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During the late 60's, the JASDF expressed it's wish for a small and swift plane for close air support and patrol duties. Northrop offered it's F-5E. Only other competitor was the european AlphaJet. But it lacked the supersonic capabilities the Tiger II was able to offer. It's maintenance was also far easier. Northrop pointed out, that far more countries use the Tiger II than the AlphaJet. Japan ordered three charges of the plane, 72 planes at all. Also eight F-5B as trainers were part of that deal, but Mitsubishi got that contract for their T-2.

 

The first charge arrived in 1973 and was assigned to the 301st Hikotai. The second charge delivered in 1975 became part of the 23rd Hikotai in blue camo. The third charge was planned to enter service in 1976 in the 304th, but a supply shortage concerning the engines and the ejection seats led to a delay. Northrop estimated the delivery of the third charge within the first months of 1977.

 

The Tigers of the 301st ready to scramble

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En route

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Let's get 'em boys!

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Can't get much closer!

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This guy is good!

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...but down he goes!

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Safe return home. No wingman lost

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