United States of America – Navy

                                        Last update 20-03-2024


   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: US Navy
                                                                             Underfuselage view of Northrop F-5E coded 04 and 05, unfortunately in black and white

    Photo: unknown   
Northrop F-5E serial 159882, bearing unusual big three digits code 001, SEA camouflage and                  The first four Northrop F-5Es, codes 01 to 04, at NAS Miramar on 01-10-76 in different camouflages
DACT training missile on 16-10-74. Code was subsequently changed to two big serials (01 etc)                                                                                                                                  Photo: P Bergagnini

                                                                           Northrop F-5E 159880 code 03, new colours, of the Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) at
                                                                           NAS Miramar on 08-11-75, no Squadron tail badge
      Photo: Northrop F-5centhusiast collection

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.

Northrop F-5E 159881 code 04 of the Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) at NAS Miramar on 08-11-75.        Unusual camouflaged Northrop F-5E 159881 seen on August 1987. Note small red star in the middle of
Remarkable is the inscription TOP GUN and the silhouttes painted on the hangar.                                          the tail and code NJ543 (or NJ643?) painted on tail.                                                 Photo: unknown
                                                                                        Photo: Northrop F-5 enthusiast collection

                                                                                       Extremely effective in cloudy weather Northrop F-5E 159881/543, 1975

                                                                                Photo: Northrop
                                                                       Different camouflage on each aircraft is shown in this photo of Northrop F-5Es codex 542 and 543

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

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, 730879/22, 160792/23, 730865/23, 741539/24, 741558/25, 741564/44; 
serial unknown: code 27
                                  Viet Nam  159881/27 
                                  Cuba  741544/40,
North Korea, old   160792 -; serials unknown: codes 21 - 40 - 41 North Korea, new 741545/41
                  Lybia  741539/42, 741547/42

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. The
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.

                                                                                     Photo: RUAG
                                                                      Northrop F-5E J-3039 being loaded on a US Navy C-130 at Emmen AB/Switzerland on 12-04-05

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
first batch 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)

Last former Swiss aircraft arrived in November 2007. 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.

                                                                                  VFC-13 Tiger striped Northrop F-5N serial 761544/05 with serial 761551/04

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 mainte-
nance and and be redelivered to the units by September 2019.

                                                                                              frame 1                   Photo: unknown
                                                                                          Various camouflaged tails belonging to VFC-13's Northrop F-5Es

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, were
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 scheme, 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.

                                                                                                               Photo: Jessie Roberts/Instagram
                                                                            Unknown Northrop F-5F in "siberian" camouflage, on 20-07-20 at St. Augustine airport.

Sixteen Northrop F-5E and  6 Northrop F-5F bought from Switzerland will be reconfigured to Northrop F-5N+ and F-5F+.

Civilian Tactical Air company offers the same modification for operational aircrafts. This modification is known under "project ARTEMIS (Avionics Reconfiguration and Tactical Enhancement
Modernisation for Inventory Standardisation)"; it involves avionics modification/various improvements and the programm will be accomplished in 5 years. Funding for 5 US Navy and
2 US Marine Corps were approved by end of 2021. A conrtract worth USD 14.8 million was awarded to Tactical AIr to provide 6 upgrade kits, to be installed to 4
"new" Northrop F-5E and
2 Northrop F-5F. First aircraft (of three prototypes) to be modified arrived at Patuxent River for trials on September 2021, to be delivered to the Navy end of 2023.

                                                                                                        Photo: Toiete Jackson/US Navy
                                                                  US NAvy, serial 761583 at Jacksonville 01-03-23 on test flight after main depot had been completed

First Swiss Tiger (J-3052)of the second batch to be collected (by US Marines KC-130J serial 8068) took place on 18-03-24 from Emmen AB to Cecil Field (Jacksonville), Actual total
cost of the 22 aircraftsis is USD32m, including spare parts, storage, maintenance/repair/revision of the selected aircrafts and engines by the Swiss company RUAG, acting as sub-
contructor of TacAir. Eleven are scheduled to be operated by 2028, the remaing probably used as spare parts.

                                                                                                         Photo: RUAG
                                                                                                  Northrop F-5E J-3052 being loaded nto Lockheed KC-130J

RUAG was working by March 2024 on 4 airfames, 1 of which delivered to Tactical Air (see above). further work is provideed in Jacksonville (fFlorida) where they are further modernized with the
installation of a new cockpit an a modern avionics suite according to ARTEMIS project.