Fuerza Aerea de Chile/Chilean Air Force

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The Chilean government had made uncessful attempts to buy 18 Northrop F-5A and3 Northrop F-5B prior to the purchase in 1966 of Hawker Hunters; no supersonic
fighters would be supplied b y the USA to Latin American countries.
Deep influence for armament purchases was the election of socialist Salvador Allendeto president of the country in 1970. The USA deeply mistrusted him, while the Soviet
Union offered MiG-21s as a new fighter, but the military preferred the Northrop F-5E.

General August Pinochet lad a  revolution against President Allende on 11-09-73,  instauring a blody military regime.

Orignally 18 single-seaters Northrop F-5E were foreseen, but US amendments on 16-11-74 modified the sale.  A change on the US side allowed the sale  of 15 F-5E and
3 Norhthrop F-5B at a cost of USD 60 millions, including spares and equipment, financed directly by Chile;
finally, the more modern Northrop F-5F was purchased.

   The purchase contract was named "Peace Llama I" and signed on 15-05-74, deliveries to start in  May 1976 (other fonts state in April 1976).
   Foreseen as standard armament were AIM-9B Sidewinder, which could not be delivered due to embargo.
   An amendment, dated 23-12-74, allowed the purchase
of 100 AIM-9J-1 and 30 dummmy/training AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, not included in
   the earlier contract.
   The missiles arrived in two lots in June and December 1976, both for the Northrop F-5s and the local Hawker Hunters.

   Additionally an Israeli pilot arrived in 1976 at the Cerro Moreno AB , where he remained 2 months.  Among other excercises he trained the dissimilar
  combat between Northrop F-5s and Cessna A-37s.

frame 1
                                                           Northrop F-5E J-813 in USA before delivery

Six 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 graduation at Sant Cruz AB in 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 to complete the order before the start of the embargo.

The 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.

Unconfirmed 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.

By mid 1987 only 4 F-5s were flyable. Unofficial sources spoke of various plans to solve the problem: sell the Tigers and replace them with 12 IAI Kfir C2 (re-engined with
Snecma ATAR
9K50 to avoid US embargo, handover the F-5Fs to Brazil  to enable training of pilots there, or even to buy Chinese F-7 and buying more GAMD Mirage.

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.

 frame 1   Photo: P. Steinemann  frame 1
Northrop F-5F 808 in aggressor colours in March1989, read markings were already                                                       Northrop F-5F 815 at Antofagasta in 1989
painted in 1988 for some exercises, kept at least till 2000 on 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.

                                                                                         Northrop F-5E 812 seen at Santiago/El Bosque AB during 1988

Political 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.


The contract for the upgrade by Israel Aircraft Industry (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.

This 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.

The 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
s 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 upgadred aircrafts were handed-over at El Bosque AB

frame 1                            frame 1
Prototype Tiger III (serial 809, actually 805, with a Shafrir III load overflies                                F-5E Tiger III in very clean configuration without air-to-air refuelling probe.
the Israelian desert 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.

                               frame 1                      frame 1  Photo: Chile

Peformance improvements was given to  Northrop F-5s  beginning with the installation     Air combat was not neglected: Rafael Python 4, short distance missile, as seen
                                                                                     Photo: José Ignacio Jara      here under the wings.

                                                                      Front view of Northrop F-5E Tiger IV 801 during an hazy day

A contract was signed in January 1997 with US Tiger Century company (Project Uranio) for wingtip rails and 84 Rafael Derby BVR missiles in 2002; Tiger III neeeded for the delivery of
13 F-5E and 3 F-5F
 air-refuelling kits. These were installed by ENAER,
few modification were needed  to operate the Python 4 but adaptation of it was more complicated as it needed
new avionics, performed by ENAER at its El Bosque plant; USA missiles AIM-9P were also used.
Modifications by the Chilean company (as sub-contractor) during 1997-98 and enabled air-air refuelling by the Lockheed KC-130R of the  Grupo de Aviacion n° 1.

                                                                         frame 1              Photo: ENAER

                                                                                              The modification line at ENAER, el Bosque factory.

                                                             frame 1

                                                                   Air-air view of serial 813 with dummy Sidewinders       Photo: Cristobal Solo Pinto

Collaboration 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.

Additional work by RUAG was the repair of wings and maintenance of hydraulic components in Switzerland. Swiss specialists were engaged for the control and fatigue assessment of the airframes at Antofagasta AB.

Change of requirement necissated an improved defence of Austral territories, particularly from Puerto Montt and the Tigers were transferred to the 12° Grupo de Aviacion at the local
air base. (See below)

During 2014 a new paint scheme for the Tiger III Plus was shown; serials 806 and 807 were seen.

Additional modifications took place in 2015, when Kellstrom Defense and Enaer signed an agreement for 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 wass being taken into consideration.

                                             Jorge Tima Carrasco
                                                                               Drawing celebrating 40years of Northrop F-5 use, 60'000 hours flown

The Northrop F-5s were redundant by 2013 as the Fuerza Aerea had ordered General Dynamics F-16s from the Netherlands on 13-03-13. Uruguay was seen as possible client. Three Northrop F-5E III and one Northrop F-5F were shown in the country.  A non stop transfer flight was organised to Montevideo/Carrasco for the 100th year festivity of the first local flight and the following day to various authorities; on 17-03-13 a formal presentation was made to local authorities; on 18-03-13 the aircrafts returned to their home base, Punta Arenas AB.
 The flights were supported by 1 Boeing KC-135  and 1 C-130.

