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                            Força Aerea Brasileira / Brazilian Air Force

                        Last update 09-12-2020


F-5E / F-5F
Continous use and ageing aircraft components has led after some years to the need to strengthen the airframe and install modern equipment to keep F-5s from the first batch operational.
Unfortunately little is known about early modifications and upgradings to the fighters; the Northrop ejecton seat was replace by superior Martin-Baker Mk10L lightweight zero-zero ejection seat during the mid-eighties
and at the beginning of the 1990s the FAB seriously considered the necessity to upgrade the fleet. Various alternatives were studied, but no action taken.
The second batch of F5s, former USAF aggressor aircrafts, were not equipped with VHF radios, VOR or GPS; these instruments were urgently installed during 1988/1989, shortly after arrival in Brazil. Additionally the
Northrop ejection seat was replaced with the same Martin Baker seat as the aircrafts of the first batch.

                                                                        frame 1
                                                                        F-5E 4860 at Homestead AFB April 1989 before delivery with Brazilian and USAF markings.
                                                                                                                                                        Photo: Archives The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

To improve air-to-air missile capacity, old AIM-9B Sidewinder were still in use, Rafael Python 3 medium range missiles were tested starting from 1999 and finally operationally introduced in 2001 or 2002, live shooting
taking place on 12/16-09-05 by F-5Es of the 1°/14°GAv against bengalas dropped by Super Puma helicopters. After a prolongued development phase domestic short range Mectron MAA-1 Piranha were introduced
in operational service during the year 2003.

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F-5E 4841 with Python 3 missiles seen in June 2003    Photo:Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

To asses the F5s airframe state an analysis was performed in the mid 90s by the US Southwest Research Institute; the load spectrum was obtained from 5 F-5s operating at Santa Cruz AB, prompting a life extension
Northrop offered in 1994 to team with Embraer for an extensive upgrading programm, which would have covered structural modifications and installing mainly locally produced systems, including Technasa’s SCP-01
multi purpose radar (originally developed for the Embraer AMX) and Israel’s Elop model 967 head-up-display built under licence in Brazil.

Another upgrade was offered by Elbit under the name F-5BR. This included the installation of Elta's EL/M2032 radar, Night Vision Goggles compatible cockpit, a self defense suite, new avionics and navigation systems,
as well as Rafael Python III and (eventually) Derby air-to-air missiles. Combat training was to be assured by an ACCMI system. This upgrading promised to extend the operational life of the aircrafts for 15 years, the
avionics being at the level of fourth generation fighters. On the negative side was the removal of one 20 mm cannon to house avionics for the new radar.
Elbit's proposal was accepted, with the exception of the replacement of Elta's radar with a new Italian Fiar Grifo X.

On 30-12-01 the Brazilian Senate appoved financement of the Lot 1 for a USD 285 millions programm; it foresaw the upgrading of 43 Northrop F-5E and 3 Northrop F-5F; first delivery was planned in July 2004 and final
in September 2007 at a rate of two aircrafts per month.

To house the conversion and tests programms for the fighter a new area was built at the Embraer's Gavião Peixoto factory, inaugurated in June 2002.

Prototype aircrafts, serials F-5E 4874 and F-5F 4808, were delivered to Embraer at Sao José dos Campos factory on 19-02-01. By September 2003 the modified F-5F was almost complete. Upon completion it was first
flown, under the name F-5BR, on 24-11-03 at Sao José dos Campos factory and rolled officially on 04-12-03 out. Date of first flight of the single-seater, also marked as F-5BR, is not known.

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         Embraer F-5BR (original desigantion) single-seater prototype 4874; of note unusual serial                Front view of Embraer F-5FM double-seater prototype 4808
         position and clearly visible EMBRAER/Elbit programm company names on tail.              Photos: Embraer   

Aircrafts from the second batch were mainly chosen to be first converted; unfortunately, tests at Sao José dos Campos revealed software problems and the programm schedule slipped, new schedule was now to be 12
in 2005, 18 in 2006, 16 in 2007.

The first two production airframe to be modernised, one single-seater and one two-seater were received by Embraer on 28-04-03 and upgrading was completed in December 2004, first flight in the new configuration
taking place on 29-12-04; this single-seater, now designated F-5EM, was officially handed over to the Brazilian AF on 28-02-05 at Sao José dos Campos.
System tests were accomplished jointly by Embraer and the Air Force in appproximately 90 flying hours at Natal AB between 14 February and 15 April 2005; first batch of pilots were trained by Embraer together with Elbit.

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Upgrading work at Embraer, Sao José dos Campos, contemporaneusly with Embraer AMX/A-1 and  S. Tucano.                              Fully painted, overfuselage view of an Embraer F.5EM

An official ceremony on 21 September 2005 at Canoas marked the service entrance of the Embraer F-5EM with the first operational unit: 1°/14 GAv "Pampa" at Canoas AB, while the 1° GAvCa at S Cruz AB received its
first upgraded aircraft on 20 October 2006.Of note deletion of one of the two 20mm cannons to house new avionics boxes.
                                                                              F-5EM 4856 at Canoas AB on 21-09-05 showing the latest missile armament: Piranha and Python 3
                                                                                             Photo: Luis Ribas Werland/www.aviaç

                                                                                                  Overwing view of Embraer F-5EM 4828 above a Brazilian desertic area.

