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   Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte / Austrian Air Force

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Procurement of fighter aircrafts has always been a long, political, financial story in Austria, complicated by changes of parties in the government, The Northrop F-5 is no exception. Hereunder the details.

Tne Austrian Air Force has had a long standing interest in the aircraft, since the mid 60's, when the search for Saab J-29Ö fighter replacement was started and the Northrop F-5A was oconsidered together with
the Saab J-35. No decision at all was taken until 1970, when an initial order for 20 Saab 105Ö was place, followed by another order for 20 aircrafts.

Feeling that the Saab was not suited for the air defence of the country, another attempt to buy a fighter was started at the beginning of 1973 in view of procuring 18-24 aircrafts during the period 1974-76. Candi-
dates under consideraton were the Saab 35X, the Mirage 5 optimised for interception and the Northrop F-5E, all to new built aircrafts. Information was even requested for the Mikoyan MiG-21 and MiG-23.

The Northrop began to emerge as frontrunner after the demonstration of Nrthrop F-5E 72-01390 at Linz-Hörsching in June 1973 after the Paris-Le Bourget airwhow and quotation for 24 aircrafts with details of delivery
requested dates by the Austrian Defence Department. A Letter of Offer and Acceptance (expiring on January 1975) was sent by Northrop. But, as usual, a final decision was postponed till at least 1976, but this year
passed without any decision.

                                                                                Northrop F-5E 01390 still with le Bourget code 65 over Austria                 Photo: Northrop

A  third attempt was started in 1978 with the shortlisting of 18 Northrop F-5E, Saab J-37Ö and Dassault 50, again without results due to financing problems.

Next attempt was in 1984; Austria hd devised a two-phase solution to its problem: buying 30 interim aircrafts cheaply as a stop-gap and then trading them back for a new generation aircraft in the early or mid-90'-.

Bristol Aerospace offered initially ex RAF Jaguars to be replaced by Tornado F.3 or Eurofighters; Saab-Scania between 24 and 30 ex Royal Swedish AF J-35D Drakens, followed by Saab J-39 Gripen; General-Electric
had F-16/79 or F-16A for phase one and an option of the same aircraft for phase two. Dassault was also present with refurbished Mirage III initially, followed by Mirage 2000.

Northrop was still interested in selling its fighter with a first phase proposal for 12 new-build F-5E at a rather high initial cost of USD 173 millions, It had calculated that after six-and-a-quarter years use the Tigers
could be resold for 88% of the original price. A cheaper possibility would have been used Northrop F-5A coming at the time onn the market. The Northrop F-20 would have been available for phase two.
The Tiger offer was disqualified as Northrop refused to submit a fixed price and contract disputes were to be settled by an USA court, unacceptable for Austria.

As all earlier purchases had failed mainly due ro financial reasons an unorthodox proposal was submitted by Austrian Airlines for the purchase of the Northrop fighter: the airline would be willing to buy 16 Northrop

F-5E/F-5F aircrafts through its US subsidiary Austrian Aircraft Corporation and lease them back to the Ministry of Defence, also being responsible for their maintenance.

All Northrops efforts were to no avail as the Austrian Ministry of Defence decided to buy 24 secondhand Saab J-35D Draken, to be designated Saab J-35Ö, on March 26th, 1985 for political (neutrality) and financial
reasons. Northrop final offer for 16 aircrafts was higher than the Swedish one (ASch 6,600 millions compared to ASch 2,700 millions) but the life-cycle costs would cost some ASch 140 millions a year less to operate
and would have lasted for 33 rather than the eight years in service planned for the Saab J-35. The Northrop F-5 would also have a 75 percent residual value against none for the Saab aircraft.

Next act of the Tiger saga happened almost by coincidence.The Drakens were kept by far longer in service than the planned 8 years; on JUly 2nd 2002 the Austrian government announced the decision to buy 18
Eurofighter Typhoon (as usual after long political, financial and popular discussions) as the new fighter. Delivery of them could only start mis-2007 and an interim solution had to be quickly found for the time starting
the withdrawal (2004) of th Saab J-35Ö operated and the foreseen delivery date.

