated in June 2002.
aircrafts, serials F-5E 4874 and F-5F 4808, were delivered to Embraer
José dos Campos factory on 19-02-01. By September 2003 the
modified F-5F was almost complete. Upon
completion it was first flown, under the name F-5BR, on 24-11-03 at Sao
José dos Campos factory and rolled
officially on 04-12-03 out. Date of first flight of the single-seater,
also marked as F-5BR, is not known.
Embraer F-5BR single-seater prototype 4874
Aircrafts from the second batch were mainly chosen to be first
unfortunately, tests at Sao José dos
Campos revealed software problems and the programm schedule slipped,
schedule was now to be 12 in 2005,
18 in 2006, 16 in 2007.
The first two production airframe to be modernised, one single-seater was received by
Embraer on 28-04-03 and upgrading
was completed in December 2004, first flight in the new configuration
place on 29-12-04; this single-seater, now designated F-5EM, was
officially handed over to the Brazilian AF on
28-02-05 at Sao José dos Campos.
System tests were accomplished jointly by Embraer and the Air Force in
appproximately 90 flying hours at Natal AB
between 14 February and 15 April 2005; first batch of pilots were
Embraer together with Elbit.
An official ceremony on 21 September 2005 at Canoas marked
the service entrance of the Embraer F-5EM with the first operational
unit: 1°/14 GAv "Pampa" at Canoas AB.
Canoas AB on 21-09-05 showing the latest missile armament: Piranha and
The 1°/14 GAv "Pampa" was entrusted with an operational evaluation
role, adding trials to their normal duties.
The evaluation included in-flight refuelling trials between
11-03-06 with KC-130H Hercules tankers,
followed between 27-03-06 and 29-03-06 with Boeing KC-137 tankers.
was shown for
the first time
publicly in Brasilia
Photo: Ricardo de
Inaugurated at Canoas AB on 11-08-06 a F-5EM flight simulator helps to
pilots training and avoids not
strictly necessary flight hours, saving costs and mantaining flight
Upgrading of airframes has continued through the years, seeing delivery
F-5EM in the second half of 2005, a
total of 7 as of 30-06-06 and a total of 14 by September 2006; one of
an F-5FM two seater.
These were mainly supplied to the 1°/14° GAV, only one is
confirmed as being
supplied to the 1° GAvCa during this
period, but the unit took delivery of additonal aircrafts in 2007.
Front view of an F-5EM showing another change to
deletion of one of the two 20mm cannon to house new
In the meantime capability improvement of the original F-5Es had taken
2004 with the service acceptance of locally built Mectron MAA-1A
necesitating the update of the software to enable the operation of this
maneuvrable, infrared guided air-to-air missile having similar
the AIM-9L Sidewinder.
During April and May 2003 South African Kentron company (part of Denel
had supported the final
Piranha test campaign using flare targets towed behind the high-speed
drones, missiles being fired by Northrop F-5E, Embraer EMB-326 and
Embraer A-29 Super
A lot of 100 Piranhas have been ordered to equip F-5s, AMX and Super
Rafael's Derby was selected for Beyond Visual
Range combat, 38 being procured beginning 2006 to equip the Embraer
starting with the Cruzex 2006 excercise, the Força Aerea
standardized on the Mectron MAA-1A Piranha for
the short and Rafael Derby for the BVR range combat.
Trials have also taken place with 10
Denel R-Darter to replace the Piranha and Rafael Python 3, but the Air
preferred to wait till an improved model was available, investing USD 100 million into the development by Mectron
and the South
African Denel Aerospace of the short-range AAM, fifth generation
A-Darter. The Air Force hopes to introduce the A-Darter in service
it will become the main AAM used by all Brazilian fighters.
In flight view of F-5EM
with Piranha missiles on the wingtips and R-Darter under the wings
In August 2006 four Rafael Litening III infrared
targeting and navigation pods were ordered at a cost
of USD 13 million together together with 3 Rafael
Sky Shield multi-purpose jamming pods at cost of
USD 42 million to complete electronic equipment
Litening III - Rafael
End of September 2007 the Air Force announced the acquisition of 3
F-5F, 4 Northrop F-5EM (already with Head-Up Weapon Aiming Computer
addition), 4 Northrop F-5E from Jordan.
conversion programm received a set-back during 2007 when 7 F-5EM and 1
F-5FM of the 16 upgraded airframes had to be returned to Embraer at
Gaviao Peixoto to be reworked. They have been returned to service
during 2008 together with 10 newly modified aircrafts, while additional
10 are planned to be delivered during 2009.
Embraer officially announced that the 23rd updated F-5, out of 43 received from the Air Force and of the 46 foreseen, was delivered on 31-03-08; fully equipped F-5EM/FM Squadrons are scheduled to
be operational in 2009. Eight were delivered in 2010, only 5 were left to be delivered in 2011; forty-two
aircrafts had been delivered by Embraer by the end of June 2011. The
last two upgraded Embraer/Northrop F-5s of the first batch have been
officially delivered to the Air Force on 19-06-12 at Gaviao Peixoto and transferred to Santa Cruz AB on 07-03-2013.
contract with Embraer for the upgrade of 11 former Jordanian aircrafts
was signed in December 2010; first receiving a general overhaul
at Campo de Marte AB (PAMA-SP) beginning with the three
double-seaters; nine F-5s (7 silver colours and 2 camouflaged) were visible at Parque de Material Aeronautico de Marte on 25-10-09; seven single- 4 double-seaters were present on 16-10-11.
started upgrading the two-seater in October 2012 at the Gaviao Peixoto
plant; three former Jordanian airframes were being upgraded in March
2013, delivery of the first to the Air Force was foreseen for the end
of 2013, to be completed in 2016. It takes approximately 11 months to
go through the modernisation process.
former Jordanian Northrop F-5 have been seen at Campo de Marte
30-09-13; they have been transferred to Embraer at Gaviao Peixoto for
the final part of modernisation. But, according to a local source, only the two seaters will be updated.