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Força Aerea Brasileira / Brazilian Air Force
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Last update 19-07-2017
Brazil expressed for the first time at the beginning of 1965 interest to buy 24 Northrop F-5A and F-5B to be delivered
starting in 1966, but, as for so many South American countries, no export authorisation was granted by the US government.
Selection was in preference of Douglas A-4F. SEPECAT Jaguar, HS Harrier Mk.50 and Fiat G-91. A provisional 48 Lockeed TF-33A
were instead bought.
Procurement of a new aircraft to supplant the Lockheed TF-33A used in the fighter/ground support duties
was taken again under consideration during 1967 and a commission was formed to find out the best suitable
fighter. The Northrop F-5A/B evaluated, sale of which was reluctantly sanctioned by the US governement due
to political issues, but quickly eliminated due to insufficent performances.
Considered were the GAMD Mirage IIIE, English Electric Lightning, Lockheed F-104G and the Saab J-35. The
Mirage IIIE was finally selected during 1970.
The few remaining TF-33A were instead
supplemented by Aermacchi MB-326 Xavantes,
starting from 1971. Both aircrafts were actually
armed trainers but a fighter aircraft was needed to
defend Brazilian air-space and support the Army.
The Aermacchi was to be built under licence by
Embraer, giving birth to a domestic aircraft industry.
EMB-326 serial 4563 Photo: Embraer
Finally, in July 1973 it was officially announced the selection of the Northrop F-5E, after having considered since 1971
the Fiat G-91Y, GAMD Mirage IIIE, Lightning Mk.55, Saab Draken and Mc Donnel F-4 (preferred by the Air Force).
A demonstration by F-5E serial 01401 was given on September 1973 at Embraer's factory of Sao José dos Campos.
Seceted and ordered were 16 Mirage IIID/EBR.
On October 1974 36 Northrop F-5E "Tigers" single-seaters and 6 Northrop F-5B two-seaters were ordered under
the program "Peace Amazon" at a cost of USD 115.0m; a Foreign Military Sales credit of USD 72.3 millions was obtained
further equipment for 47.7 millions was acquired separately under direct purchase. They were to equip 2 Esquadraos (Squadrons)
at Santa Cruz AB and 1 Esquadrao at Porto Alegre AB.; two Northrop F-5B were to be attached to each Squadron for
Additional aircrafts were to be possibly procured to re-equip the 4° GrAv and the 10° GtAv, but usual budget restrictions
made this impossible. Second thoughts about the purchase of the F-5Bs, due to funding problems and the Air Forces
preference to buy the new Northrop F-5F for more compatibility, had aroused in 1974 but US officials convinced the
Brazilians that the aircafts were sorely needed because the majority of the pilots were to transit from vintage or low
performance vehicles, like the Lockheed T-33A, the Cessna T-37C and the Embraer T-26 Bandeirante, to the high per-
To still save money and to trimm requirements for ground technicians the FAB decided at the beginning of 1975 to
equip only two Squadrons, both at Santa Cruz AB, at least for that year.
Air defence was foreseen as main mission, ground attack as secondary mission. A reconnaissance capability was also
foreseen, for which 6 (some sources mention 4) camera noses were procured, 12 aircrafts had provision for these noses.
The noses were received in 1975 when they were installed on four Tigers; a reconnaissance course was given by two
expert USAF pilots at Santa Cruz AB to 1°/14° pilots. The aircrafts were transferred to Canoas AB upon completition
of the runway remaining at disposal for the 1°/14° Escuadrao, but the idea was to create the 2°/14° Escuadrao in the same hangar as 1°/14° Escuadrau to operate the 4 reconnaissance aircrafts. The programm was cancelled, the noses were sold as scrap and the reconnaissance
duty was transferred to the Embraer/Aermacchi A-1 based at Santa Maria AB.
On 15-07-75 an off-set deal for a total value of USD 1.2m covering the production of 150 sets of tail units and underwing/
center-fuselage weapons pylons, for Tigers built in USA, was also signed by the Brazilian company Embraer, which was
also to undertake all major overhauls of Brazilian F-5's. Discussions for the possibility of licence manufacture of the entire
airframe as follow-up of the EMB-326 were also held.