Next act of the Tiger saga happened almost by coincidence.

A solution was found at a mid-February 2004 meeting between the Austrian and the Swiss defence ministers. Switzerland was at the time withdrawing 47 Northrop F-5E from use and 12 of these were to be leased by
Austria for four years, with a possible extension of up to 2 years. Voices that the Tiger had lost against the Draken the selection in 1985 were countered by the fact that it was on costs account. The contract was
signed at the end of April 2004 with the Swiss armament agency "Armaswiss" for the approximative cost of 15 millions Euros per year. It included logistics for the main and the reserve bases (Graz-Thalerhof and Linz-
Hörsching). documentation, armament, training of flight and maintenance crews and maintenance of the aircrafts itselves by RUAG in Emmen (Switzerland). 

Also included was modification by RUAG to add GPS navigation sets (Garmin GPSMAP 295) and new communications sets (VHF/UHF). An ILS landing systemm was also added due to mixed civil/military use of most
Austrian airfields. Quick delivery of the first four aircraft was foreseen on July 2004. All this subject to approval by the US governement, due to the original transfer restrictions. Approval was granted on 14-07-04.

Ground training (under the code name "Aquila") started on June 7th for the first 4 of a total of 12 Austrian pilots at Dübendorf. Each pilot had a minimum of 3'000 hours flying experience. Three flights on Swiss F-5F followed,
starting from June 15th (one day after US transfer approval!), first sollo flight for all pilots being on the new fighter on 24th 2004.

The second batch of 4 pilots followed in November 2004 and the third, again of 4 pilots, completed transition on 24-03-06 at Emmen, some of the last being former Saab 105Ö pilots, all other being former
Draken pilots.

The selected airframes had in the meantime undergone modification af RUAG's factory in Emmen and first ones were ready for delivery according plans. Camouflage remained the same as Swiss aircrafts, only visible
change were the Austrian nationality markings.

  J-3005 at Emmen on 07-07-04 on delivery, without Squadron badge.      Photo Felix Kälin/Aviatic Club Basel                  Overfuselage
view, note new VOR/ILS antenna on top of the tail.    Sion 23-02-05

The first four aircrafts (J-3005, J-3030, J-3033, J-3065) were finally delivered from Emmen to Graz-Thalerhof on July 7th 2004, while the official handover ceremony took place at Graz on July 9th, 2004.

                                                                                         Photo: Austrian AF
                                                                                        Underfuselage view of Northrop F-5E, wiithout
VOR/ILS antena on tail, seen in 2004.

First line maintenance was entrusted to the Fliegerwerft 2 (Maintenance Unit 2) at Graz AB, 150 hours checks was to be carried out at RUAG in Emmen.

      Photo: Austrian AF        BASES    
Two AIMP9P-4 or P-5 Sidewinders formerly used by the Draken, arm
Austrian Tigers together with two 20 mm cannons with 2x280 rounds.


The Überwachungsgeschwader - 2. Staffel (Surveillance Wing - 2nd Squadron / Serials page code: 2 Sqn) at Graz-Thalerhof was selected from the very beginning to re-equip with the former Swiss aircrafts, at the time
equipped with Saab 105Ö in charge for training, VIP transport with specially modified aircrafts, air traffic control/interception and target-towing for the Saab J-35ÖThe Tigers.

With the arrival of Northrop F-5Es additional local pilot training could be undertaken, but, as no live-firing range is available in Austria, Swiss shooting-ranges had to be utilised. Two courses were organised, the first
started on 21-02-05 and lasted till 04-03-05 with F-5E serials J-3004/05/30/38/52/57; the second one ending in May 2005 with F-5E serials J-3014/36/41/30/33/56. 
The Tigers were transferred by Swiss personnell as
Austrian pilots not yet in a position to fly from country to country. Another source mentions that this happened for two weeks  between February and March 2005.


