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Força Aerea Brasileira / Brazilian Air Force
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Last update 16-07-2019
Brazil expressed for the first time at the beginning of 1965 interest to buy 24 Northrop F-5A and F-5B to be delivered starting in 1966, but, as for so many South American countries, no export authorisation was granted by the US government.
Selection was in preference of Douglas A-4F, SEPECAT Jaguar, HS Harrier Mk.50 and Fiat G-91. A provisional 48 Lockeed TF-33A were instead bought.
The country changed its air doctrine from ground attack to air defence of the whole territorium in 1967, starting with a chain of radars.
Procurement of a new aircraft to supplant the Lockheed TF-33A used in the fighter/ground support duties was taken again under consideration during 1967 and a commission (Commissaos de Estudos para Avion o Aviao de Interceptaçao) was formed to find out the best suitable fighter. The Northrop F-5A/B evaluated again, sale of which was reluctantly approved by the
US governement due to political issues, but quickly eliminated due to insufficent performances. Considered were the GAMD Mirage IIIE, English Electric Lightning, Lockheed F-104G and the Saab J-35. The Mirage IIIE was finally selected during 1970.
The few remaining TF-33A were instead supplemented by Aermacchi MB-326 Xavantes,
starting from 1971. Both aircrafts were actually armed trainers but a fighter aircraft was needed to
defend Brazilian air-space and support the Army.
The Aermacchi was to be built under licence by Embraer, giving birth to a domestic aircraft industry.
EMB-326 serial 4563 Photo: Embraer
Finally, in July 1973 was officially announced the selection of the Northrop F-5E, after having considered since 1971 the Fiat G-91Y, GAMD Mirage IIIE, Lightning Mk.55, Saab Draken and Mc Donnel F-4 (preferred by the Air Force).
A demonstration by F-5E serial 01401 was given on September 1973 at Embraer's factory of Sao José dos Campos. Selected and ordered were 16 Mirage IIID/EBR.
On 30-09-73 a contract was signed with Northrop and in October 1974 36 Northrop F-5E "Tigers" single-seaters and 6 Northrop F-5B two-seaters (the Northrop F-5F was not yet built) were ordered under the program "Peace Amazon" at a cost of USD 115m; a Foreign Military Sales credit of USD 72.3 millions was obtained further equipment for 47.7 millions was acquired separately under direct purchase. They were to equip 2 Esquadraos (Squadrons) at Santa Cruz AB and 1 Esquadrao at Canoas AB; two Northrop F-5B were to be attached to each Squadron for conversion training. A commission at Hawthorne overwied the Braziian interests.
Additional aircrafts were to be possibly procured to re-equip the 4° GrAv and the 10° GtAv, but usual budget restrictions made this impossible. Second thoughts about the purchase of the F-5Bs, due to funding problems and the Air Forces preference to buy the new Northrop F-5F for more compatibility, had aroused in 1974 but US officials convinced the Brazilians that the aircafts were sorely needed because the majority of the pilots were to transit from vintage or low performance vehicles, like the Lockheed T-33A, the Cessna T-37C and the Embraer T-26 Bandeirante, to the high performance F-5E.
To still save money and to trimm requirements for ground technicians the FAB decided at the beginning of 1975 to equip only two Squadrons, both at Santa Cruz AB, at least for that year.
Air defence was foreseen as main mission, ground attack as secondary mission. A reconnaissance capability was alsoforeseen, for which 6 (some sources mention 4) camera noses were procured, 12 aircrafts had provision for these noses. The noses were received in 1975 when they were installed on four Tigers; a reconnaissance course was given by two expert USAF pilots at Santa Cruz AB to 1°/14° pilots. The aircrafts were transferred to Canoas AB upon completition of the runway remaining at disposal for the 1°/14° Escuadrao, but the idea was to create the 2°/14° Escuadrao in the same hangar as 1°/14° Escuadrau to operate the 4 reconnaissance aircrafts. The programm was cancelled, the noses were sold as scrap and the reconnaissance duty was transferred to the Embraer/Aermacchi A-1 based at Santa Maria AB.
