Tag Archives: F-5

Because I was inverted: $305M for two squadrons of Swiss Tigers

As we covered in 2019, starting in 1978, the Swiss Air Force bought 110 late-model F-5E/F Tigers to augment their locally made F+W Emmen Mirage IIIs and replace their older Hawker Hunter aircraft (and a few downright obsolete De Havilland Venoms), becoming the country’s primary fighter until license-produced F-18s were ordered from Emmen in 1996.

Ein F5 “Tiger” der Schweizer Luftwaffe

The F-5s served the Swiss well but, with the production line ending in 1987 and the parts supply dwindling in part due to strict U.S. sanctions on anything F-5-related as Iran still flies the type, the Swiss phased out their Tigers from front line operations by 2018.

In 2019, the U.S. Navy bought the 23 most advanced Swiss F-5s with the fewest hours, along with most of the spare parts the country had left, for $39.7 million with the intention of feeding them into Navy Air’s aggressor squadrons.

The Swiss were reportedly happy to see them go at the time:

“If the Americans want to take over the scrap iron, they should do it,” Beat Flach, a Green Liberal lawmaker, told SonntagsZeitung, which reported on the planned sale in late 2019. “It’s better than having the Tigers rot in a parking lot.”

With the Tigers now in the U.S., Tactical Air Support just picked up a fat (up to $265 million) contract to rework 22 of the 23 1970s-vintage F-5s and support them into 2027. The contract includes a big chunk of work going back to Emmen in Switzerland as well. Of course, it also includes some work to eight F-5s already in the Navy’s fleet, but still…

Via DOD.

Tactical Air Support Inc., Jacksonville, Florida, is awarded a $265,300,000 firm-fixed-price, cost-reimbursable, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. This contract provides non-recurring engineering, inspection, modification, and block upgrade efforts for 16 F-5E and six F-5F Tiger II aircraft from a Swiss Confederation configuration to a Navy/Marine Corps N+/F+ configuration. Additionally, this contract procures eight block upgrade retrofits to existing fleet aircraft. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, Florida (32%); Emen, Switzerland (16%); Carlsbad, California (8%); Clarksburg, Maryland (7%); Grand Rapids, Michigan (6%); Woodland Hills, California (5%); Olathe, Kansas (5%); Stead, Nevada (5%); Salt Lake City, Utah (3%); Minneapolis, Minnesota (2%); Waco, Texas (2%); Auburn, Alabama (1%); Deerfield, Illinois (1%); Fairborn, Ohio (1%); Avenel, New Jersey (1%); Jupiter, Florida (1%); Camarillo, California (1%); Warner Robbins, Georgia (1%); Franklin, North Carolina (1%); and Nashville, Tennessee (1%), and is expected to be completed in June 2027. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to U.S. Code 2304(c)(1). The Naval Air Warfare Aviation Division, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N0042122D0095).

All told, this puts the sticker price on these aircraft to almost $14 million a pop if all options are used, which seems kinda high for what they are, especially when there are eight squadrons worth of very supportable F-16Cs already in storage in the desert at Davis-Monthan. Open-source databases list no less than 106 F-16C airframes at AMARG. It should be noted that the Navy formerly flew dedicated Block 30 F-16Ns as aggressors between 1988 and 1998— because they were better than the F-5s— and still fly 14 old F16A/B models they’ve had since 2002, so it’s not a dumb idea.

Seems like someone in the aggressor biz just like to keep some “MiG-28s” around or at least may have some sort of concern about the Iranian HESA Kowsar, a reworked fourth-gen(ish) F-5.

Swiss Cold War Tigers Going Home

Armed F-5A prototype, rough field trials

First flown in 1959, the Northrop F-5 became a popular “budget” air-superiority fighter in the Cold War, especially in its later F-5E Tiger variant. Essentially an upgrade of the T-38 Talon able to carry ordnance and mix it up, over 2,200 F-5s of all types were produced by the 1980s, going on to serve over 30 countries as diverse as the Mexican Air Force, the Republic of Vietnam Air Force and the Royal Libyan Air Force.

Starting in 1978, the Swiss Air Force bought 110 late-model F-5E/F Tigers to augment their locally made F+W Emmen Mirage IIIs and replace their older Hawker Hunter aircraft (and a few downright obsolete De Havilland Venoms), becoming the country’s primary fighter until license-produced F-18s were ordered from Emmen in 1996.

With the F-5 out of production since 1987, the numbers of Tigers hidden away in Swiss mountainside caverns dwindled until the type was phased out of front line operations by 2018.

Although a dozen or so airframes are still retained by the country’s version of the Thunderbirds, the Patrouille Suisse, and four birds have transferred to museums, Fighter Wings 11 and 14 out of Payerne still have 23 combat-ready F-5s in storage.

And it looks like those latter aircraft are headed back across the pond as 22 of the vintage planes will be bought by the Pentagon for $39.7 million to be used by the Navy’s aggressor squadrons.

An F-5E Tiger II aircraft assigned to the Saints of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 13 taxis at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West’s Boca Chica Field. NAS Key West is a state-of-the-art training facility for air-to-air combat fighter aircraft of all military services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Morales/ Released)

The Swiss are reportedly happy to see them go:

“If the Americans want to take over the scrap iron, they should do it,” Beat Flach, a Green Liberal lawmaker, told SonntagsZeitung, which reported on the planned sale on Sunday. “It’s better than having the Tigers rot in a parking lot.”

Of course, other than the U.S. Navy’s OPFOR units, the largest F-5 operator in the world is the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, which has about 60 Tigers leftover from the Shah’s era and a few homebrewed Saeqeh and Azarakhsh fighters derived from the F-5’s design.