Northrop F-5E J-3058 at Sion on 25-02-05 still without IFR antenna on tail, but with Squadron badge.            The inscription "CALL 121.5 MHz " was added on aircrafts' underbelly tanks to instruct civilian aircrafts               
                                                                                                                                                             infringing the local "no-fly" area
  during the WEF congress, mainly in January each Year.

On July 1st, 2005 the 2. Staffel was officially entrusted with armed air-defence of the Austrian airspace, keeping a flight of two aircrafts based at Linz-Hörsching (plus 1 reserve), while while the Draken era ended officially
on November 25th, 2005, though some J-35Ö remained operational till the end of 2005, flying aggressors  missions against the F-5Es.

The beginning of 2006 Staffel saw the first operational test. In collaboration with the Swiss AF, it undertook 57 flights between January 25th and January 29th, policing the Austrian sky next to Davos (Switzerland)
during the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting.

                                                                                        Photo: Austrian AF
                                                                        Northrop F-5E J-3038 training in Sion together with Swiss AF Northrop F-5F J-3205

Same procedure was in use while Austria was holding the presidency of the European Community in 2006 and several European ministerial meetings that took place on Austrian soil.

Laage in Germany was the destination of the only trip abroad on 18th and 19th August 2006. This base houses the first German AF Typhoons unit, Jagdgeschwader 73 "Steinhoff", and it was surely interesting to
visit the operator of the future Austrian fighter aircraft.

An annually repeating Austrian AF task is the protection of the airspace around Davos (Switzerland) when the World Economic Forum takes place. The F-5s participated with "CALL 121.5 MHz" inscription tanks for
the 2007 (24-28 January) and 2008 (23-27 January) flying from Graz, together with Pilatus PC-7 and helicopters.

                                                                                       Photo: Austrian AF
                                                                                   Northrop F-5E J-3041 rolls
in 2008 to the runway for a mission

Unfortunately, some accidents have been reported, luckily all of them with minimum damage and without serious consequences:

September 19th, 2006: F-5E J-30XX slid off-runway at Linz-Hörsching on take-off, slight damage to the undercarriage.

June 18th, 2007: F-5E J-3052 landed at Graz-Thalerhof wheels-up, pilot had not lowered wheels, see photo. The damage has been repaired.

                                                                                              Photo: Austrian AF


                    frame 1                                      frame 1
              Ueberwachungsgeschwader        2 Squadron           Badge painted on aircrafts             Patch excercise Sion


The end of the Tiger era begun on July 12th, 2007 when Eurofighter Typhoon 7L-WA landed at Zeltweg.
Fifteen Eurofighters Typhoon (reduced from 18 originally on order) equip the Überwachungsgeschwader-
1. Staffel (Surveillance Wing 1st Squadron) at Linz-Hörsching and the Tigers have been returned to Switzerland.

                                                     F-5E J-3065 and Eurofighter Typhoon 7L-WA seen in flight.         Photo: Eurofighter GmbH-Austrian AF

Final active operation of the Tigers was the control of Austrian sky during the European Football Championship in 07-7 till 28-06-08, together with the Saab 105, the Pilaus PC-7 and an array of
helicopters. Two Northrop F-5E took care of Quick Alert Reaction (QRA) at Graz-Thalerhof until 29-06-08, two Eurofighter based at Zeltweg have replaced them from 01-07-08.

The return flight of the first 4 to Payerne (J-3004, J-3033, J-3052, J-3056) has taken place on 30-06-08, when the contract ended. Remaining 8 aircrafts landed on 22-07-08 (two at Emmen, 2 at Payerne) and on
24-07-08 (4 at Payerne).


                                                                        First four returned aircrafts on arrival at Payerne on 30-06-08 Photo: The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                                                                            END OF AUSTRIAN F-5 OPERATION  !!!!!!!!!!!