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Five Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About The F-5

Following up on the IOC of the F-5, here are five things you might not know about the F-5 series:

  1. The Iranians took an F-5, added twin vertical stabilizers to it, and created a ‘new” fighter they call the HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt ). Iran claims the Saeqeh performs like an F/A-18 Hornet. But even plain old avgeeks like me know that shoehorning some kludgy glass displays into the cockpit and bolting a second fin on to a standard F-5 do not add up to a home-grown Hornet. The Iranians say the Saeqeh maneuvers better than a standard F-5. That’s a long way from performing like a Hornet.

  2. In order to get the F-5 off the ground using just a little bit less runway, the nose gear in F-5Es and F-5Fs is equipped with a selectable two-position strut. When in the extended position the aircraft’s static angle of attack is increased by 3.3 degrees, providing additional lift at takeoff speeds.
  3. Many sources credit the F-5E design as the basis for / starting point for / predecessor of the Northrop YF-17 Cobra, which lost the Lightweight Fighter competition to the YF-16 during the mid-1970s. The YF-17 came back in a big way though. Today you can recognize the family resemblance in the McDonnell-Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet. The American version…not the Iranian.
  4. Northrop’s original codename for the design that became the F-5 was “Tally Ho”.
  5. The Soviet Union acquired captured F-5Cs from Vietnam and F-5Es from Ethiopia. They thoroughly evaluated and tested the F-5s over a period of several years. The Soviets threw the F-5s at MiG-21s and MiG-23s to see how aerial combat might conclude between the dissimilar aircraft. Supposedly the data generated during these flights contributed the designs of the second-generation and much improved MiG-23MLD Flogger K and ultimately the MiG-29 Fulcrum. Ironically the Soviet evaluation of the F-5s roughly parallels the similar American dissimilar aircraft training efforts outlined in our previous story about the development of the MiG-21.

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.