The US Navy (USN) has released the first photos of a used Northrop F-5 Tiger II fighter the service recently purchased from the Swiss air force.

Intended to supplement the navy’s existing F-5 adversary air fleet, the Swiss fighter is the first of 22 examples Washington plans to acquire from Bern under a 2020 agreement.

The USN’s Specialized and Proven Aircraft programme office is overseeing the transfers, which are expected to continue through 2025.

As previously reported by FlightGlobal, Switzerland began turning over F-5s in March. The first aircraft was ferried to the USA using a US Marine Corps (USMC) Lockheed Martin KC-130J transport.

US Navy Swiss F-5E

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

The US Navy has taken delivery of the first of 22 Northrop F-5 third-generation fighters the service is acquiring from the Swiss air force to be used as aggressor aircraft

The navy recently confirmed the arrival of the Tiger II, releasing photos on 4 April that show the third-generation fighter being unloaded at NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida on 21 March.

Images show the F-5’s centre fuselage, including assembled nose and tail sections, being removed from the C-130J’s cargo hold. The twinjet’s wings were removed for the flight and transported alongside the rest of the aircraft. The cockpit canopy also appears to have been removed.

At Cecil, the aged Swiss F-5s will undergo avionics reconfiguration and tactical modernisation to equip the jets for adversary air duty. The US Naval Air Systems Command projects upgrades for all 22 aircraft will be complete by 2028.

As part of the delivery process, Swiss defence contractor RUAG performs an initial inspection of each F-5, including maintenance, structural component replacement and overhaul the twin GE Aerospace J85 engines.

RUAG on 4 April said it is currently preparing four F-5s for handover.


Source: RUAG

Swiss defence contractor RUAG performs initial inspections of each F-5, including maintenance, structural component replacement and overhaul of the GE Aerospace J85 engines

Upon reaching Jacksonville, US adversary air services provider Tactical Air Support will oversee integration of a new glass cockpit, modern avionics and other safety modifications for each jet.

The F-5 is a popular choice for the aggressor role, as it is cheap to operate and relieves frontline fighters from training duty. The USN’s current F-5 aggressor fleet consists of 30 F-5Ns and two F-5Fs, while the USMC operates 11 F-5Ns and a single F-5F.

Although Northrop Grumman still provides sustainment for the global F-5 fleet, including service-life extension support, the aircraft is no longer in production – forcing operators to get creative when it comes to replacing older airframes.

“Expansion of the F-5 programme ensures future success in training navy and marine corps aviators,” says Captain Greg Sutton, manager of the Specialized and Proven Aircraft programme office.


Source: RUAG

The first F-5 was packaged for shipment aboard a US Marine Corps KC-130J tactical transport, reaching the USA in March

This is not the first time Swiss fighters have found a new home in the USA. An earlier tranche of Swiss F-5E/Fs were acquired by the USN in 2006, eventually being upgraded to the newer F-5N standard.

The navy and marines will each receive 11 aircraft from the 22 currently being delivered to the Pentagon.

Switzerland still operates 18 F-5Es and five F-5Fs, according to Cirium data, out of 98 F-5Es and 12 F-5Fs originally procured in the 1970s.

Roughly half of the Swiss air force’s active F-5s are operated by the Patrouille Suisse flight demonstration team, which has said it plans to continue flying the type into 2027.