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The F-5 Freedom Fighter in RAF service

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Northrop F-5K Firenza FGA.1 - No.1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, 1968


Even before the 1964 General Election the British Labour Party were developing a pathological hatred of the British aviation industry and despite the narrowness of their election win (by just five seats) they soon went into overdrive by cancelling virtually every advanced aircraft programme within weeks of coming to power. Out went the TSR.2 strike aircraft, P.1154 V/STOL fighter-bomber and AW.681 V/STOL transport with all three to be replaced by 'cheaper' aircraft from the United States namely the F-111, F-4 Phantom and C-130 Hercules respectively. Just days later they ordered a stop-work notice on the Hawker P.1127 leading to a complete abandonment of the RAF's hopes of having a small V/STOL force.


Not content with that they then studied the RAF's requirements for a Hunter replacement and queried why the RAF were demanding an aircraft of the size and complexity of the Phantom. In early January 1965 McDonnell Douglas received a small taste of what the British aircraft companies had endured when the planned Phantom order of 170 aircraft was slashed to just 50 aircraft for the Royal Navy followed by an announcement that the RAF were to receive "150 advanced supersonic fighter aircraft" to replace the Hunters. This was soon followed by a statement from the Minister of State for Defence, Denis Healey, that the RAF were to receive 150 Northrop F-5K fighter aircraft and 30 TF-5K advanced trainers for delivery during the period 1967 and 1968 which would include substantial work for UK companies in undisclosed 'offset' agreements. Mercifully, this did not include re-engining the F-5 but the British F-5's did have uprated J85 engines, stronger landing gear, anti-skid brakes and a more advanced avionics package than the basic F-5A.


Entering service as the Firenza FGA.1 with No.1 Squadron in November 1967 the F-5K's were supplemented by the Jaguar GR.1 in RAF service but not entirely replaced by that type and two UK-based squadrons were still in service during 1990 leading them to be deployed to RAF Germany in August 1990 to replace Jaguars sent to Saudi Arabia during the build up to Operation Desert Shield and the resultant Operation Desert Storm. The last Firenza was retired from RAF service in September 1991 when the RAF's Aggressor Flight at Akrotiri was disbanded.











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Apart from the skins/models, I REALLY enjoy your background stories !!!!!!!!!!!

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