Meanwhile F-16A/Bs are delivered for air-combat training

The US Navy is awaiting final Congressional clearance to acquire 32 ex-Swiss air force Northrop F-5Es to replace aircraft operated by adversary squadrons. Meanwhile, the first two of 14 Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs to be used for dissimilar air-combat training have been delivered to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada.

By mid-2003 the F-16s, 10 single-seat As and four two-seat Bs from a batch of 28 built for Pakistan but never delivered, will have replaced a similar number of Boeing F/A-18As now used for air-combat training at Fallon. The Swiss F-5s will be delivered between 2003 and 2007 to replace 32 F-5Es operated by US Navy and Marine Corps reserve squadrons tasked with adversary training.

Swiss budget cuts increased the number of F-5Es available and made the purchase possible, says a US Navy official. Brazil, meanwhile, has signed a letter of intent to purchase 15 aircraft for conversion to two-seat trainers.

The US adversary F-5s are nearing the end of their airframe lives, averaging more than 7,000h. The Swiss aircraft have between 1,800h and 2,400h. The F-16s, meanwhile, have essentially zero hours on them. No upgrades are funded, says the official. The F-16s are being made airworthy and the F-5s will be cycled through Northrop Grumman's St Augustine, Florida, plant to replace radios and other Swiss-unique items with US equipment.

Although there will be no increase in the number of adversary aircraft, the higher availability of the F-16s and newer F-5s is expected to generate a greater number of training sorties. But there will still be a shortfall compared with the number of adversary sorties needed to meet US Navy and Marine Corps training requirements. Since 1995, when four of the original seven squadrons were decommissioned, the adversary programme has provided only a third of the sorties required, according to US Navy figures.

The F-5s simulate Category 3 threats, such as the Mikoyan MiG-21, and are used mainly during training at fleet replacement squadrons. The F-16s represent Cat 4 threats, such as the RSK MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27, and will be used for graduate-level dissimilar air-combat training during the work-up of carrier air wings and for Top Gun training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School. The US Navy operated 24 F-16N adversary aircraft until the mid-1990s.

Source: Flight International