Fighter will be first of type to be qualified with beyond-visual-range weapons in addition to new radar and avionics
The first of Embraer's updated Northrop F-5BRs will fly within the next few weeks before delivery to the Brazilian air force. The modified aircraft will use new weapons, radar and avionics as part of the upgrade programme.
Embraer says the new F-5BR will be the first F-5 model qualified with beyond-visual-range weapons, which have not yet been selected.
The aircraft will be fitted with an MAA1 Piranha short-range air-to-air missile, made by Brazilian weapons manufacturer Mectron and a Python 4 infrared-guided air-to-air missile made by Israel's Rafael Armament Development Authority.
Embraer's defence market strategy senior manager Anastacio Katsanos confirms the company is also considering MBDA's Mica, Rafael's Derby, its South African equivalent Denel R-Darter and Mectron's NAR-1 for the F-5BRs.
Embraer has selected a Fiar Grifo radar and will source the F-5BR's self-protection system, avionics suite, helmet and head-up display from Israeli manufacturers. US manufacturer Honeywell is to provide the inertial navigation system. The aircraft will be fitted with an onboard oxygen generating system (OBOGS) and ejector seats.
Embraer is still awaiting a decision on the long-delayed F-X BR fighter competition. The company says it is confident the Brazilian government will decide, despite a two-year series of postponements.
"We want to continue growing, supporting the air force and modern technology and giving them the conditions to move to the future."
Embraer has not yet proposed the F-5BR as a possible interim solution, while the future of the F-X BR fighter competition is undecided, Katsanos says. But he agrees that it would be a "natural solution" and says that if the next-generation fighter competition was cancelled Embraer would make the proposal.
The F-5BR retrofit and modernisation programme involves 47 F-5E/Fs commissioned with the air force at the start of the 1970s. The upgrades will secure at least another 15 years of service life, Embraer says.
HELEN MASSY-BERESFORD / SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS
Source: Flight International