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Koninklijke Luchtmacht - Royal Netherlands Air Force

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Procurement
The Netherlands and Belgium had a joint flying instruction programme whereby cadets trained first on Belgian Fouga Magisters, followed by advanced training on Dutch Lockheed T-33A and operational conversion on Dutch Republic F-84F, but replacement for these aged aircrafts was needed by the mid-60s.
An evaluation team was sent between 10-01-66 and 05-02-66 to the USA to evaluate various aircrafts:  LTV A-7A, Northrop F-5A, Douglas A-4E and Lockheed CL-984 (a strike version similar to the F-104S).
None of these was selected; the choice fell on the Canadair version of the Freedom Fighters to be built partially in the Netherlands, designated Canadair NF-5A and NF-5B (Canadair designation CL-226-1A10 and CL-226-1A11), respectively single- and double-seaters. This aircraft enabled the replacement of several types in Dutch use: the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak fighter-bomber, the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash reconnaissance-fighter and Lockheed T-33A trainer. The choice was officially announced on 25-10-66 by the Defence Minister. Unfortunately Belgium did not agree to replace its own Republic F-84F with the same aircraft, preferring to order Mirage 5 to be built under licence locally.

Dutch aircrafts were essentially similar to the Canadian AF CF-5 but introduced several modifications, the most important were: more powerful J-85Can-15 engines, Doppler radar navigation system, arrester hook, a strengthened windscreen; NF-5A only had provison for 1040 liter wing pylon tanks and a two position nose gear.

An order for 105 aircrafts was placed on 30-01-67; Aviolanda was to assemble locally the rear fuselage, Avio Diepen the centre fuselage, complete assembly being undertaken in Canada at Montreal by Canadair.
Plans were to manufacture 50 Canadair NF-5A for 2 fighter-bomber Squadrons, 25 reconnaissance NF-5A for 1 Squadron and 30 NF-5B trainers to replace 35 Lockheed T-33As. Finally, it was decided to order 75 fighter-bombers and 30 double-seaters for 3 operational Squadrons and 1 advanced training/operational conversion Squadron.

The first NF-5A built was rolled out by Canadair on 05-03-69 and first flew on 24-03-69, followed by the first NF-5B on 07-07-69; two NF-5s entered the flight test programme by May 1969 while 24 Dutch technicians were trained as technical instructors.


Roll-out ceremony of Canadair NF-5A on 05-03-69.                              Photo: Canadair

First Canadair NF-5A (serial K-3001) and three NF-5B were officially handed-over to the Air Force on 08-10-69 at Montreal-Cartierville plant; K-3001 left shortly after for Edwards AFB (USA) to be used for tests.

Canadair NF-5s had no in-flight refuelling equipment; several ways had to be taken into consideration to transfer new built aircrafts to the Netherlands: by ship, airlift or commercial contract ferrying by Skyways. The Air Force decided to handle the transfer itself after having received confirmation of in-flight support by the USAF's 2nd Aircraft Delivery Group with its 2 Lockheed C-130 for radio relay and rescue. A project called "Hi-flite" was set-up to ferry the aircrafts across the Atlantic in batches of 4 to 6 in each flight; starting from Bagotville AB (Canada) they stopped on route at Goose Bay (Canada), where a Dutch technical team provided a couple of check fights, Sonderstrom (Greenland), Keflavik (Iceland) and Lossiemouth (UK) before arriving at Twenthe AB. Particularly delicate was the leg between Goose Bay and Sonderstrom as the aircrafts had only a 30 minutes fuel reserve and it was most important to be sure about good weather on arrival as there was no alternate airport within range.
First ferry flight (
"Hi-flite" Nr 1) took place with 4 Canadair NF-5B (K-4002/03/05/06), these landed at Twenthe AB on 19-11-69. A total of 20 flights, lasting between a minimum of 3 and maximum of 25 days, took place. The very last aircrafts to reach Dutch soil were NF-5A K-3071 and NF-5B K-4030 on 20-03-72 with "Hi-flite" Nr 20A.

           
            Canadair NF-5B K-4001 seen at Woendsrecht in May 1971 still without Squadron bagde.
                                                                               Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast   

Initially the NF-5 training unit operated as Transitie Vliegopleiding (TVO) at Woendsrecht AB; Squadron 315 took over in May 1970 training duties, when enough aircrafts were available.

Camouflage

All Dutch NF-5s were delivered in standard camouflage and this was kept for a long time. In the mid-80s three new camouflages were experimented: grey only, a two-tone grey/blue, and a so-called "F-16". The grey only was finally selected and applied to several aircrafts, see serial list for details.


