F-5E Tiger II

This Northrop F-5E Tiger II served in the US Navy as an “Aggressor” adversary aircraft.

Warbird Overview

This Northrop F-5E Tiger II served in the US Navy as an “Aggressor” adversary aircraft. Its two-tone brown and tan desert “Tiger Stripe” camouflage with a red star on the tail and number 13 painted on the nose simulates Russian type markings.


This Northrop F-5E Tiger II served in the US Navy as an “Aggressor” adversary aircraft. 

The F-5 is a supersonic fighter combining low cost, ease of maintenance and great versatility. More than 2,000 F-5 aircraft have been procured by the USAF for use by allied nations. The F-5, which resembles the USAF Northrop T-38 trainer, is suitable for various types of ground-support and aerial intercept missions, including those which would have to be conducted from sod fields in combat areas.

The F-5 first flew on July 30, 1959, and deliveries to the Tactical Air Command for instructing foreign pilots began in April 1964. Pilots from Iran and South Korea were the first to be trained in the F-5, followed by pilots from Norway, Greece, Taiwan, Spain and other Free World nations that have adopted the F-5. A two-place combat trainer version, the F-5B, first flew in February 1964. In 1966-1967, a USAF squadron of F-5s flew combat missions in Southeast Asia for operational evaluation purposes.

The F-5E Tiger II was a greatly improved version of the earlier F-5A Freedom Fighter. Redesigned as a highly maneuverable, lightweight and inexpensive air superiority fighter, the E model featured an air-to-air fire control radar system and a lead computing gunsight. More powerful J85 engines required the fuselage to be both widened and lengthened. The forward wing root was redesigned to give the “Tiger II” wing its characteristic triple delta shape.

The first flight of the F-5E was on Aug. 11, 1972. The first USAF unit to receive the aircraft was the 425th TFS at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, responsible for training foreign pilots in the F-5 aircraft. The most well-known use of the “Tiger II” was as an aggressor aircraft at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The aggressor pilots of the 64th Fighter Weapons Squadron were trained in Soviet tactics and used the simulate MiG-21s for training USAF pilots in aerial combat skills. Eventually, aggressor squadrons were formed at RAF Alconbury, England, and Clark Air Base, Philippines, for training USAF pilots stationed overseas along with pilots of friendly foreign nations.

  • Fact #1

    Our F-5E Tiger II was one of the Black MiGS in the movie Top Gun.

  • Fact #2

    One of our restoration crewmembers, Jim Wittenberg was the Crew Chief on this fighter when he was in the Air Force.

  • Fact #3

    The red star on the tail and the block numbers replicate Soviet markings. The flight characteristics of the F-5 are similar to a MiG-21.

Manufacturer: Northrop
Engines: Two General Electric J85-GE-21s of 5,000 lbs. thrust each with afterburner
Max. Speed: 1.63 mach at 36,000 ft. (1,050 mph)
Cruising Speed: 650 mph
Range: 2,300 miles (maximum with external fuel tanks)
Service Ceiling: 50,700 ft.
Wingspan: 26 ft. 8 in.
Length: 48 ft. 2 in.
Height: 13 ft. 4 in.
Weight: 24,675 lbs. maximum takeoff weight
Armament: Two M-39 20mm cannons, rockets, missiles and 5,500 lbs. of bombs externally

This Northrup F-5E Tiger II, originally Air Force serial no. 74-1558, c/n U.1218 was transferred to the US Navy and assigned Bureau of Aeronautics No. 741558. We acquired this aircraft in February 2006 which is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The aircraft served with US Navy in VFC-13 as an “Aggressor” or adversary aircraft. It previously had a two-tone brown and tan desert “Tiger Stripe” camouflage with a red star on the tail and number 13 painted on the nose to simulate Russian-type markings. In 1984, this aircraft was in Air Force service with the 64th FWS. Interestingly, it has a Swiss F-5 wing installed (originating aircraft ID is unknown), as the original wing was low time sent to the F-5/T-38 SLEP program. It flew in the movie “Top Gun” as one of the black MiG-28s. It was retired from the military in 2005. In 2020, the aircraft received its current Air Force paint scheme. Numerous F-5s are operated by private companies to fly an adversary role against US pilots for training purposes.

Currently in restored condition other than minor upgrades for the AIM-9 missiles so be refurbished. Paint is good and washing with new power washing soaps will extend life and luster. Cockpit in good condition and is one of our open cockpit show pieces. Almost 100 instrumented for viewing.

Note: Scheduling is always a moving target depending on weather and workload. All schedules are subject to changes.

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