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  • 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.

     Updated: 6/23/2017; 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.

    F-5 Origins

    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.

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    Northrop F-5E Tiger II Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1962
    Type: Single-Seat Lightweight Multirole Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Northrop Aircraft Corporation - USA
    Production Total: 2,246

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 47.41 feet (14.45 meters)
    Width: 26.67 feet (8.13 meters)
    Height: 13.32 feet (4.06 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 9,722 lb (4,410 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 24,723 lb (11,214 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x General Electric J85-GE21 afterburning turbojet engines developing 5,000 lb thrust each.

    Maximum Speed: 1,077 mph (1,734 kph; 936 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,543 miles (2,483 km)
    Service Ceiling: 51,804 feet (15,790 meters; 9.81 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 28,700 feet-per-minute (8,748 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x 20mm M39A2 internal cannons
    2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on wingtips.

    Mission-specific ordinance is limited up to a maximum of 7,000lbs across 4 x underwing and 1 x underfuselage hardpoints and can include:

    2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles.
    4 x AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles.
    AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface guided missiles
    2 x LAU-61 19-shot 70mm rocket pods
    2 x LAU-68 7-shot 70mm rocket pods
    2 x LAU-10 4-shot 127mm rocket pods
    2 x Matra SNEB 18-shot 68mm rocket pods
    Conventional Drop Bombs
    Cluster Bombs
    Napalm Bombs
    3 x 275 US gallon External Fuel Droptanks

    Global Operators / Customers

    Austria; Bahrain; Botswana; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Ethiopia; Greece; Honduras; Indonesia; Iran; Jordan; Kenya; Malaysia; Mexico; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Philippines; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; South Korea; Spain; Sudan; South Vietnam; Soviet Union; Switzerland; Taiwan; Thailand; Tunisia; Turkey; United States; Venezuela; Vietnam; Yemen

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    N-156 - Northrop Private Venture Lightweight Fighter Model.

    N-156T - Supersonic Trainer Variant of the base N-156.

    YT-38 - Prototype Model based on the N-156T trainer model; fitted with 2 x General Electric J85-GE-1 turbofan engines (non-afterburning) capable of 2,600lbs of thrust each; Further prototypes were fitted with J85-GE-5 capable of 3,600lbs of thrust.

    N-156F - Fighter Model Designation

    F-5A "Freedom Fighter" - Single Seat Fighter; 818 produced.

    F-5B - Two-seat Variant; 290 produced.

    CF-5 - Canadair-produced version

    NF-5 - Netherlands-produced version

    F-5G - Norwegian-produced version

    SF-5 - CASA-produced version for Spain

    RF-5A - Reconnaissance Model fitted with appropriate systems and components.

    F-5E "Tiger II" - Tiger II designation is used; Single seat fighter version.

    F-5F Tiger II - Two-seat fighter model; integrated fire-control system; fitted with J85-GE-21 powerplants capable of 5,000lbs of thrust; increased MTOW; aerodynamic refinements to airframe; improved avionics.

    RF-5E "TigerEye" - Improved Reconnaissance Variant.

    F-20 "Tigershark" - Abandoned Export Model of improved and redesigned F-5 Tiger II series.