of the world
pilots started training in Spain at the Escuela de Reactores
(JetSchool) on CASA/Northrop SF-5B. During 1977 six pilots followed an
eight months course in Brazil, obtaining their grafuation at Sant Cruz
order to be qickly operational witg the new fighter.Four pilots went to USA in March 1976 to follow a ferry-course; initial four aircrafts arrived first at Antofgasta AB, three going on to Santiago-Pudahuel AB on
26-07-76, the fourth remained at Antofagasta-Cerro Moreno due to engine problems.
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 AIM-9B and AIM-9P Sidewinder enabled
the order before the start of the embargo.
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.
is the fact that Chilean Northrop F-5s operated deception flights from
Punta Arenas in order to cover Royal Air Force Canberras (based at the
same base) reconnaissance aircrafts flights over Argentina.
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 Northrop F-5F 815 at Antofagasta in 1989
painted in 1988 for some exercises, kept at least till 2000on some aircrafts. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
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.
All Chilean AFl fighter equipment: Pantera together with Northrop F-5E 812 and a Hawker Hunter
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.
for the upgrade by Israel
(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, AIM-9P 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.
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.
Enaer modified aircrafts received a complete structural overhaul allowing increase its operational life by 20 years. 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, actually 805, with a Shafrir III load overflies the Israelian desert F-5E Tiger III in very clean configuration withou air-to-air refuelling probe.
in IAI markings. Photo: Strike Nahuel/Revista FA Chile Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
IAI modified aircrafts were delivered to the Chilean AF in July and September 1993; delivery by ENAER modified aircrafts started in 1994.
Photo: ENAERThe modification line at ENAER, el Bosque factory.
Photo: Chilean AF
improvements was given to Northrop F-5s beginning with the
combat was not neglected: Rafael Python 4, short
distance missile, as seen here under the wings and on
refuelling probes. A contract was signed in January 1997 with US Tiger Century company (Project wingtip rails (280 bought) were bought in 2001 and 84 Rafael Derby BVR missiles in 2002; Tiger III neeeded
Romulo) for the delivery of 13 F-5E and 3 F-5F air-refuelling kits. These were installed by ENAER few modification to operate the Python 4 but adaptation of the was more complicatedand needed modification
as sub-contractor during 1997-98 and enabled air-air refuelling by the Lockheed KC-130R of the to the avionics, which was performed by ENAER at its El Bosque plant; AIM-9P were also used.
Grupo de Aviacion n° 10. Photo: José Ignacio Jara
with the Swiss RUAG company, specialised in maintainance of Northop
F-5s and its engines, started with discussions at the FIDAE exposition
at Santiago de Chile in 2004; RUAG took care since 2005 of
the revision, repair and modification of the General Electric J-85 turbines. The first two engines to be overhauld arrived one year later in Switzerland; three Air Force members came to Swizerland to practice a three
months longue maintenance course. By 2010 RUAG had maintained twelve and tested one in flight on a Swiss Tiger.
modifications took place in 2015, when Kellstrom Defense and Enaer
signed the change of wings, leaving them practically new, work carried
out in Chile since 2016 at Enaer, whle its subsidiary DTS
continued the avionics maintenance contract project, operational life extended beyond 2030 while the possinility of a new modification of its system/structure is being taken into consideration.
BADGES / UNITS
Tiger heads on tail Tiger head on tail of On serial 806 F-5E Tiger III
early years/March 1984 F-5E Tiger III under refuelling probe
5a Brigada Aerea - Grupo
de Aviacion N° 7
On both air intakes / Low visibility badge early years/March 1984
Photo: via Michelun/Zona Militar
Northrop F-5E 807 carrying excercise bombs in early
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. It seems Grupo 7 was divided in two during the crise: few at Santiago AB (received 8 Sidewinder) , the rest in Antofgasta AB (received 22 Sidewinder)
First upgraded F-5 Tiger III was received on 06-07-94 directly from ENAER factory to Antofagasta/Cerro Moreno AB..
In October 1997 the B.707 Aquila tanker aircraft from the was transferred to Cerro Moreno AB in order to train the Tigers crews in day and night air-to-air refueling.
A perfect formation with 9 Northrop F-5E Tiger III and 1 Northrop F-5F Tiger III was shown in 2009 over Santiago de Chile during the "Grande Parada Aerea".
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 IV Brigada Aéea, Grupo
12 "Tigres Australes" based at the extreme
South of Chile, Punta Arena/Chabunco AB, by early 2010. On 20-03-10 eight aircrafts (including 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. Total flying time was approximately 4 hours 15 minutes. 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 10-11-12.
Photo: Chilean AF
Northrop F-5F Tiger being refuelled during its transfer to Punta Arena AB while another one Unusual red Sidewinders armed aircraft seen landing at Santiago International on 17-09-2019.
waits for its turn. Note Grupo N°12 badge behind cockpit.
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
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.
An important step was the transfer exercise to Pascua (Easter) Island on 12-01-98; 3 F-5E and 1 F-5F Tiger III flew non-stop the 4'000 kilometers distance betwee Antofagasta and the island in 5 hours and 42 minutes, each aircraft refuelled 4 times by a Chilean B.707 Aguila tanker. Support was also given by 1 air-rescue Lockheed C-130 and 1 meteorogical scout Gulfstream III, San Felipe Island airport was considere as an emergency landing airport. Return to Antofagasta was on 14-01-98. This exercise was named "Pajaro de Guerra/Manu Tama I".
The Grupo de Aviacion N°10, based at Santiago International airport, had earlier received on 31-07-96 a Boeing 707
serial 903, modified to KC-707 (called "Aguila") tanker by IAI at Tel Aviv for air refuelling duties. The photo shows
4 Tiger III being refuelled during their transfer to Nellis AFB.
Photo: Chilean AF
The "Aguila"air tanker was withdrawn fom use after the arrival of 3 Boeing KC-135s, delivered on 18-02-10, 30-08-11
and ending 09-03-12.
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.
Willka 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.
Chilean Tiger III participated to Cruzex
IV at Natal AB (Brazil) between 01-11-08 and 14-01-08.
They were part of the
"Blue Force", engaged against only 6 Brazilian AFEmbraer/Northrop
equipped "Red Force".
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
problem on one of the Tigers.
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 III and F-16As, Argentinian AF A-4Rs,
USAF F-15Cs, French Mirage 2000s, Brazilian AMX plus various air-refuelling, and rescue planes.
Photo: Chilean AF
El Bosque AB overflight by three Northrop F-5E Tiger III on 05-11-2014 amog which Northrop F-5E Tiger III with target, accompanied by an Northrop F-5F Tiger III