An agreement between General Electric and the Brazilian company Celma at Petropolis (RJ) provided for the overhaul of
J-85-GE-13D and -21 engines.
Depot and light overhaul of the aircrafts was to be performed by the Air Force's Sao Paulo Air Depot, while S. Cruz AB
was to take care of field and light maintanance.
A first group of 5 pilots started training in USA, at Williams AFB with the 425th Tactical Fighter Squadron, during the
summer of 1974; additional 5 followed during September 1974. Of these, 6 qualified as instructors to form a training unit
at S. Cruz AB, using F-5Bs. The first intake completed training by 12-74. Brazilian pilots, sometimes with minimal F-5
experience, were in charge for the transfer from USA to Brazil.
On 28-02-75 Northrop handed over the
first 3 F-5B at
Palmdale to the Brazilian AF, arrivals in Brazil began in March 1975,
F-5B 4805 a Williams AFB in May 1975. Squadron badge is not yet painted on tail.
Runway at Santa Cruz AB was very short, barely long enough for the Lockeed T-33A; so the aircrafts landed on delivery
at the Rio de Janeiro - Galeao International Airport/Air Base, operating initially from there and from July 1975 from
Anapolis AB, till 03-10-75 when Santa Cruz AB runway had been prolongued to 2'450 meters.
Next delivery were F-5E 4820/4821/4822. The first 2 landed at Galeao AB on 17-06-75 (some sources state there were four
aircrafts delivered on 12-06-75) but serial 4822 was lost at Belford Rox shortly before landing, due to bird strike.
Northrop F-5E 4823 at Williams AFB in May 1975, shortly before delivery. Photo: unknown
Further deliveries followed at approximately four a month until 28th February 1976, when serials 4852 to 4855 safely
landed at Santa Cruz AB (some sources state 12-02-76); delivery were in-flight, starting from Williams AFB with twelve
stops, including Zandery (Surinam) and Anapolis, ending at Rio de Janeiro-Galeâo, accompanied by a Lockheed C-130H
See the serials page for additional known delivery details.
Photo: FA Brasileira
Northrop F-5E 4834 of the 1°/14° Esquadrao in initial colours, fully armed with two
AIM-9B Sisdewinder and four 250 lbs bombs
Two Lockheed KC-130H were bought to extend the rather limited radius of action of the Tiger; the F-5E's were equipped
with air-to-air refuelling probes, but only 13 probes were fitted in USA, the rest after arrival in Brazil.
An Chilean offer (unconfirmed and denied by Chile) to transfer its own F-5Fs in exchange for Brazilian responsability to
train Chilean F-5 pilots was not accepted as politically unacceptable due to Chilean human rights policy.
The acquisition of additional second-hand aircrafts was taken into consideration during 1980, without follow-up.
On 28-12-85 an unexpected announcement from Brasilia revealed that approval had been given for the procurement of
a further Northrop F-5E/F to make good attrition and in order to concentrate all "original" aircrafts at Santa Cruz AB.
These were to be completely refurbished aircrafts.
An appealing offer was received from South Korea, where the airframes would have been modified to zero time and updated
to latest standard, but unfortunately not accepted due to costs problems. Further investigations to obtain lower priced
fighters led to the evaluation of Chinese F-7M Airguards and Mirage III from several sources, all dropped for various reasons.
The US government offer in 1988 for 22 F-5E and 4 F-5F for USD 113.5m (named programm "Peace Amazon II") was successful. Eleven of these came from former USAF aggressor Squadrons in USA, whose disbandment was started in August 1988 and completed in April
1989, and fifteen from the 425th Squadron, disbanded in April 1989. They were not equipped with an air-to-air refuelling probe.
The aircrafts were used first to train Brazilian pilots in USA.
The first five departed from Nellis AFB on 29-09-88, the last ones on 23-08-89, all from Homestead AFB with final destination Canoas AB in five waves. Brazilian pilots ferried them in 8 stretches, supported by a KC-137, precious to keep contact with the civilian air traffic authorities along the route as the fighters were not equipped with VHF radios.
