Koninklijke Luchtmacht - Royal Netherlands Air Force
Credit: Roundels of the world
The Netherlands and Belgium had a joint flying instruction programme whereby cadets trained first on Belgian Fouga Magisters, followed by advanced training on Dutch Lockheed T-33A and operational conversion on Dutch Republic F-84F, but replacement for these aged aircrafts was needed by the mid-60s.
An evaluation team was sent between 10-01-66 and 05-02-66 to the USA to evaluate various aircrafts: LTV A-7A, Northrop F-5A, Douglas A-4E and Lockheed CL-984 (a strike version similar to the F-104S).
None of these was selected; the choice fell on the Canadair version of the Freedom Fighters to be built partially in the Netherlands, designated Canadair NF-5A and NF-5B (Canadair designation CL-226-1A10 and CL-226-1A11), respectively single- and double-seaters. This aircraft enabled the replacement of several types in Dutch use: the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak fighter-bomber, the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash reconnaissance-fighter and Lockheed T-33A trainer. The choice was officially announced on 25-10-66 by the Defence Minister. Unfortunately Belgium did not agree to replace its own Republic F-84F with the same aircraft, preferring to order Mirage 5 to be built under licence locally.
Dutch aircrafts were essentially similar to the Canadian AF CF-5 but introduced several modifications, the most important were: more powerful J-85Can-15 engines, Doppler radar navigation system, arrester hook, a strengthened windscreen; NF-5A only had provison for 1040 liter wing pylon tanks and a two position nose gear.
order for 105 aircrafts was placed on 30-01-67; Aviolanda was to
assemble locally the rear fuselage, Avio Diepen the centre fuselage,
complete assembly being undertaken in Canada
at Montreal by Canadair.
Plans were to manufacture 50 Canadair NF-5A for 2 fighter-bomber Squadrons, 25 reconnaissance NF-5A for 1 Squadron and 30 NF-5B trainers to replace 35 Lockheed T-33As. Finally, it was decided to order 75 fighter-bombers and 30 double-seaters for 3 operational Squadrons and 1 advanced training/operational conversion Squadron.
The first NF-5A built was rolled out by Canadair on 05-03-69 and first flew on 24-03-69, followed by the first NF-5B on 07-07-69; two NF-5s entered the flight test programme by May 1969 while 24 Dutch technicians were trained as technical instructors.
First Canadair NF-5A (serial K-3001) and three NF-5B were officially handed-over to the Air Force on 08-10-69 at Montreal-Cartierville plant; K-3001 left shortly after for Edwards AFB (USA) to be used for tests.
r Photo: Canadair
Initial Canadair NF-5D K-4005, K-4006, K-4001 on a test flight.
Very last aircrafts to reach Dutch soil were NF-5A K-3071 and NF-5B K-4030 on 20-03-72 with "Hi-flite" Nr 20A.
Photo: via Ed van't Hoofd
Republic F-84 F and an early Canadair NF-5ACanadair NF-5B K-3302 seen at Soesterberg AB on an icy day, in early colours, without badge
the NF-5 training unit operated as Transitie Vliegopleiding (TVO) at
Woendsrecht AB; Squadron 315 took over in May 1970 training duties, when
aircrafts were available.
All Dutch NF-5s were delivered in standard camouflage and this was kept for a long time. In the mid-80s three new camouflages were experimented: grey only, a two-tone grey/blue, and a so-called "F-16". The grey only was finally selected and applied to several aircrafts, see serial list for details.
Canadair NF-5B K-4011, 316 Squadron, with long-range tanks, in original coulours in Italy on
29-09-1985. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
NF-5A K-3036, 314 Squadron in definitive all-grey colour seen in November 1987.