On 15-07-75 an off-set deal for a total value of USD 1.2m covering the production of 150 sets of tail units and underwing/center-fuselage weapons pylons for Tigers built in USA, was also signed by the Brazilian company Embraer, which was to undertake all major overhauls of Brazilian F-5's. Discussions for the possibility of licence manufacture of the entire
airframe as follow-up of the EMB-326 were also held.
An agreement between General Electric and the Brazilian company Celma at Petropolis (RJ) provided for the overhaul of J-85-GE-13D and -21 engines.
Depot and light overhaul of the aircrafts was to be performed by the Air Force's Sao Paulo Air Depot, while S. Cruz AB was to take care of field and light maintanance.
A first group of 5 pilots started training in USA, at Williams AFB with the 425th Tactical Fighter Squadron, during the summer of 1974; additional 5 followed during September 1974. Of these, 6 qualified as instructors to form a training unit at S. Cruz AB, using F-5Bs. The first intake completed training by 12-74. Brazilian pilots, sometimes with minimal F-5
experience, were in charge for the transfer from USA to Brazil.
On 28-02-75 Northrop handed over the first 3 F-5B at Palmdale to the Brazilian AF, arrivals in Brazil began in March 1975, when the first 3 Northrop F-5B (serials 4800/4801/4802) landed at Galeao AB on 06-03-75, followed on 13-05-75 by the final 3 F-5Bs, always at Galeao AB.
F-5B 4805 a Williams AFB in May 1975. Squadron badge is not yet painted on tail.
Runway at Santa Cruz AB was very short, barely long enough for the Lockeed T-33A; so the aircrafts landed on delivery at the Rio de Janeiro - Galeao International Airport/Air Base, operating initially from there and from July 1975 from Anapolis AB, till 03-10-75 when Santa Cruz AB runway had been prolongued to 2'450 meters.
Next delivery were F-5E 4850/4851/4852. The first 2 landed at Galeao AB on 17-06-75 (some sources state there were four aircrafts delivered on 12-06-75) but serial 4852 was lost at Belford Rox shortly before landing, due to bird strike.
Northrop F-5E 4823 at Williams AFB in May 1975, shortly before delivery. Photo: unknown
Further deliveries followed at approximately four a month until 28th February 1976, when serials 4852 to 4855 safely landed at Santa Cruz AB (some sources state 12-02-76); delivery were in-flight, starting from Williams AFB with twelve stops, including Zandery (Surinam) and Anapolis, ending at Rio de Janeiro-Galeâo, accompanied by a Lockheed C-130H
See the serials page for additional known delivery details.
Photo: FA Brasileira
Northrop F-5E 4834 of the 1°/14° Esquadrao in initial colours, fully armed with two
AIM-9B Sisdewinder and four 250 lbs bombs
Two Lockheed KC-130H were bought to extend the rather limited radius of action of the Tiger; the F-5E's were equipped with air-to-air refuelling probes, but only 13 probes were fitted in USA, the rest in 1976 after arrival in Brazil.
An Chilean offer (unconfirmed and denied by Chile) to transfer its own F-5Fs in exchange for Brazilian responsability to train Chilean F-5 pilots was not accepted as politically unacceptable due to Chilean human rights policy.
The acquisition of additional second-hand aircrafts was taken into consideration during 1980, without follow-up.
On 28-12-85 an unexpected announcement from Brasilia revealed that approval had been given for the procurement of a further Northrop F-5E/F to make good attrition and in order to concentrate all "original" aircrafts at Santa Cruz AB. These were to be completely refurbished aircrafts.
An appealing offer was received from South Korea, where the airframes would have been modified to zero time and updated to latest standard, but unfortunately not accepted due to costs problems. Further investigations to obtain lower priced fighters led to the evaluation of Chinese F-7M Airguards and Mirage III from several sources, all dropped for various reasons.
The US government offer in 1988 for 22 F-5E and 4 F-5F for USD 113.5m (named programm "Peace Amazon II") was successful. Eleven of these came from former USAF aggressor Squadrons in USA, whose disbandment was started in August 1988 and completed in April 1989, and fifteen from the 425th Squadron, disbanded in April 1989. They were not equipped with an air-to-air refuelling probe. The aircrafts were used first to train Brazilian pilots in USA.
