Switzerland delivers first of 22 F-5 fighter jets to US (The Tiger II was picked up by a USMC KC-130J)

Switzerland delivers first of 22 F-5 fighter jets to US (The Tiger II was picked up by a USMC KC-130J)

By Dario Leone
Mar 19 2024
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Switzerland delivers first of 22 F-5 Tiger II fighter jets to US

The Swiss Federal Office for Armaments (Armasuisse) has begun delivery of 22 decommissioned F-5E/F Tiger II fighter jets to the US. As reported by Alert 5, on Mar. 18, 2024, the first aircraft was picked up by the US Marine Corps (USMC) from Emmen Air Force Station aboard a Lockheed KC-130J transport aircraft.

The sale, that encompasses 16 single-seat F-5E and 6 twin-seat F-5F variants, along with associated ground equipment, spare parts, and logistical support for in-country storage and preparation for transport to the US, was finalized in 2020. The total value of the sale is estimated at $32.4 million USD.

Switzerland’s F-5 fleet was originally procured in the 1970s and 1980s and this delivery represents the latest chapter in the retirement of Swiss Air Force Tigers. A significant portion of this fleet, 44 F-5s, were previously sold to the US Navy in 2008.

These earlier jets, originally employed by the Swiss Air Force for air defense duties, are now used by the US Navy as adversary aircraft. In fact, three reserve command squadrons of former Swiss Air Force Northrop F-5N Tiger IIs, plus three F-5F ‘Frankentiger’ two-seaters, which mated existing F-5F front fuselages with former Swiss rear fuselages, are currently operated by the US Navy and US Marine Corps.

The 22 F-5E/Fs acquired from Switzerland in 2020 that are currently being transported in the US will be used to supplement and in some cases replace the 44 aircraft currently in service.

F-5 block upgrade

Once in the US these aircraft will receive a block upgrade that as we have already reported was tested back in 2021.

Switzerland delivers first of 22 F-5 fighter jets to US (The Tiger II was picked up by a USMC KC-130J)
USMC KC-130J at Emmen Air Force Station

Actually, the US Navy’s Specialized and Proven Aircraft program office (PMA-226) will convert the 22 aircraft under the Avionics Reconfiguration and Tactical Enhancement/Modernization for Inventory Standardization (ARTEMIS) program. ARTEMIS program will upgrade cockpit, avionics and supporting aircraft architecture. Additionally, they will improve safety, capability and reliability, while resolving increasing obsolescence issues.

The F-5 aircraft receiving the block upgrade prototype modifications will be designated F-5N+/F+. The potential risk of loss of a pilot and/or aircraft will be reduced by adding necessary instrumentation that provides air-to-ground warning, severe weather protection, and fuel level warnings. This upgrade will also add tactical capabilities designed to improve “friendly” force air-to-air training.

25 Tigers remaining in the Swiss inventory

Noteworthy, the Tiger II is ideal for the adversary role; cheap to operate, simple to maintain with no complex systems. However, the aircraft in its current state only realistically offers MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ threat replication and desperately needs to be modernised to offer credible modern-day opposition.

According to Alert 5, the remaining 25 F-5 Tigers in the Swiss inventory continue to serve in a secondary capacity. Currently, 18 are operational, providing target support, pilot training, tow services for gliders, and acting as testbeds for various purposes. The Patrouille Suisse aerobatic display team will continue to use the F-5 for flying demonstrations.

VFC-111 F-5Ns Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-5N Tiger II – Sundowners Rising, VFC-111 Sundowners, 2007

Photo credit: Armasuisse and Peter Gronemann from Switzerland via Wikipedia


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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