Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter

Never a part of the USAF tactical forces, the F-5A Freedom Fighter has been used as an aggressor aircraft to represent a hostile fighter in simulated combat with U.S. fighters. Some of the characteristics of the F-5A resemble those of the Soviet-built MIG-21 in certain altitude ranges.

  • EWMslideshow 010
  • f52 2
  • P1110023
  • IMG_2620
  • IMG_2668
  • IMG_8410
  • IMG_9699
  • P1110020
  • PB020017
EWMslideshow 0101 f52 22 P11100233 IMG_26204 IMG_26685 IMG_84106 IMG_96997 P11100208 PB0200179


Manufacturer: Northrop
Year/Model: 1963 F-5A Freedom Fighter
S/N: 741537
Tail Number: 1537
Power Plant: Two 4,080-lb J85-GE-13 turbojets
Wingspan: 25 feet 3 inches
Length: 46 feet 11 inches
Height: 13 feet 2 inches
Gross Weight: 13,433 pounds
Maximum Speed: 925 mph
Maximum Range: 1,387 statute miles
Service Ceiling: 50,500 feet
Crew: 1
Status: Static Display
Owner: Estrella Warbirds Museum

F-5a In Flight


The development of the Northrop F-5 began in 1954 when a Northrop team toured Europe and Asia to examine the defense needs of NATO and SEATO countries. A 1955 company design study for a lightweight supersonic fighter that would be relatively inexpensive, easy to maintain, and capable of operating out of short runways. The Air Force did not initially look favorably upon the proposal, since it did not need a lightweight fighter. However, it did need a new trainer to replace the Lockheed T-33, and in June of 1956 the Air Force announced that it was going to acquire the trainer version, the T-38 Talon.

On April 25, 1962, the Department of Defense announced that it had chosen the aircraft for its Military Assistance Program (MAP). America's NATO and SEATO allies would now be able to acquire a supersonic warplane of world-class quality at a reasonable cost. On August 9, 1962 the aircraft was given the official designation of F-5A Freedom Fighter. Optimized for the air-to-ground role, the F-5A had only a very limited air-to-air capability, and was not equipped with a fire-control radar. The F-5B was the two-seat version of the F-5A. It was generally similar to the single-seat F-5A but had two seats in tandem for dual fighter/trainer duties. Countries receiving the F-5A under MAP included Iran, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey, Greece, and the Republic of China. Norway, Spain, and Canada made direct purchases of the airplane.

Although all F-5A production was intended for MAP, in October 1965, the USAF "borrowed" 12 combat-ready F-5As from MAP supplies and sent them to Vietnam with the 4503rd Tactical Fighter Wing for operational service trials. This program was given the code name of "Skoshi Tiger" ("little" Tiger). and it was during this tour of duty that the F-5 picked up its Tiger nickname.

The F5 was armed with two 20-mm cannons in the fuselage nose and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles could be carried at the wingtips. Five pylons, one under the fuselage centerline and four under the wings that can carry up to 6200 pounds of ordinance or fuel tanks. A 2000-pound bomb or a gun pack can be carried from the centerline pylon. Under-wing loads can include four air-to-air missiles, Bullpup air-to-surface missiles, bombs, up to 20 unguided rockets, gun packs, or external fuel tanks.

On November 20, 1970, the Northrop entry was declared the winner of the IFA (International Fighter Aircraft) to be the F-5A/B's successor. The emphasis was be on the air-superiority role for nations faced with threats from opponents operating late-generation MiG-21s. An order was placed for five development and 325 production aircraft. In January of 1971, it was reclassified as F-5E. The aircraft came to be known as "Tiger II".

is proud to be the home of