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Last update 27-01-2014
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.
Augusto Pinochet lead a revolution against Allende on 11-09-73,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Prototype Tiger III (serial 809, probably fake) overflies the Israelian desert in IAI markings.
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.
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
bought in April 2009 eighteen former Dutch General Dynamics F-16 to
replace the Northrop F-5s. First six have been delivered in December
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
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, 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
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.
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
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.
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".
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.
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