Canadair NF-5A K-3028, 315 Squadron seen on July 1984, in "F-16"
camouflage. Note coloured tail-badge;
Photo: Charles Stewart this was by 1985 toned-down, see picture in "Units" page. Photo: Jos Wigbold
Dense light on newly in two-towne grey/blue painted Canadair NF-5A K-3030, without Squadron Grey/blue Canadair NF-5B K-4014 of 313s Squadron seen in-flight with three tanks.
badge. The aircraft is fitted with four underwing pylons, with two tanks. Photo: unknown Photo R. Netherlands AF
The aircrafts were used during their Dutch career mainly in the fighter-bomber role (apart from training), flying low-level missions against troops and ground installations. The Vliehors range, on the same name island, was utilised for weapons training.
Bodo AB in Norway was a regularly used for the fighter-bomber excercises in the 1980s.
They were also used as day only interceptors (due to lack of radar), armed with AIM-9J, Sidewinder for a few months at the beginning of 1982, during an interim period between the phase-out of Lockheed F-104G and the operational introduction of the General Dynamics F-16.
Canadair NF-5A K-3056 belonging to the 313 Squadron in new grey camouflage and armed with
inert AIM-9J Sidewinders, blue painted. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Dissimilar air-combat training was also exercised; in the early years the under-fuselage tank was painted with two red bands, later a panel was painted either in red, white or yellow colours on the aircraft used.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5
Sometimes only two red bands plus the nose of the under-fuselage tank were painted in red, as seen here ind December 1977.
Canadair NF-5A K-3014, 316 Squadron, with red panel and AIM9-J used for dissimilar training
seen in June 1990. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Canadair NF-5A K-3017, 316 Squadron, with white panel used for dissimilar training seen in August 1980.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Reinforcement of the wings and the stabilisators were introduced to the aircrafts at the end of the 1980's to keep them flying till their final withdrawal.
Two Canadair NF-5A in latest colours, tanks in old and new colours together with their General Dynamics F-16A replacement.
An USA offer in 1975 regarding replacing Lockheed F-104G with a less sophisticated/expensive Northrop F-5E was rejected due to the wish to maintain an European aircraft industry; the General Dynamics F-16 was finally chosen over the Mirage F.1.
Aircrafts withdrawn from General Dynamics F-16 re-equipped Squadrons were initially attached to 316 Squadron. At a later stage, due to the high number, to a specially formed unit: Vliegend Uit Dienst (VUD) at Gilze-Rijen AB, later Woendsrecht AB; first definitive retirement was on 27-03-86, when NF-5A serial K-3057 was withdrawn from use and sent to the VUD.By February 1988 there were 40 Canadair NF-5A and 20 NF-5B assigned to 3 Squadrons; 16 NF-5A and 6 NF-5B were in storage; 5 NF-5A and 1 NF-5B were withdrawn from use/instructional frames; 13 NF-5A and 3 NF-5B had been written off.
All Canadairs were officially withdrawn from operational service on 01-05-91 when 316 Squadron officially transitioned to the General Dynamics F-16, but some flights were still undertaken from Eindhoven for test purposes and conversion of Greek and Turkish pilots with former 316 Squadron aircrafts.
Last official NF-5 flight was on 15-03-91; due to bad weather three aircrafts, instead of 12 foreseen, flew out of Eindhoven to overfly all former NF-5 bases.
Some Canadairs were cocooned awating their transfer; K-4020 went to the Turkish AF
Destiny of the remaining active aircrafts
was set as follows: 54 NF-5A and 6 NF-5B to Turkey; 11 NF-5A (one for spares recovery only), 1 NF-5B to Greece;
1 NF-5A, 6 NF-5B to Venezuela.
Only a part (34) of the single-seaters handed-over to Turkey was destined for operational use; the rest was kept in the Netherlands and utilised for spares recovery only.
The contract with Greece for free transfer was signed in Athens on 25-02-91, all aircrafts coming from the 316 Squadron; spare parts and pilots training were also free of charge.
Some others were kept as gate guardians at various Dutch air bases and for technical training, see serials lists for details.
Canadair NF-5A TPG-29 (ex K-3029) used as technical trainer seen at Twenthe in August 1988
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast