United States of America – Navy

                                        Last update 28-06-2021


   Credit:  Roundels of the world

Intial interest for a navalised Northrop F-5 (Northrop N285-B) was shown beginning 1965 in order to operate from small Reserve carriers replacing Douglas A-4s. It featured an arrester hook, catapult spools,  redesigned wings of larger area and carrying extensive high lift devices, marginally slower than the Northrop F-5A. There was also a design of a navalised Northrop T-38 (designated N285-A) able tooprate from shipboard operation.
Retirement of these aircrafts carriers in 1960 brought an end to their development.

Later (in 1973) the Navy was keen to buy Northrop F-5E Tigers for Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT).

Several Squadrons belonging to the Navy have used the aircraft for DACT; though the Marines Reserve is part of the US Navy their aircrafts have Marines inscription on the fuselage. They are listed separately.

US.S. Navy Figher Weapons School (unofficiall Top Gun Flight)

Five Northrop F-5E were planned at the Navy Fighter Weapons School to simulate MiG-21 during FY 1974 replacing five Douglas A-4 supplied to Israel.
The first of five, in standard European camouflage (green/brown), Northrop F-5E arrived at NAS Oceana on 16-12-74 , where it was seen together with T-38As and Douglas A-4. of the unit,
(coded between 01 and 05, some of them with double 0).

    Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E serial 159882, bearing unusual
big three digits code 001, SEA camouflage and
DACT training missile on 16-10-74. Code was subsequently changed to two big serials (01 etc)

Re-coding took place by the beginning of 1976 (540 to 544). Five former Vietnamse for use of the Squadron were seen at NAS Miramar,
but were not yet operational.

                        Photo: P. Bergagnini
    The first four Northrop F-5Es, codes 01 to 04, at NAS Miramar on 01-10-76 in different camouflages

      Photo: Collection Northrop F-5E collection     
Northrop F-5E 159881 code 04 of the Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) at NAS Miramar on 08-11-75. Remarkable is the inscription
TOP GUN and the silhouttes painted on the hangar.

    Photo: unknown
Unusual camouflaged Northrop F-5E 159881 seen on August 1987. Note small red star in the middle of the tail and code NJ543 (or NJ643?) painted on tail.

The Squadron was incorporated into the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon since July 1996 where it is responsible, among others, for the Navy F-5 Adversary Program courses (dissimilar training).

The Naval Strike Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon is
since July 1996 responsible, among others, for the F-5 Adversary Program courses (dissimilar training).

Twice was felt a much more advanced aggressor was to be procured: the first programm was a loan of 25 IAI F-21A between 1985 and 198 followed by purchase of 22 General Dynamics F-16N single- and 4 twin-seaters TF-16N entering service early 1987 till May 1988. It served with "Top Gun", VFC-13, VF-43, VF-45, VFC-111, VFA-126 and VF-127. This unfortunate second choice led to an early retirement of the aircrafts due to wings cracks, leading to grounding in 1992 and complete retirement in 1994.

Unit strength was by 01-10-94 at NAS Leemore, the same on 01-10-95, augmented to 22 Northrop F-5  by 01-10-96 till 01-10-98. In 1999 the unit relocated to NAS Fallon (Nevada).

It was formed amalgamating  the Naval Strike Warfare Cenre,  Naval Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School.

A red star simbolizing the possible enemy was painted         Non standard was this
on the tail together with the aircraft and wing 
code,           rose (DESERT ROSE) on tail
varying in size during the time. These replaced the             
of Tiger 761530/NJ20.
various Squadron badges.

Flags of "unfriendly" countries replaced for a time (seen November 2002, September 2005) on tail of some aircrafts to better simulate the foreign country. Iraqi/Cuban flags were worn by Tigers belonging to the VFA-127 and VFC-13 units.

        Iran                                      Iraq                              
Viet Nam                   old North Korea       new North Korea                    Cuba                             Lybia

Known serials/codes are: (Who has better quality tails showing flags, serials/codes painted on ?)
                                  Iran  741547/10
741530/20, 160795/21, 730879/22160792/23, 730865/23, 741539/24, 741558/25, 741564/44; 
serials unknown: code 27
                                  Viet Nam  159881/27  Cuba  741544/40, 159981/27
North Korea, old   160792 -; serials unknown: codes 21 - 40 - 41 North Korea, new 741545/41
                                  Lybia  741539/42, 741539/46

Aircrafts wore a moltitude of non-standard colour schemes, applied during rework at St. Augustine (Florida) where paint was stripped down and new one applied.
An "S" painted on the fuselage meant a safety award was given to units with a good safety performance.

De-activation came for some of the Dissimilar Training Units with the consolidation into the Naval Air Reserve on 23-03-96.

    Photo: The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast collection
    Northrop F-5E 741530/03 in March 2004 with red wing tip DACT pod.

Sikorsky Maintenance Service Division (MSD) provides organizational, intermediate and limited depot maintenance support as well as logistic management and administration for Northrop F-5E and F-5F aircrafts. They are based at Fighter Composite Reserve Thirteen (VFC-13) in Fallon, NV and Marine Fighter Squadron Training (VMFT-410) in Yuma, AZ.

An analyze of the cost benefit to replace the Northrop F-5E with MCDonnel F/A-18A and F/A-18B or to install a 4th generation pulse-doppler radar by 2008 was carried out end of 2003 and with the result that it recommended to keep the Tiger fleet through 2014.

Prior to the Swiss purchase (see below) VFC-13 had 33 Northrop F-5s.

Forty-four Northrop F-5E were low-hour aircrafts purchased from Switzerland during FY 2003 to 2007 for use by the Navy and Marine Corps to replace the worn-out own Northrop F-5E. The contract for a fixed-price value of USD 18'557'950 was signed 07-03-03 and included order of 32 aircrafts plus 5 options which were definitely confirmed, totalling 44 aircrafts.
Exact details are: 9 Northrop F-5E sold in 2003, 8 of which delivered by July 2004 and 1 awaiting delivery in August 2004, 23 additional were optioned and 8 still were in a sales discussions.

By May 2004 seven Tigers had left Switzerland, six aircrafts were exported in 2007 together with 10 engines for a value of 14m Swiss Francs. 

Modifications and limited depot-level maintenance of the "new" aircrafts was provided by Northrop Grumman Technical Sevices/Sierra Vista after a first limited maintenance by RUAG at Emmen (Switzerland) completed by August 2003; more standardized colour schemes were then applied by Sierra Vista. Introduction of the "new" aircraft was to lower maintenance costs with overall costs reduction, . Included in the modifications were: a new performance monitoring system, anti skidding brakes, fare/chaff ALE-40, INS RWR, gaseous oxygen system (modified from liquid oxygen system proper to the Swiss), improved ejection seats, an upper cockpit longeron change, new fuel cells, totalling more than 600 modifications: M-39A2 were removed and replaced by ballast. New maintenance manuals were to be rewritten and translated from German to English. The former Swiss aircrafts were redesignated Northrop F-5N, receiveing their original USAF serials.

First flight of the modified Northrop F-5N took place in 2003, first delivered on 26-03-04 to VFC-13; modification was done at Northrop Grumman rework facility at Saint Augustine (Florida)

Known retirement of "old" Northrop F-5E Tigers included two during FY 2008 and three during FY 2009. The last two remaining were serials 731635 and 741547.

The Tactical Aviation Support Wing provided 2011 a strategic reserve force for the Navy's 10 Carrier Air Wings and adversary training, counternarcotics, homeland defence operations with 6 Squadrons: 2 with 30 Northrop F-5N, 1 F-5F, one with E/AB-6B, 1 with McDonnel F/A-18A, 1 with McDonnel F/A-18C , 1 with E-2C. The force remained unchanged during FY 2013.

                                                                    Photo: unknown
                                                    VFC-13 Tiger striped Northrop F-5N serial 761544/05 with serial 761551/05

In mid 2014 Northrop Grumman Systems Co. at St Augustine obtained a contract for USD 175 millions for depot maintenace of 44 F-5N and F-5F belonging to the US Navy and Marines, modified 12-02-19 with an additional USD 17m. These contracts include aircraft inspections, repairs, overhauls, modifications engineering support and for components to sustain the whole fleet. Last Northrop F-5E were to have had depot maintenance and and be redelivered to the units by September 2019.
                                                             frame 1                   Photo: unknown
                                                      Various camouflaged tails belonging to Northrop F-5Es belonging of  VFC-13

Dissimilar training was also realised in Februar 2015 against Kfirs of the ATAC pivate company by 111 Squadron out of Key West Navail Air Station.

Defence budgets in the late 2020s have reduced flight hours readiness due to spare parts non-availability. A request to buy additional 22 ex-Swiss Tigers has been rejected in the 2020 Fiscal Year, but seems to be still active as discussions for additionl 22 aircrafts started in July 2019 but not concluded by January 2020, Value stated to be USD 40m and delivery expected by 2021. By mid-20 there were  at least 10 Northrop F-5 - 2 Northrop F-5F,  8 F-5E)  stored at Emmen AB

Civilian operartors augmented the adversaries with several former military aircraft types. In 2018 Tactical Air Support received a five years contract to supply flying-hours with their former Jordanian Northrop F-5E/F-5F (see civilian operators). Possibly their own US Navy Northrop F-5N will be modified to the much more advanced civilian aircrafts.

On 20-07-20 one of the three Northrop F-5F flew for the first time in a new three-tone gray camouflage sheme, colours dubbed "Siberian Tiger" in order to resemble to Sukhoi Su-27KM seen at le Bourget and MAKS airshows in 2005. No pictures of operational Sukhoi SU-27 in these colours has been seen.

Eighteen Northrop F-5E and 4 Northrop F-5F bought from Switzerland will be reconfigured to Northrop F-5N+ or F-5+; the first will be received at the end of 2022, they are not operational by March 2021. Tactical Air offers the same modification for operational aircrafts. This modification is kown unde "project ARTEMIS", it involves avionics modification/various improvements  and will be accomplished in 5 years. It is not clear which Air Force/organisation will operate them.