Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter / Tiger / Tiger II Single-Seat Lightweight Multirole Aircraft
The Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter grew into the F-5 Tiger II, which sprouted the ill-fated F-20 Tigershark.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Northrop F-5 "Freedom Fighter" / "Tiger" / "Tiger II" series was designed from the outset as a low-cost, lightweight, multi-role Mach 1-capable combat platform. While developed within the United States by the Northrop firm, the fighter went on to find quantitative success outside of the country with over half of the 2,246 completed aircraft serving in foreign militaries worldwide. In all, at least 30 US-allied nations operated the type with many in service even today. Despite lacking the true "all-weather" capabilities of more accomplished fighters of her time, the F-5 made up for her inherent limitations through its excellent agility, ease of maintenance and low-cost functionality - all benefits to the budget-strapped military buyer.
The F-5 was born out of a 1950s US Navy requirement calling for a small, lightweight, jet-powered fighter to operate from the decks of its Escort Carriers. Escort Carriers received their own birth in ocean-going fighting during World War 2. However, Escort Carriers were not designed for the newer, larger types of fighters then entering USN service. Northrop, therefore, responded with their in-house "N-156" lightweight, twin-engine jet fighter proposal. The project was to make use of the General Electric J85 turbojet engine - the same powerplant as used in the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress-launched McDonnell ADM-20 "Quail" subsonic decoy cruise missile - and this installation proved ideal for use in such a small airframe design for the engine outputted a strong thrust-to-weight ratio for its size. However, US Navy interest soon waned after the retirement of her Escort Carrier classes, leaving the future of the N-156 in doubt. Regardless, Northrop engineers forged ahead and spawned the N-156 into two distinct aircraft forms - the single-seat "N-156F" fighter and the two-seat "N-156T" combat trainer.