                                                                                                      Photo: Chile AF/TallyHo
                                                                                   Northrop F-5/F during the transfer to Uruguay, seen from the Boeing KC-135

One aircraft, serial 811, was transferred  to the Air  Force museum at los Cerrillos AB; handed over on 25-05-10, placed as a monument at the AF Headquarter, also at los Cerrillos AB.
The air Force Heaquarter,  at Santiago-los Cerrillos housed a second one: serial 812,  seen on the photo below on 16-01-11 awaiting some works to be done, last noted on 20-03-16.

                                                                   Photo: Juan Carlo Velasco/TallyHo

                                                                           Northrop F-5E at the Los Cerrillos museum on 06-07-18. Of note no
                                                              air-to-air refuelling probe, serial 811 dark


                                                                                    frame 1           frame 1                                      
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                      frame 1         frame 1
                                                                                      On both air intakes / Low visibility
badge early years/March 1984

The 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.

Photo: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                                                    Northrop F-5E Tiger III 808 seen in February 1996

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"


    4a Brigada Aerea - Grupo de Aviacion N° 12 "Tigres Australes"s   frame 1              frame 1

                                                                                                                     Patch         Undercockpit badge on single-seaters

Acquisition 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.

Northrop F-5F Tiger being refuelled during its transfer to Punta Arena AB while                                    Unusual red Sidewinders armed aircraft seen landing at Santiago International
  another one waits for its turn. Note Grupo N° 12 badge behind cockpit.  
  Photo: Chilean AF            on 17-09-2019.                                          Photo Antonio Segovia/TallyHo

                                                                                                 Photo: TallyHo
                                                                        Another unusual configuration: Shafrir (possibly IV) one at wingtip, one underwing.

                                                                                  frame 1
                    Photo: Chilean AF
                                                                             Upgraded Northrop F-5E Tiger III 813 equipped with 4 Shafrir IV at Punta Arena AB ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Tigers participated to the joynt US excercises Bluesky I, II and III.

In 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 against US Navy A-7 Corsairs, F-14A Tomacts of VF-103 and A/F-18 Hornets of VF-131.

                    Photo: Chilean AF    

Another 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 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 between Antofagasta and the island in 5 hours and 32 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 considered as an emergency landing airport. Return to Antofagasta was on 14-01-98.This exercise was named "Pajaro de Guerra/Manu TamaL"

                                                                                       Photo: Chilean AF
                                                                             Air-to-air refuelling, most probably en-route to Pascua Island

                                                                                frame 1
         Photo: Chilean AF
                                                                    Take-off from Islas de Pascua (Easter Island) on return flight, 14-01-98

The Pascua Islands long distance deployment was in preparation to the Chilean participation to the Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB (USA)

Six Tiger III, supported by 1 C-130 and the KC-707 "Aguila" participated to Red Flag 98-1 exercise at Nellis AFB (USA) excercise between 27-07-98/08-08-98, together with Dutch, Belgian, USAF F-16s.
The transfer initiated on 18-07-98 from Antofagasta, arriving at Nellis AFB on 20-07-98 with a flying time of 12 hours 10 minutes in 3 legs (to Panama, Kelly AFB and Nellis AFB),
eight in-flight refuelling. Return was the same as above on 12-08-98.
The aircraft were very interesting as they carried the little known Python IV; they were part of the "Offensive Counter Air" group within the blue group performing over 100 missions
in the escort and air-to-air missions; missiles firing were also simulated.

frame 1

  The Grupo de Aviacion N°10, based at Santiago International airport, had earlier received  on 31-07-96
  Boeing 707 serial 903, modified to KC-707 (called "Aguila") tanker by IAI at Tel Aviv for airefuelling 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

An accident, 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"Ckue Force" engaged against only 6 Brazilian
AF Embraer F-5EM equipped "Red Force".

The 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 technical problem on one of the Tigers.

  SALITRE Joint S. American countries excercise was regularly attended by Chilean Tigers as well as US and other South American countries fighters,
  The   excercise centered around enhancing multilateral inter-operability between nations sp as to ease assembly of future peace-keeping multi-
  national coalitions

  Salitre I took place at Antofagasta AB between 26th and 10-10-04.  Present were Chilean 4 Northrop F-5E Tiger III and F-16As, Argentinian AF A-4Rs,
  SAF F-16Cs, Brazilian AMX plus various air-refuelling and rescue planes.

  Salitre II, between 19th and 30th October 2009 Northrop F-5E Tiger III were sent from Antofagasta AB to Iquique AB where they operated together
Chilean Genera-Dynamics F-16, Brazilian AMX and Argentinian A-4R while the USAF sent its Lockheed-Martin F-16s to Antofagasta AB. Also
  present were various tankers, transpot aircrafts and helicopters.

  At the Salitre III (2014 edition) Chilean Tiger III were present (together with General Dynamics F-16) at Antofagasta/Cerro Moreno AB between
  October 6th and 17th
together with Brazilian, Argentinian  A-4s and Uruguayan fighters/fighter-bombers as well as transports/tankers/helicopters.

                                                             Photo: Chile AF
                                     Line-up of aircrafts participating to Salitre III, of note latest camouflage on extreme left aircraft

Northrop F-5E Tiger III also participated at Salitre IV (2022 edition), togethr with Chilean F-16C, A-36 (Casa 101), A-39 Super Tucano and transports, AEW aircrcrafts to the
excercise from Anfagasta AB form 10-10-22
till 21-10-22; they were  supported by 1 Lockheed KC-130 of the Grupo de Aviaçon 10.

Northrop F-5E IIIs participated to the excercise Tormenta 23 from 6th till 10th November together with the Chilean Army and Navy units. Also present wer General Dynamics F-16,
Boeing KC-135s/E-3D, Super Tucanosas well as several helicopters.