The 1°/14 GAv "Pampa" was entrusted with an operational evaluation role, adding trials to their normal duties. The evaluation included in-flight refuelling trials between  06-03-06 and 11-03-06 with KC-130H Hercules

tankers, followed between 27-03-06 and 29-03-06 with Boeing KC-137 tankers. This capacity was shown for the first time publicly in Brasilia on 07-09-06 (see below).

       frame 1           frame 1                     Photo: Clube do F-5
                                  Photo: Ricardo de Farias Santos                                                                  Patch worn by pilots        Front view, note left-hand cannon deleted

Inaugurated at Canoas AB on 11-08-06 a F-5EM flight simulator helps to complete pilots training and avoids not strictly necessary flight hours, saving costs and mantaining flight hours on the airframes.

Upgrading of airframes has continued through the years, seeing delivery of 2 F-5EM in the second half of 2005, a total of 7 as of 30-06-06 and a total of 14 by September 2006; one of these is an F-5FM two seater.
These were mainly supplied to the 1°/14° GAV, only one is confirmed as being supplied to the 1° GAvCa during this period, but the unit took delivery of additonal aircrafts in 2007.

In the meantime capability improvement of the original F-5Es had taken place in 2004 with the service acceptance of locally built Mectron MAA-1A Piranha, necesitating the update of the software to enable the operation
of this highly maneuvrable, infrared guided air-to-air missile having similar performances as the AIM-9L Sidewinder.

During April and May 2003 South African Kentron company (part of Denel group) had supported the final Piranha test campaign using flare targets towed behind the high-speed Skua drones, missiles being fired by
Northrop F-5E, Embraer EMB-326 and Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. A lot of 100 Piranhas was ordered to equip F-5s, AMX and Super Tucanos.

Rafael's Derby was selected for Beyond Visual Range combat, 38 being procured beginning 2006 to equip the Embraer F-5M; starting with the Cruzex 2006 excercise, the Força Aerea Brasileira standardized on the
Mectron MAA-1A Piranha for the short and Rafael Derby for the BVR range combat.

Trials have also taken place with 10 Denel R-Darter to replace the Piranha and Rafael Python 3, but the Air Force preferred to wait till an improved model was available, investing USD 100 million into the development again
by Mectron plus the South African Denel Aerospace of the short-range AAM, fifth generation missile A-Darter. The Air Force hopes to introduce the A-Darter in service around 2011; it will become the main AAM used by
all Brazilian fighters.

                    frame 1         Photo: FAB                 frame 1    Photo: pod Litening III - Rafael
      In flight view of F-5EM with Piranha missiles on the wingtips and R-Darter under the wings            In August 2006 four Rafael Litening III infrared  targeting and navigation pods were ordered at a cost of
                                                                                                                                                  USD 13m together with 3 Rafael Sky Shield multi-purpose jamming pods to complete ita electronic equipment.

                                                                                                Spectacular underfuselage view of Python armed Embraer/Northrop F-5EM

End of September 2007 the Air Force announced the acquisition of 3 Northrop F-5F, 4 Northrop F-5EM (already with Head-Up Weapon Aiming Computer addition), 4 Northrop F-5E (NORMAL) from Jordan.

The conversion programm received a set-back during 2007 when 7 F-5EM and 1 F-5FM of the 16 upgraded airframes had to be returned to Embraer at Gaviao Peixoto to be reworked. They have been returned to service
during 2008 together with 10 newly modified aircrafts, while additional 10 are planned to be delivered during 2009.

Embraer officially announced that the 23rd updated F-5, out of 43 received from the Air Force and of the 46 foreseen, was delivered on 31-03-08; fully equipped F-5EM/FM Squadrons are scheduled to be operational in
2009. Eight were delivered in 2010, only 5 were left to be delivered in 2011; forty-two aircrafts had been delivered by Embraer by the end of June 2011. The last two upgraded Embraer/Northrop F-5s of the first batch
have been officially delivered to the Air Force on 19-06-12 at Gaviao Peixoto and transferred to Santa Cruz AB on 07-03-2013.

A contract with Embraer for the upgrade of 11 former Jordanian aircrafts was signed in 28-12-10, value USD107.5m for the upgrade to F-5EM standard of 8 single- and 3 doubleseaters; first to receive a general overhaul
at Campo de Marte AB (PAMA-SP) beginning with the three double-seaters; nine F-5s (7 silver colours and 2 camouflaged) were visible at Parque de Material Aeronautico de Marte on 25-10-09; 7 single- 4 double-seaters
were present on 16-10-11.
Embraer started upgrading the two-seater in October 2012 at the Gaviao Peixoto plant; three former Jordanian airframes were being upgraded in March 2013, delivery of the first to the Air Force was foreseen for the end
of 2013, to be completed in 2016. It takes approximately 11 months to go through the modernisation process.
No former Jordanian Northrop F-5 have been seen at Campo de Marte 30-09-13; they have been transferred to Embraer at Gaviao Peixoto for the final part of modernisation.

Only 3
Northrop F-5F of the ex Jordanian ons were modified to Embraer/Northrop F-5FM standard due to financial problems; unnecessary single-seaters were used as Gate Guardians/Monuments or sold for scrap; first
was on 21-05-20 at PAMA, Campo Grade; others will follow..

According to April 2016 non-ufficial information Embraer/Northrop F-5EM were based as follows: two in Anapolis (Brasilia), six in Manaus, 24 in Santa Cruz (Rio de Janeiro) and 14 in Canoas (Porto Alegre).

Certification of the new air-to-air training missile Python 4 was done between mid-March and  06 June 2017 at the Departamento de Ciencia e Technologia Aerospacial (DCTA) together with the Instituto de Aeronautica e

Espaço to verify the structural integrtatIon wirh the aircraft.