The first five departed from Nellis AFB on 29-09-88, the last ones on 23-08-89, all from Homestead AFB with final destination Canoas AB in five waves. Brazilian pilots ferried them in 8 stretches, supported by a KC-137, precious to keep contact with the civilian air traffic authorities along the route as the fighters were not equipped with VHF radios.
The fourth wave left end April 1989 and was formed by Northrop F-5E FAB 4858, 4861, 4871, 4873 all in original Air Defence Command colours; they arrived Canoas AB on 10-05-89 (due to some mishaps on route) flying from AFB Homestead to Nassau/Roosevelt Roads/Ilha Margarita (Venezuela)/Boa Vista (Brazil)/Manaus/ Belém/Fortaleza/Salvador/Rio de Janeiro/Canoas.
Unfortunately these "new" aircrafts were in poor conditions, needed a thorough overhaul and the installation of a VOR, GPS and VHF radio.
F-5E with dual Brazilian/USAF serials 4859/1386 at Williams on 14-04-89.
Photo: archives The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Photo: Frank Magalhes
Northrop F-5E 4873 seen from the accompanying Boeing KC-137 on its delivery flight near to
NAS Roosevelt Roads (Puerto Rico) in April 1989, still in USAF colours, but Brazilian serial.
All "new" aircrafts went to the 1°/14° GAv at Canoas AB (Porto Alegre), the only Tiger Squadron now exclusively tasked with air defence, though the basic Emerson APQ-153 radar was of limited value. The "original" aircrafts were returned to the 1° Grupo de Caça.
AIM-9B Sidewinder were requested at the time of original purchase, apart from standard 2x20mm cannons each with 250 rounds, conventional 500 lbs/1000 lbs bombs, napalm bombs, air-to-ground rockers, but refused from the USA government, which finally agreed to sell them in 1980. They could be seen till 2007 at F-5Es wingtips but were non operational and were only use for structural stabilization. The new, extremely manoevrable, locally produced Mectron MAA-1 Piranha missile is in operation since 2004 for short range combat.
Operation of the early Northrop F-5B was slowed downwhen the more advanced F-5F were received. By the end of July 1995 only 2 F-5B remained operational. The Brazilian Northrop F-5Bs were withdrawn from use on 22-05-96; they were all up for sale and transferred to Campo de Marte for storage.
A rather unhappy story followed. Former Brazilian AF colonel Gustavo Adolfo Franco Pereira bought the 5 aircrafts at an auction in 1996 for the price of USD 3.1 millions and paid a deposit of 155 millions Reals, transaction financed by an American friend, Richard Boulais. Mr Pereira even bought an hangar at Canpo de Marte to store the trainers. The auction was cancelled auctions, a direct sale was also done and again cancelled; the aircrafts were never handed over to the (almost) new onwer.
The main problem was the "end user certificate" required by the USA as the aircafts were of US origin, need for which the buyer didn't recognise, as the US law regarding it was approved in 1976 while the aircrafts were bought by Brazil in 1973.
Mr Pereira discussed its rights as owner with the Air Force ever since 1996; he applied in December 2006 to the Brazilian justice
to obtain either the aircrafts or refund of his down-payment. The Federal Court finally judged that the aircrafts still belonged to
the Air Force and they were put on exhibition at varios places.
All aircraft were temporarely stored at Campo de Marte, seen here together
with Northrop F-5Es on maintenance.
One, repainted in the original 1975 colours, initially coded "01" and later serialled 4800, was assigned to the
Museu Aerospacial at Campo dos Alfonsos and handed-over on 18-08-06. Here it is seen at PAMA-SP while
being prepared for exposiiton. Photo: unknown
Fate of others are known: serial 4802, camouflaged, as a travelling exhibit; 4804 mountd on a pole in Rio de Janeiro-Galeao airport; serial 4805 at Santa Cruz AB mounted on a pole, camouflaged.
Fleet upgrading and search for additional aircrafts
A new project regarding the rest of the fleet was launched during the year 2001: upgrading the available aircrafts to a fourth generation fighter standard; this resulted in the Embraer/Northrop F-5EM and F-5FM models. You can read details of the project under the Northrop F-5 Enthusiast page titled upgrades.
