Fuerza Aerea de Chile  /  Chilean Air Force

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                                        Last update 27-01-2014

BASES                                                           PROCUREMENT / EMBARGO

 The Chilean government had made uncessful attempts to buy 18 Northrop F-5A and
 3 Northrop F-5B prior to the purchase in 1966 of Hawker Hunters; no supersonic
 fighters could be supplied to Latin American countries.
 Deep influence for armament purchases was the election of socialist Salvador Allende
 to president of the country in 1970. The USA deeply mistrusted him, while the Soviet
 Union offered MiG-21s as a new fighter, but the military preferred the Northrop F-5E.

 General Augusto Pinochet lead a revolution against Allende on 11-09-73, instauring a
 bloody military regime. This led to a change of mind on the side of USA and they
 offered 15 F-5E and 3 Norhthrop F-5F at a cost of USD 60 millions, including spares
 and equipment, financed directly by Chile. The purchase contract was signed in June
 1974, deliveries to start in  May 1976; AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles were also
 bought. The programm was named " Peace Llama I".
 
 Six pilots started training in Spain at the Escuela de Reactores (Jet School) on CASA/
 Northrop F-5B during 1975. During 1977 six pilots followed an eight months course in
 Brazil, obtaining their operational graduation at Santa Cruz AB.

 
  F-5E J-813 in USA before delivery                    Photo: unknown




First F-5Es arrived at Santiago de Chile on 25-07-76, but in the meantime the US Congress had placed a veto to supply arms of repressive nature to Chile starting from 01-10-76. Fast delivery of the remaining aircrafts and of AIM-9B and AIM-9P Sidewinder enabled to complete the order before the start of the embargo.
The embargo had devastating consequences on the operation of the Northrop fighter. An authorisation to buy spares exclusively involving flight safety, such as ejection seat cartridges, was received in 1986, but no other parts were allowed.

By mid 1987 only 4 F-5s were flyable. Unofficial sources spoke of various plans to solve the problem: sell the Tigers and  replace them with 12 IAI Kfir C2 (re-engined with Snecma ATAR 9K50 to avoid US embargo), handover the F-5Fs to Brazil  to enable training of pilots there, or even to buy Chinese F-7.
All these rumours were refuted in
January 1990 by the Commander in Chief of the Air Force, who stated that the aircrafts were to be rotated through a refurbishing programm by the local ENAER company.


F-5E serial 808 in aggressor colours
March 1989; red marking were already
painted in 1988 for some exercises.





Photo: Peter Steinemann

Increasing technical assistance from Israel led to arm the surviving F-5s with Shafrir II missiles and helped in local modification of early AIM-9B Sidewinder.


Northrop F-5F 815 at Antofagasta in 1989               Photograph: 
Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Political changes, a civilian governement had been elected in Chile in March 1990, brought gradual improvement in the relations with the USA and the cancellation of the embargo, enabling the acquisition of spare parts, restarting normal operations and allowing consideration of an upgrade of the remaining fleet. Also under consideration was the acquisition of 24 additional F-5E/F.

UPGRADING

The contract for the upgrade by Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI) of the Tiger fleet, valued at USD 300 millions and named "Proyecto Tiffany", was signed during FIDAE exhibition in March 1990. One F-5E and one F-5F were to be transferred to Israel to act as prototypes, the rest of the fleet (12 single-, 3 two-seaters) was to be upgraded by ENAER at Santiago de Chile.

This programm, called Tiger III by IAI, added an Elta EL/M-2032B radar, necessitating the port M39 cannon to be deleted, and Python III AAMs. Additionally an El-Op HUD, INS/GPS together with various new navigation/ communication sets.The aircraft had a fully-integrated electronic warfare suite with RWR, ECM jammer and chaff/flare dispensers. No in depth structural changes were foreseen to extend its service life.
Two prototype aircrafts were to be upgraded by IAI in Israel between 1991 and 1992, while the remainder were to be upgraded by ENAER's Santiago-El Bosque factory.

The prototype F-5E Plus Tiger III (serial 805) was first flown at Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion airport on 08 July 1992. It remained in Israel, together with the F-5F prototype (though there is no evidence of the F-5F being in Israel) for tests and was exhibited at Le Bourget air-show in June 1993 as F-5Plus, before being returned to Chile in the same year.