The fourth wave left end April 1989 and was formed by Northrop F-5E FAB 4858, 4861, 4871, 4873 all in original Air Defence Command colours; they arrived Canoas AB on 10-05-89 (due to some mishaps on route) flying from AFB Homestead to Nassau/Roosevelt Roads/Ilha Margarita (Venezuela)/Boa Vista (Brazil)/Manaus/ Belém/Fortaleza/Salvador/Rio de Janeiro/Canoas.
Unfortunately these "new" aircrafts were in poor conditions, needed a thorough overhaul and the installation of a VOR, GPS and VHF radio.
F-5E with dual Brazilian/USAF serials 4859/1386 at Williams on 14-04-89.
Photo: archives The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Photo: Frank Magalhes
Northrop F-5E 4873 seen from the accompanying Boeing KC-137 on its delivery flight near to
NAS Roosevelt Roads (Puerto Rico) in April 1989, still in USAF colours, but Brazilian serial.
All "new" aircrafts went to the 1°/14° GAv at Canoas AB (Porto Alegre), the only Tiger Squadron now exclusively tasked with
air defence, though the basic Emerson APQ-153 radar was of limited value. The "original" aircrafts were returned to the
1° Grupo de Caça.
AIM-9B Sidewinder were requested at the time of original purchase, apart from standard 2x20mm cannons each with 250 rounds, conventional 500 lbs/1000 lbs bombs, napalm bombs, air-to-ground rockers, but refused from the USA government, which finally agreed to sell them in 1980. They could be seen till 2007 at F-5Es wingtips but were non operational and were only use for structural stabilization. The new, extremely manoevrable, locally produced Mectron MAA-1 Piranha missile is in operation since 2004 for short range combat.
Operation of the early Northrop F-5B was slowed down when the more advanced F-5F were received. By the end of July 1995
only 2 F-5B remained operational; in March 1996 all were up for sale and transferred to Campo de Marte for storage.
A rather unhappy story followed. Former Brazilian AF colonel Gustavo Adolfo Franco Pereira bought the 5 aircrafts at an auction
for the price of USD 3.1 millions and paid a deposit of 155 millions Reals, transaction financed by an American friend, Richard
Boulais. Mr Pereira even bought an hangar at Canpo de Marte to store the trainers. The auction was cancelled auctions, a direct sale was also done and again cancelled; the aircrafts were never handed over to the (almost) new onwer.
The main problem was the "end user certificate" required by the USA as the aircafts were of US origin, need for which the buyer
didn't recognise, as the US law regarding it was approved in 1976 while the aircrafts were bought by Brazil in 1973.
Mr Pereira discussed its rights as owner with the Air Force ever since 1996; he applied in December 2006 to the Brazilian justice
to obtain either the aircrafts or refund of his down-payment. The Federal Court finally judged that the aircrafts still belonged to
the Air Force and they were put on exhibition at varios places.
One, repainted in the original 1975
colours, initially coded "01" and later
serialled 4800, was assigned to the
Museu Aerospacial at Campo dos
Alfonsos and handed-over on
18-08-06. Here it is seen at PAMA-
SP while being prepared for exposiiton.
Fate of two others is known: serial 4802, camouflaged, as a travelling exhibit, serial 4805 at Santa Cruz AB mounted on a pole
at Santa Cruz AB keeping its grey colours.
Fleet upgrading and search for additional aircrafts
A new project regarding the rest of the fleet was launched during the year 2001: upgrading the available aircrafts to a fourth
generation fighter standard; this resulted in the Embraer/Northrop F-5EM and F-5FM models. You can read details of the project
under the Northrop F-5 Enthusiast page titled upgrades.
The Air Force also realised that the number of trainers (3 F-5F) was insufficent for conversion and refresher training
of new and old pilots.
Additional new aircrafts (both in double- and singleseater form) were to be operated by a new Operational
Conversion Unit. During the year 2002 it looked among other F-5 operators for the best aircrafts available for sale.