The Air Force also realised that the number of trainers (3 F-5F) was insufficent for conversion and refresher training of new and old pilots. As the Embraer/Aermacchi EMB-326 was officially withdrawn from use on 02-10-10 new pilots passed directly from the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano to the Embraer/northrop F-5FM, necessitating an greater number of this last.
Additional new aircrafts (both in double- and singleseater form) were to be operated by a new Operational Conversion Unit. During the year 2002 it looked among other F-5 operators for the best aircrafts available for sale.
A first offer of Saudi Arabian Tigers by Boeing, demanding the purchase of 2 F-5Es for every F-5F purchased was rejected. Swiss top maintained Northrop F-5Es were also up for sale, but no F-5F was available. Help came from NorthropGrumman's subsidiary Tiger Century Aircraft which had already projected to convert China/Taiwan AF single- to double-seaters and offered to convert 8 of the 16 Swiss aircrafts into two-seaters.
Memorandums of Understanding were signed on 30-09-02 and 15-10-02 between the Swiss "Gruppe für Rüstungsdienste" (Armament Group) and the Brazilian AF. Price for each aircraft was to be USD 0.5m "as-is". The Brazilian AF cancelled, in a change of mind, the plan to modify single- to two seaters and requested on 14-01-03 the sale of Swiss F-5Fs. An offer for 2 F-5Fs and 14 F-5Es was of no interest to the Brazilian side. Finally, on 01-04-03, a new search for 8 F-5F airframes was started with Singapore, Korea, China/Taiwan as well as Saudi Arabia.
Three Northrop F-5F and six F-5E from Saudi Arabia were selected and a contract was signed on 29-12-05 between the Brazilian Aeronautical Commission in Washington and the company C&C International, acting as a mediator, for the price of USD 24m to be paid in three instalments of USD 10m in 2006, USD 13m in 2007 and USD 1m in 2008. Brazilian pilots were to fly them from Riyadh to Recife via Dakar and other stations.
No information about the status of the deal or the arrival in Brazil of these aircrafts was given until the end of September 2009, when, surprise!, an official announcement informed that a contract had been signed for the acquisition of 4 Northrop F-5E, 4 F-5EM (which had received locally a limited upgrade) and 3 Northrop F-5F from Jordan for USD 21m, through the mediator Jordan Aeronautical Systems Company.
The announcement gave also information about the cancelled Saudi purchase: the aircrafts were in poor condition; there was difficulty in obtaining the "end-user" certificate needed according to the original pruchasing contract and the possibility that these planes might not be available, being part of the new Saudi Eurofighter purchase contract.
first batch of 3 F-5Es arrived at Sao Paulo-Guarulhos
airport on 19-08-08 on board an Volga-Dnepr AL
Parque Material Aeronautico de Marte provides full structural and systems maintenance/overhaul on the Tiger, while complete General Electric J-85 engine maintenance has been undertaken since 2002 by Focal (RJ).
By the end of 2012 18 Tigers had been upgraded.The
46th and last first batch upgraded Northrop F-5EM was delivered to Santa Cruz AB on
07-03-13; contract to upgrade the 11 former Jordanian aircrafts has
been signed in 2012. The first ex Jordanian single-seater was delivered to the Air Force in October 2013, while 2 double-seaters were delivered in November 2016.
Due to early
retirement, by the end of 2013, of the Mirage 2000s used by the 1°
Grupo de Defensa Aerea at Anapolis AB (Brasilia) is assured on a daily standup by some
Embraer/Northrop F-5s from other bases redeployed to Anapolis AB,
awaiting the convertion of its pilots on the new aircraft.
The future: KC-390/F-5EM............. Photo: EMBRAER
Air-to-Air misile for the Northrop F-5E and its training.
Air-to-air missiles have in Brazil a tortous history. It was easrly realised that they improve dramatically capability of fighter aircrafts, but exact purchasing/use of them is sketchy and details below might not be 100% exact. Any further information would be thankfully received.
