The F-5F was the two-seat combat trainer version of the F-5E Tiger II. Northrop had not originally planned to offer a two-seat version of the Tiger II, but after initial flight tests it became clear that the performance of the F-5E was so much greater than that of the F-5A that a trainer version of the Tiger II would be appropriate. On May 15, 1973, the Air Force gained Congressional approval to examine Northrop's proposal for a two-seat version of the Tiger II.
An entirely new two-seat forward fuselage was developed. Instead of squeezing in the second crew member by simply pushing the front cockpit further forward in the nose (as had been done in the T-38 and F-5B), the entire fuselage was lengthened by 3 feet 6 1/2 inches. The AN/APQ-159 fire control system was retained, which enabled the aircraft to be used for both training and combat duties. However, in order to fit in the radar it was necessary to delete one (the starboard) of the 20-mm cannon and to reduce the ammunition capacity to only 140 rounds. (Since a barrel-like ram air intake projected from the starboard cannon port, some have suggested that the starboard cannon was actually fitted to the F-5F, which is untrue). Aside from the deletion of the second 20-mm cannon, the F-5F retained the full combat capability of the single-seat F-5E. However, only the front cockpit was fitted with the lead computing optical sight system. Provision was made for the addition of ballast weights underneath the rear fuselage forward of the jet exhaust to compensate for the extra length of the nose. Wing fences were positioned at wing mid-span.
Development of the F-5F was approved by the USAF in early 1974, with the first flight (by 73-0889) taking place at Edwards AFB on September 25, 1974, with Northrop test pilot Dick Thomas at the controls. Two F-5Fs completed flight test and qualification in early 1976.
The F-5F was slightly heavier than the F-5E and had a slightly inferior takeoff performance.
First deliveries began in the summer of 1976. A total of 140 F-5Fs were built by Northrop.
73-0889 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to NASA 73-0891 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 75-0681/0731 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0681/0708 to Iran 0709/0711 to Chile as J-815/J-817 0712/0731 to Saudi Arabia 75-0735/0744 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0735/0736 to Jordan 0737/0742 to South Korea 75-0753/0756 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to US Navy as 160964/160966 0756 cancelled. 76-1592/1597 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Switzerland as J-3201/3206 76-1611/1615 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 1611/1613 to Thailand 1614/1615 to Kenya as 911/912 76-1640/1642 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Taiwan as 5351/5353 77-0336/0350 Northrop F-5F Tiger II To Taiwan as 5354/5368 77-0359/0365 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0359/0361 to Singapore as 850/852 0362/0365 to Saudi Arabia 77-1778/1779 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Jordan as 1751/1752 78-0774/0787 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Korea 78-0802/0805 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Jordan 0804 and 0805 cancelled. 78-0822/0825 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Indonesia as TS-0513/TS-0516 78-0876/0884 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Taiwan as 5369/5377 78-2435/2436 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Jordan 78-2444/2446 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Malaysia as FM2251/FM2253 79-1692/1693 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Thailand as 40301/40302 79-1708/1709 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 1708 to Thailand as 40303 1709 to Malaysia as FM2254 79-1916/1919 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Jordan 79-1942/1945 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Morocco 80-0296/0298 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Taiwan at 5384/5386 81-0006/0019 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Taiwan as 5299/5312 81-0594/0613 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Korea 81-0639/0642 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0639/0640 to Mexico as 4501/4502 0641/0642 to Keyna as 913/914 81-0858/0863 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0858/0863 to Switzerland as J-3207/J-3212 82-0004/0005 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Sudan as 200-201 82-0089/0091 Northrop F-5F Tiger II - for FMS 82-0187/0189 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Singapore as 853/855 82-0640/0643 Northrop F-5F Tiger II for Tunisia as Y-92502,04,06,and 08 83-0072/0074 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0073 and 0074 to Brazil as 4806,4807 83-0113/0142 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Taiwan as 5387/5416 84-0456/0457 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0456 to US Navy 0457 to Brazil as 4809 84-0456/0457 Northrop F-5F Tiger II 0456 to US Navy and 0457 to Brazil as 4809 85-0053/0056 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Bahrain as 641/644 86-0090/0091 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Singapore as 860,861 86-0388 Northrop F-5F Tiger II to Singapore as 862
Engines:Two General Electric J85-GE-21A turbojets, 5000 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Maximum speed: Mach 1.55 at 36,000 feet. Maximum cruising speed without afterburning: Mach 0.98 at 36,000 feet. Stalling speed 157 mph with flaps extended. Service ceiling: 50,800 feet. Initial climb rate: 32,900 feet per minute at combat weight of 14,055 pounds. Takeoff run: 2300 feet at weight of 16,250 pounds. Takeoff run: 6000 feet at maximum takeoff weight of 25,225 pounds. Landing run from 50 feet without braking parachute was 5000 feet at weight of 12,245 pounds. Landing run with brake chute was 2600 feet at 12,245 pounds. Range with maximum fuel was 1462 miles. Combat radius with maximum fuel, two Sidewinder missiles, and two 530 -pond bombs 518 miles. Fuel: Total internal fuel capacity of 677 US gallons. One 150 or 275 US gallon drop tank could be carried on the fuselage centerline pylon and on the inboard underwing pylon. bringing total fuel capacity to 1502 US gallons. There is provision for inflight refuelling by means of a detachable probe. Dimensions: wingspan 26 feet 8 inches, length 51 feet 7 inches, height 13 feet 1 3/4 inches, wing area 186 square feet. Weights: 10,567 pounds empty, 14,055 pounds combat, 15,745 pounds gross, 25,225 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: Armed with one 20-mm M39A2 cannon with 140 rounds in the fuselage nose. Two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles could be carried at the wingtips. Five pylons, one under the fuselage centerline and four under the wings that can carry up to 7000 pounds of ordnance or fuel tanks.