Delivery to the Air Force started on 15-12-93 wihen the two prototypes uprgaded aircrafts were handed-over at El Bosque AB.

 Photo: unknown
Prototype Tiger III (serial 809, probably fake) overflies the Israelian desert in IAI markings.

                   Photo: Enaer
                  
The modification line at Enaer el Bosque AB.

IAI modified aircrafts were delivered to the Chilean AF in July and September 1993; delivery of ENAER modified aircrafts started in 1994.

          Photo: unknown
           F-5E Tiger III in very clean configuration shortly after upgrading

 Peformance improvements was  given  to  F-5s  beginning with  the  installation of air to air  refuelling        probes. A contract was signed  in  January 1997 with US Tiger Century      company  for  the  delivery of 13 F-5E  and 3 F-5F air-refuelling  kits. These  were installed by ENAER during 1997-98.

 Photo: José Ignacio Jara

Air combat was not  neglected: Rafael Python 4, short distance missile, as seen here under the wings and on wingtip rails, and Rafael Derby BVR missiles were bought in 2001; Tiger III neeeded few modification to operate the Python 4 but adaptation of the Derby was more complicated and needed modification to the avionics,  which was performed by ENAER at its El Bosque plant.



                    

                 Photo: Chilean AF


Swiss company RUAG takes care since 2005 of the revision, repair and modification of the General Electric J-85 turbines; by 2010 it had maintained twelve and tested one in flight on a Swiss Tiger.
Additional work by RUAG was the repair of wings and maintenance of hydraulic components in Switzerland; Swiss specialists were engaged for the control and fatigue assessment of the airframes at Antofagasta AB.

REPLACEMENT

Chile bought in April 2009 eighteen former Dutch General Dynamics F-16 to replace the Northrop F-5s. First six have been delivered in December 2009.

UNIT / BADGES

Grupo de Aviacion N° 7

                
On both air intakes  Low visibility   
Tiger heads on tail Tiger head on tail of 
badge early years/March 1984        of F-5E                  F-5E Tiger III
                                         

The Grupo was based in 1976 at Antofagasta BA Cerro Moreno, equipped with Hawker Hunters, when it was re-equipped with Northrop F-5E and F-5F and its Hunters transferred to the Grupo 8 and 9. It had mainly interception/air combat duties, only 10% training was dedicated to ground attack duties.

Unusual is the report of the sighting of an UFO by two Northrop F-5Fs during 1978 by their pilots.

Within a short time the impact of the US embargo was felt and operativity was reduced to very low levels; additionally one F-5E crashed on 15-10-81, another on 16-02-83.

First upgraded F-5 Tiger III was received on 06-07-94 directly from ENAER.

Grupo de Aviacion N° 12  “Tigres Australes”

   
   Patch       Undercockpit badge
                  on single-seaters

Acquisition of more former Dutch General Dynamics F-16 enabled the re-equipment of Grupo 7 and
 the transfer of the Northrop F-5 Tiger IIIs to Grupo 12 (IV Brigada Aera) based at the extreme
 South of Chile, at Punta Arena, Chabunco AB, by early 2010. On 20-03-10 eight aircrafts  (inclu-
 ding 2 two-seaters) were transferred from Santiago de Chile to the new base, in-flight refuelled
 twice by a Boeing  B.707 tanker and supported by one Lockheed C-130; 2 additional  followed on
 23-03-10. The unit had a total of 10 single- and 2  double-seaters by mid-2011; another double-
 seater was undergoing in depth maintenance at ENAER plant and was to be delivered  by the end of 2012.

                     Photo: FA Chile
Northrop F-5F Tiger being refuelled during its transfer to Punta Arena AB while another one waits for its turn.  Note Grupo N°12 badge behind cockpit.

Grupo de Aviacion N° 10

The Grupo, based at Santiago International airport, obtained in 1983 Boeing 707 serial 903, modified to KC-707 (called "Aguila") tanker by IAI at Tel Aviv for air refuelling duties.
IAI also converted in 1993 Boeing 707 serial 904 to carry the Phalcon Airborne Early Warning system; the aircraft is called "Condor". Delivery to Grupo N° 10 took place in May 95.