A first offer of Saudi Arabian Tigers by Boeing, demanding the purchase of 2 F-5Es for every F-5F purchased was rejected.
Swiss top maintained Northrop F-5Es were also for sale, but no F-5F was available. Help came from NorthropGrumman's subsidiary
Tiger Century Aircraft which had already projected to convert China/Taiwan AF single- to doubleseaters and offered to convert 8 of
the 16 Swiss aircrafts into two-seaters.
Memorandums of Understanding were signed on 30-09-02 and 15-10-02 between the Swiss "Gruppe für Rüstungsdienste"
(Armament Group) and the Brazilian AF. Price for each aircraft was to be USD 0.5m "as-is". The Brazilian AF cancelled, in a change
of mind, the plan to modify single- to two seaters and requested on 14-01-03 the sale of Swiss F-5Fs. An offer for 2 F-5Fs and
14 F-5Es was of no interest to the Brazilian side. Finally, on 01-04-03, a new search for 8 F-5F airframes was started with Singapore,
Korea, China/Taiwan as well as Saudi Arabia.
Three Northrop F-5F and six F-5E from Saudi Arabia were selected and a contract was signed on 29-12-05 between the Brazilian
Aeronautical Commission in Washington and the company C&C International, acting as a mediator, for the price of USD 24m to be
paid in three instalments of USD 10m in 2006, USD 13m in 2007 and USD 1m in 2008. Brazilian pilots were to fly them from Riyadh
to Recife via Dakar and other stations.
No information about the status of the deal or the arrival in Brazil of these aircrafts was given until the end of September 2009, when, surprise!, an official announcement informed that a contract had been signed for the acquisition of 4 Northrop F-5E, 4 F-5EM (which had received a limited upgrade) and 3 Northrop F-5F from Jordan for USD 21m, through the mediator Jordan Aeronautical Systems Company.
The announcement gave also information about the cancelled Saudi purchase: the aircrafts were in poor condition; there was difficulty in obtaining the "end-user" certificate needed according to the original pruchasing contract and the possibility that these planes might not be available, being part of the new Saudi Eurofighter purchase contract.
A first batch of 3 F-5Es arrived at
Reals for modifications, in order to
keep them operational for at least
Parque Material Aeronautico de Marte provides full structural and systems maintenance/overhaul on the Tiger, while
complete General Electric J-85 engine maintenance has been undertaken since 2002 by Focal (RJ).
46th and last upgraded Northrop F-5EM was delivered to Santa Cruz AB on
07-03-13; the contract to upgrade the
Due to early retirement, by the end of 2013, of the Mirage 2000s used by the 1° Grupo de Defensa Aerea at Anapolis AB (Brasilia) is assured by some Embraer/Northrop F-5s from other bases redeployed to Anapolis AB, awaiting the convertion of its pilots on the new aircraft.Retirement (as of 2012) of the first Embraer/Northrop F-5EMs is planned for 2017. In the meantime TAP Manutençao e Engenheria Brasil will take care of base level inspections/maintenance of the Tigers; the first was delived to the company at the end of 2013 and redelivered to the Air Force on 24-03-14 at Campo de Marte AB (PAMA SP) after having received the 600 hours inspection 24-03-14.
Only 3 Northrop F-5F of the ex Jordanian will be modified to Embraer/Northrop F-5FM standard due to financial problems, fate of single-seaters is not known.
According to April 2016 non-ufficial information Embraer/Northrop F-5EM were based as follows: two in Anapolis (Brasilia), six in Manaus, 24 in Santa Cruz (Rio de Janeiro) and 14 in Canoas (Porto Alegre).
Certification of the new air-to-air training missile Python 4 was done between mid-March and 06 June 2017 at the Departamento de Ciencia e Technologia Aerospacial (DCTA) together with the Instituto de Aeronautica e Espaço to verify the structuael integritate of the aircraft.
Initiial in-flight refuelling from the new Embraer KC-390 took place in late 2016, followed by an successful in-flight refuelling on 19-02-17 during a sortie near Santa Cruz AB.