During 1975 AIM-9B Sidewinders (both active and training missiles) were purchhased in 1975 and retired in the 90s; they served only to balance the wings of the aircrafts, never being operationally or for training purpose used.
A project to replace AIM-9B with a local short range, infra-red, air-to-air missile was started in March 1976 at the Brazilian AF own Instituto de Aeronautica e Espaço (IAE) at Sao José dos Campos (at present named DCTA).Iit was named MAA-1 Piranha and was equivalent to third generation US AIM-9L Sidewinder or IAI Typhon 3. Unfortunately this project had to overcome enormous financial and other difficulties, having started in 1976, abandoned in 1986 and later completed ending circa 20 years later! In 1994 initial perational capability was reached.
First phase included release of missiles from Norththop F-5E (serial 4837) and EMB-326 (serial 4558) between 23 and 28-05-02. The second development phase ended in 2003 and production was then started; the Brazilian AF received 4 production missiles types in order to have real tests. These were MAA-1T for instruction, MAA-1E for excercises plus an inert model for training, Operational tests in 2002-2003 showed that the missile was superior to the third generation requirerments of the Air Force. New tests were made by an Northrop F-5E to adapt the missile to the Mirage 2000 in local use; in 2005 tests were flown against flare armed Sea Skua drones.
In 1994 the private company Mectron took definitely the project over, equipping the missile with higher Electronic Counter-Counter Measures and performance to deal with decoys and pyrotechnics. First test was on 03-11-98, initial operation capability was in September 2002 together with the last tests, conducted test firings from Embraer AT-26 Xavante, Embraer/Northrop F-5E and Mirage III aircrafts. Development tests were done between 1999 and 2005 by the Centro Tecnico da Aeronautica (CTA).
In 2002 Air Force unts started to receive its first Brazilian traning missiles, but it was never actually integrated in the aircraft.
Gray Embraer/Northrop F-5EM 4865 with a training Mectron MAA-1, special Tiger drawing on the fuselage and 53 years anniversary of 1°/14° GAv mentioned on fuselage tank.
Photo: Brazilian AF
In the meantime the Brazilian AF tried to buy Sidewinder AIM-9L without success as the USA offered only the older AIMD-9D or AIM9-G/H.
Mectron was also contracted in December 2006 for a fourth generation improved version, MAA-1B Piranha, developed in a joint development venture with Airbus and Defence and Space company. Tests were to be completed by April 2012; they form part of the present armament.
A further contract with the Brazilan company Mectron was signed in December 2016; tests were foreeseen to start with the new Datalink BR-2, to be started by 2016, enabling the link of Embaer/Northrop F-5EM, Embraer AMX1, Embraer E-99 and Embraer A-29s. This enabled to put all aircrafts in one information envinroment.
During 1997 air-to-air missiles were again purchased in the form of Rafael Python 3, integrated in February of 1997. Real and training versions were bought. This was the first actually used during excercises starting in 2001 and ending in 2005.
Reported air-to-air missiles deliveries are: 44 third generation Mectron MAA-1 Piranha, Raphael Python 3 (probably 400, delivered 2001), 38 Rafael Derby (already in use in 2006), 200 fourth generation Rafael Python 4 (possibly received between 2010 and 2015) from Israe. Some R-Darter were also tested on the Tigers.
Certification programme for integration of the Derby training version into the Tigers started in March 2017, completed by the end of June 2017.
Launch of an MAA-1 (possibly MAA-1B) from an Embraer/Northrop F-5EM.
Photo: Brazilian AF
F-5EM 4864 with underwing Rafael Python 3 at S Cruz AB on 22-04-07
Photo: Brazilian AF
Photo: Brazilian AF
improvement of the Tiger's air-to-air capability was the joint venture between the South African
company Denel-Dynamics and Brazilian companies Mectron, Opto Eletronica and
announced in April 2007, finalized by 2018) of the A-Darters. In 2005
it was announced the purchase of 10 South African A-Darter stock missiles for
tests on the Embraer/Northrop F-5EM..
The Embraer/Northrop F-5EM was used to test in 2018 engine and speed of the Tactical Cruise Missile. developed in Brasil by Avibrasil, MTC-300 Matador.