Photo
shows early black radome - Chilean AF

 

EXERCISES

The Tigers participated to the joynt US excercises Bluesky I, II and III.

In September 1988 the availability had improved and, during the visit of US carrier Independence to Chilean waters on 19/20 September the F-5S achieved a remarkable degree of success in mock fogfights against US Navy A-7 Corsairs, F-14A Tomacts of VF-103 and even A/F-18 Hornets of VF-131.

Another joint operation, this time with 6 USAF F-16Cs from Hill AFB, took place over the desert of Northern Chile in July 1996. The F-5 Tiger III operated in conjunction with Mirage 5M Elkans, controlled by an AEW Phalcon aircraft and included air-to-air, air-to-ground operations, dissimilar air-combat and base defence missions.

Another important step was the transfer exercise to Pascua (Easter) Island on 12-01-98; 3 F-5E Tiger III flew nonstop the 4'000 kilometers distance betwee Antofagasta and the island in 5 hours and 42 minutes, each aircraft refuelled 4 times by a Chilean KC-707 tanker. Support was also given by 1 Lockheed C-130 and one Gulfstream III. Return to Antofagasta was on 14-01-98. This exercise was named "Manu Tama  I".
This long distance deployment was in preparation to the Chilean participation to the Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB (USA)
.

Six F-5E, supported by 1 C-130 and the KC-707 "Aguila" participated to Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB (USA) exercise between 27-07-98 and 08-08-98, together with Netherlands, Belgian and USAF F-16s.







 F-5E Tiger III landing at Nellis AFB.

 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

An accident, fortunately without serious consequences, happened on 16-08-01 to an Northrop F-5F on landing at Antofagasta, while on 26-08-06  another F-5F slid-off the Antofgasta runway on take-off.

An important step was reached on 30-07-07 when the Grupo N° 7 reached a total of 50'000 flying hours on a routine training flight of an F-5E Tiger III.

The Grupo also took part to pilot exchange with the Brazilian AF, hosting one pilot each of 1° GAv and 1°/14° GAv, who completed their tour at the end of the year 2007.

  Willka 2007 was a binational Chile/USA exercise taking place at Iquique
  -Condores AB between 15-10-07 and
19-10-07 with the participation of
  6 F-16C Block 30 of USAF's Reserve 457 Squadron, 3 F-5E and 1 F-5F
  of the Grupo de Aviacion N°7, 4 F-16C Block 50 of the Grupo de
  Aviacion N° 3 and 4 F-16A Block 20 MLU of the Grupo de Aviacion N° 8.


Cruzex IV, Chilean Tiger III took place from Natal AB (Brazil) between 01-11-08 and 14-01-08.
The transfer of 6 Tiger III started on 01-11-08 with the support of 1 B.737 and 1 B.707 tanker for air-refuelling. Unfortunately an unforeseen landing had to be done at Asuncion (Paraguay) due to a technical problem on one of the Tigers.
They were part of the "Blue Force", engaged against only 6 Brazilian AF Embraer/Northrop F-5EM equipped "Red Force". 

Possibly the last F-5 exercise participition is the Salitre II one that took place at Antofagasta AB between 25 and 30-10-09.  Present were Chilean 4 Northrop F-5E Tiger II,  F-16As, Argentinian AF A-4Rs, USAF F-15Cs, French Mirage 2000s, Brazilian AMX plus various air-refuelling, and rescue planes.

Retirement

  One aircraft wase transferred   to the Air Force museum at     los Cerrillos AB :
 
811 - originally used for         parts recovery by ENAER at     el Bosque AB 
was                   handed over on 25-05-10;
  since 2011 it is placed as a     monument at the AF               Headquarter, also at los         Cerrillos AB.
 
  The air Force Heaquarter,       also at Santiagp-los Cerrillos   housed a second one:
  812
- seen on this photo at   the
museum on 16-01-11         awaiting some works to be     done.
 
Photo: Robert Domandl                                                                           Was latest seen on  20-03-16