United States of America – Navy


   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.

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.

    Photo: unknown
 Northrop F-5E bearing unusual big three digits code 001, SEA camouflage and DACT missile in October 1974.

                    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.

The first Northrop F-5E arrived at NAS Oceana on 16-12-76 , when it was seen together with T-38As and Douglas A-4.

    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.

Photo: unknownThe 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 May 2004 and 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
                              Who has better quality tails showing flags, serials/codes painted on ?

Known serials/codes are: Iran - 741547/10
                                  Iraq -
serials unknown coded 20 - 22 - 27 - 43; 160792/23, 160795/21, 730879/22, 741539/24, 741558/25, 741564/44
                                  Viet Nam - 159881/27,
                                  Cuba - 741544/40,
                                  North Korea -  160792, serials unknown coded 21 - 40 - 41
                                  Lybia - serial unknown code 42; 741539/46

Aircraft wore a moltitude of non-standard colour schemes, applied during rework at St. Augustine (Florida) where the old 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 was recommended to keep the Tiger fleet through 2014.

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. New maintenance manuals were to be rewritten and translated from German to English.The former Swiss aircrafts were redesignated Northrop F-5N, receiveing their former USAF serials.

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.

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.

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.

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.