In 1955 Northrop began studies to develop a lightweight fighter that was inexpensive to buy and operate. It was called the N-156F. Although the N-156F project did not draw the interest that Northrop hoped, it did lead to the T-38 Talon supersonic trainer. The F-5 family was later developed from the T-38.
The United States Air Force would eventually order the F-5 into production, although it was not planning on purchasing the fighter. The USAF ordered it built for the Military Assistant Program (MAP). Under this program, friendly governments would receive weapons and equipment to help upgrade their own armed forces.
The F-5 was to be sold to countries which could not afford more complex aircraft such as the F-104 Starfighter.
Production and Service:
The Canadian Armed Forces selected the F-5 as the aircraft that would that would be used for its NATO Air Element commitment in 1965. The government helped to negotiate a contract which would see Canadair build the F-5A and F-5D under license. These aircraft were modified by Canadair. The changes from the regular F-5 include: an uprated J-85 engines built under license by Orenda Canada, a bolt on refueling probe, an upgraded navigational system, improved radios and a two position nose wheel. The improved Canadian built aircraft received the designation CF-5A (single seater) and CF-5D (Dual). The first CF-5 was delivered to the Canadian Armed Forces in June of 1968, while the last was delivered in May 1975. Although, the Armed Forces purchased 240 CF-5’s. Also, the Dutch Air Force purchased 150 Freedom Fighters built by Canadair and these were designated NF-5. Later, some of these aircraft were sold to Norway while some second hand Canadian aircraft were sold to Venezuela.
The CF-5 provided Canada with an aircraft that could be rapidly deployed to Europe in the advent of war. These aircraft would reinforce NATO and were generally deployed to Norway. The Canadian government also purchased five Boeing 707-320 transports to be used as refueling tankers to deploy the CF-5. The CF-5 was used by 3 different Squadrons; 433 and 434 were both the NATO Air Element Suadrons, while 419 would be used as an aggressor and training unit. While 433 Squadron was formed at CFB Bagotville in Quebec, 434 Squadron was formed at CFB Cold Lake. However, 434 was later moved to CFB Chatham, New Brunswick and 419 served at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.
The CF-18 Hornet was purchased by Canada to replace 3 different aircraft including the CF-5 Freedom Fighter, CF-101 Voodoo and the CF-104 Starfighter. However, the CF-5’s still had time left on their airframes and were considered to be useful in the aggressor role similar to how the United States were using undelivered F-5’s left over after the fall of South Vietnam. These aggressor aircraft were used to simulate enemy aircraft during Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM). Later the CF-5 would also be used to train new pilots in tactics and low level navigation before moving on to the CF-18 Hornet.
The CF-5 was retired from Canadian service in 1995. Remaining aircraft were put into storage at CFB Mountainview. The Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum’s CF-5 Freedom Fighter (116748) was acquired and delivered in the spring of 1998. At the time of its arrival, the aircraft was almost complete with only a few small components missing and was devoid of Squadron markings. In June of 1999, 748 was repainted with 434’s markings on the airplane as they were when it served with the Squadron at CFB Chatham in the early 1980’s. The Museum would like to thank Cpl. J.R.R. Francoeur and Cpl. M.T. Balsdon for the great job they did repainting these markings. Cpl. Francoeur and Cpl. Balson are members of 434 Squadron that volunteered their time to drive down from 14 Wing CFB Greenwood and help put these finishing touches on the CF-5. The aircraft is dedicated to the men and women of 434 (City of Halifax) Squadron. There are no other CF-5’s on historical display in Atlantic Canada.
72nd scale model fighter.
Just like a fighter only smaller.
Eat ’em alive in the CF-5.
- Power plant: Two 4,300 pound afterburning thrust Orenda J85-CAN-15 turbojets.
- Max. Speed: Mach 1.4 or 1,575 km/h (978 mph).
- Max. Height: 50,850 ft.
- Combat Radius: 314 km (195 miles) flown at sea level.
- Wing span including tip tanks: 25 ft 10 in.
- Length: 47 ft 2 in.
- Height: 13 ft. 4 in.
- Wing Area: 186 sq. ft.