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F-5A Freedom Fighter / Tiger

Production was initiated by a $20 million fixed price firm (FPF) contract. A second contract was signed on 27 August 1963. The two initial orders called for a total of 170 F-5A and B aircraft. Like subsequent contracts, they were negotiated under the sole source method of procurement.

Category I testing took place October 1962-May 1965, first using an N-156C aircraft. Categories II and III followed in February 1964-October 1964. These tests were conducted simultaneously, after an initial delay of 4 months caused by the added requirement of installing internal guns on the single seat F-5A. A mixture of F-5A and B aircraft participated in all tests.

The first aircraft saw operational service with TAC's 4441st Combat Crew Training School (CCTS) at Williams AFB.

In its first year of operation, the F-5 logged more than 2.75 million miles without any accident.

The F-5B actually entered operational service ahead of the basic F-5A.

A total of 621 F-5As were accepted; almost all for recipient countries of the Military Assistance Program; the others, for the foreign military sales program.

Originally developed to provide unsophisticated allied air forces with a modern, versatile tactical aircraft, the F-5 was tested in Southeast Asia to determine its potential under combat conditions. The tests and evaluation, which became known as Project Skoshi Tiger, were directed by the Air Force in mid 1964 and were conducted by a 12 aircraft unit of TAC's 4503d Tactical Fighter Wing. The aircraft used were diverted from MAP production, modified for air refueling, and equipped with armor plate, jettisonable pylons, additional avionics and camouflage paint. The 4503d unit was deployed to Da Nang in October 1965, and within 4 months flew more than 2,500 hours in close support, air to air, interdiction, and reconnaissance missions over South Vietnam and the Laotian panhandle. During February 1966 the unit moved to Bien Hoa AB, and the 4503d pilots began flying interdiction, armed reconnaissance, and MIG CAP missions over North Vietnam. In March, the 4503d unit built its size to 18 aircraft, became the 10th Fighter Commando Squadron, and was assigned to the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing at Bien Hoa. At the same time, the Air Force directed the Tactical Air Command to initiate immediately a training program for F-5 pilot replacements. The 4441st CCTS at Williams AFB began this training on 15 April, although the base's training facilities were already saturated by the school's undergraduate program.

Modernization of the South Vietnamese Air Force with F-5 aircraft began in March 1967. The in-country aircraft, modified for the Air Force's Skoshi Tiger tests, were first transferred under the service funded program of 31 March 1966-a program similar to the one implemented during the Korean conflict. Iran, Greece, and Korea were the initial countries to receive F-5 aircraft under the Military Assistance Program. The Philippines, Nationalist China, and Turkey were next. Norway and Libya were the first to buy F-5s through the Foreign Military Sales Program; Iran and Nationalist China followed. By mid 1972, the MAP and FMS programs had provided at least 15 nations with F-5 aircraft.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:31:20 ZULU