Canadair NF-5B K-4011, 316 Squadron, with long-range tanks, in original coulours in Italy on
29-09-1985.
                                                    Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

         
            Canadair NF-5A K-3036, 314 Squadron in definitive all-grey colour seen in November 1987.
                                                                                                     Photo: Charles Stewart

 
Immaculate Canadair NF-5B K-4014 in two-towne grey/blue without Squadron badge, August 1983.

                                                                        Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

             
Canadair NF-5A K-3028, 315 Squadron seen on July 1984, in "F-16" camouflage. Note coloured tail-badge;
this was by 1985 toned-down, see picture in "Units" page.                                    
Photo: Jos Wigbold
Utilisation
The aircrafts were used during their Dutch career mainly in the fighter-bomber role (apart from training), flying low-level missions against troops and ground installations. The Vliehors range, on the same name island, was utilised for weapons training.

They were also used as day only interceptors (due to lack of radar), armed with AIM-9J, Sidewinder for a few months at the beginning of 1982, during an interim period between the phase-out of Lockheed F-104G and the operational introduction of the General Dynamics F-16.


Canadair NF-5A K-3056 belonging to the 313 Squadron in new grey camouflage and armed with
inert AIM-9J Sidewinders, blue painted.
                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast     

Dissimilar air-combat training was also exercised;
in the early years the under-fuselage tank was  painted with two red bands, later a panel was painted either in red, white or yellow colours on the aircraft used.
           
            Sometimes only two red bands plus the nose of the under-fuselage tank were painted in red, as
            seen here ind December 1977.
                            Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Canadair NF-5A K-3014
, 316 Squadron, with red panel and AIM9-J used for dissimilar training
seen in June 1990.
                                           Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
           
       Canadair NF-5A K-3017, 316 Squadron, with white panel used for dissimilar training seen in August 1980.

                                                                                     Photo: 
Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Updates
Upgrades were done throughout the operational years; the canopy was strengthened to cope with the high number of bird strikes, avionics were added; ALE-40 chaff and flare dispensers were mounted on the rear fuselage as well as Radar Warning Receiver devices on the tail while some aircrafts had AIM-9J Sidewinder missile launching rails added to their wingtips, not standard on Canadair-built machines.

Reinforcement of the wings and the stabilisators were introduced to the aircrafts at the end of the 1980's to keep them flying till their final withdrawal.

        Photo: RNAF
Two Canadair NF-5A in latest colours, tanks in old and new colours together with their General Dynamics F-16A
replacement.

Withdrawal
Aircrafts withdrawn from General Dynamics F-16 re-equipped Squadrons were initially attached to 316 Squadron. At a later stage, due to the high number, to a specially formed unit: Vliegend Uit Dienst (VUD) at Gilze-Rijen AB, later Woendsrecht AB; first definitive retirement was on 27-03-86, when NF-5A serial K-3057 was withdrawn from use and sent to the VUD.

By February 1988 there were 40 Canadair NF-5A and 20 NF-5B assigned to 3 Squadrons; 16 NF-5A and 6 NF-5B were in storage; 5 NF-5A and 1 NF-5B were withdrawn from use/instructional frames; 13 NF-5A and 3 NF-5B had been written off.

All Canadairs were officially withdrawn from operational service on 01-05-91 when 316 Squadron officially transitioned to the General Dynamics F-16, but some flights were still undertaken from Eindhoven for test purposes and conversion of Greek and Turkish pilots with former 316 Squadron aircrafts.

Last official NF-5 flight was on 15-03-91; due to bad weather three aircrafts, instead of 12 foreseen, flew out of Eindhoven to overfly all former NF-5 bases.

Destiny of the remaining active aircrafts was set as follows: 54 NF-5A and 6 NF-5B to Turkey; 11 NF-5A (one for spares recovery only), 1 NF-5B to Greece; 1 NF-5A, 6 NF-5B to Venezuela.
Only a part (34) of the single-seaters handed-over to Turkey was destined for operational use; the rest was kept in the Netherlands and utilised for spares recovery only.
Some others were kept as gate guardians at various Dutch air bases and for technical training, see serials lists for details.

       
        Canadair NF-5A TPG-29 (ex K-3029) used as technical trainer seen at Twenthe in August 1988
                                                                           Photo: 
Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

The contract with Greece for free transfer was signed in Athens on 25-02-91, all aircrafts coming from the 316 Squadron; spare parts and pilots training were also free of charge.