49 - Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter

Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter

Models by Bjørn Jacobsen

In the 1950s, jet fighters were ballooning in size and complexity and declining in manoeuvrability and affordability.

The US Air Force had no interest

in small jets for its own inventory,

but the Pentagon realized most

countries could not afford the

expensive jet fighters America used.

It also realized that giving older,

cast-off jets to small allies was no

defence against the deadly

MiG-15s and newer jets the Soviet

Union awarded to client states.

Pentagon therefore called for a new

supersonic, yet affordable, fighter

for export.

Northrop won the competition in

1962 with a slim, small and elegant,

but very potent fighter:

the F-5A Freedom Fighter. 

As said above, the USAF had no

place for a small fighter in its

inventory, but they eagerly adopted

the F-5 design as the world's first

supersonic two-seat trainer, the

T-38 Talon.

It soon became the most produced

trainer in the world.

More than 72,000 USAF pilots have

trained in the T-38 Talon. Nearly 1,200 Talons were produced from 1961-72, and more than 500 are currently operational with the Air Force and NASA - 57 years after its first flight!

The Light Fighter

Today, we label a small fighter as

the F-5 a “light fighter”. (In the USAF

inventory, the F-16 is the classic

example.) In the 1950s, however,

the fighters were brutishly large,

fast and heavy. The idea of a light

fighter was too radical for the USAF

and the F-5 was instead built as a

high-performance, inexpensive

export fighter for U.S. allies.

On the other hand, the US needed

a fighter to simulate Soviet “Bandits”

in adversary missions.

A later version of the F-5A, the F-5E

Tiger was the perfect plane for this

and the U.S. Navy and Marines are

still using it as adversary in mock

air-to-air engagements. Most will

remember that aggressor F-5s were

in disguise as “MiG 28s” in the

movie “Top Gun”.

The F-5A could carry 4,400 lb

(2000kg) of external stores, and

delivered bombs with high accuracy.

In tests, it proved comparable to the

expensive F-100 Super Sabre for

bombing accuracy. The problem of course was that the Freedom Fighter carried only about half the weight of bombs and had less range — a problem for all light fighters.

The F-5A has a top speed of 925 mph, (1.489 km/h) and a service ceiling at 51,800 ft (15,789 m)

An F-5A with the Norwegian 332 Squadron

T-38 Talon

Norwegian F-5 Freedom Fighters

An F-5E aggressor by the US Navy

The Norwegian Freedom Fighter

In 1964, Norway ordered 106 F-5

Freedom Fighters (78 F-5A,

6 RF-5A, and 14 F-5B), enough to

equip six squadrons. Norway was

one of the early NATO countries to

use of the Freedom Fighter.

The aircraft I am building belongs to

332 Squadron, which is clearly

recognizable by the blue battle-axe

on the fin.

The Norwegian F-5 aircraft were

known as F-5A(G) and was

equipped to operate in extreme

Arctic conditions. It had provision

for JATO, windshield de-icing, and were equipped with landing arrester hooks for short-field operations. Norwegian F-5s were also unique in being able to carry Bullpup ASMs.

The last Norwegian F-5 was parked in 2007 after 41 years in active duty and 339 359 hours in the air.

A number of ex-RNoAF F-5s was transferred to Portugal, Greece, and Turkey.

The RNoAF F-5s were replaced with another “light fighter”: the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon

The International Fighter Aircraft (IFA) Program

By 1970 the United States was looking for a replacement for the export minded F-5A to keep pace with the advanced Soviet fighter development. The goal was to find a capable air-to-air fighter that could compete against the MIG-21 “Fishbed” series, which were being fielded in huge quantities to Warsaw Pact nations and other Soviet friendly countries.

Northrop threw its hat into the ring again and developed a new version of the F-5A, the F-5A-21.

The defence contract was given to Northrop and the new fighter was named F-5E “Tiger II” and over 950 Tiger II were delivered to a wide variety of countries around the world.

More than 4.100 F-5s and the closely related T-38 advanced trainer aircraft were produced. Different versions of the F-5 was used by 37 countries all over the world

Despite its 1962 introduction, the F-5 series still maintain operational status worldwide.

Building the F-5 Freedom Fighters

The Kinetic F-5 kit is probably the best

F-5 kit on the market and very easy to build,

Besides the F-5A, you can choose to build the F-5A/CF and the F-5A/NF.

It also has an extensive decal sheet covering 16 different aircrafts (Greek, Canadian, Dutch, Norwegian, South Vietnamese, and U.S. Air Force)

To make the Norwegian plane as true to life as possible I choose to use the Norwegian Vingtor decals which are extremely good, when building the Norwegian a/c.

I also decided to have the canopy open (at least for some pictures) and as always, the cockpit interior is not very good in the kits, so I decided to use the ejection seat and pilot from Aires

Otherwise the model was made without any adds-on

The kit had a large number of fuel tanks and weaponry which I used in some of the pictures.

I built the Norwegian F-5 which was painted in light grey (Vallejo Sky Grey)

Then I decided to repaint the model as an US Marine Aggressor  a/c which was painted in Russian camouflage.

When the Norwegian F-5 ended their life in RNoAF, some of them were sold to Greece and Turkey.

At the end, I therefore painted the model in Greece camouflage to show the last destination for this small and beautiful Norwegian fighter.

The reason I choose the Greek aircraft was because they sometimes have a rather bad maintenance, at least on the outside of their fighters.

Sometimes it looks as the whole aircraft has been painted by hand by a bunch of drunken sailors - please forgive me if a offended some of my Greek friends

A lot of weathering had to be used to get the Hellenic Aircraft ready - but it looks cool!

Painting the different nationalities:

- Norwegian Air Force

- Hellenic Air Force

- US Navy Aggressor

The models:

The first model: An F-5A Freedom Fighter from the RNoAF 332 Squadron, easily recognized by the Battle Axe on its fin.

The Squadron was based at Rygge in the south east of Norway.

And now we have to get the fighter in it's right element:

Ex-Norwegian F-5 in the Hellenic Air Force

When the Norwegian F-5 stepped down and gave space for the new

F-16s which began to arrive in 1980, most of the F-5 was returned to USA, but several planes were delivered to the Turkish and Greek Air Forces.

The Greek Hellenic Air Force has a reputation for strongly weathered fighters, to put it that way.

The a/c on the picture are actually ex-Jordanian fighters, the F-5s from Norway was painted in blue camo, sorry for the mistake!

It is sad so see a beautiful plane in this condition, but rather fun for a modeller to paint and weather! – and nice to know that these small fighters could still perform after nearly fifty years in the air!

The Aggressor

The F-5 Tiger was the perfect plane to simulate Soviet “Bandits” in adversary missions and is still used by USAF, U.S. Navy and the Marines as adversary in mock air-to-air engagements

Today, the Navy have 30 F-5N and the Marine Corps have eleven F-5F in an aggressor-training role with simulation capabilities of current threat aircraft in fighter-combat mode.

The F-5E can climb at the rate of 175m/s (575 feet/s). The maximum speed of the aircraft is 1,700km/h (1.056 mph) and the service ceiling is 15.800m (52.000 feet)

The F-5 Tiger II is armed with two 20mm cannons on either side of the nose which can fire munitions at the rate of 1,500rpm. The aircraft features seven hard-points – two under the wing tip, four under the two wings, and one under the fuselage pylon station.

Many cocky USAF, Navy and Marine pilots in their big, powerful fighters have nasty experiences meeting these “Russian” Tigers

in mock dogfight situations

I hope you enjoyed this website!


Thank you for visiting!


Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments






Bjørn Jacobsen

August 2016