Canadair CF-5


CF-5/CF-116/NF-5 Freedom Fighter
Northrop (Canadair) CF-116A (CL-219), Canada - Air Force AN1952661.jpg
Canadian Forces CF-5A Freedom Fighter on display on a stand at Trenton, Ontario
Role Fighter-bomber
First flight 6 May 1968
Introduction 5 November 1968[citation needed]
Status Retired from Canadian service in 1995, still in service with some countries
Primary users Canadian Forces
Royal Netherlands Air Force
Venezuelan Air Force
Turkish Air Force
Number built 240
Developed from Northrop F-5

The Canadair CF-5 (officially designated the CF-116 Freedom Fighter) is the Canadair licensed-built version of the American Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter aircraft primarily for the Canadian Forces (as the CF-5) and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (as the NF-5). The CF-5 was upgraded periodically throughout its service career in Canada. The Canadian Forces retired the type in 1995, although CF-5s continue to be used by other countries.

The CF-5 was ordered by the Royal Canadian Air Force, which became part of the Canadian Forces on 1 February 1968. The new unified force took delivery of the first CF-5s (it was almost universally referred to as the CF-5 except in official documentation[1]) at the end of 1968. Production by Canadair for the Canadian Forces was 89 single-seat aircraft, 46 dual-seat aircraft and 75 single-seat with 30 dual-seat aircraft for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, a total production of 240. Some surplus Canadian aircraft were sold to Venezuela.[2][3]

Design and development

Originally designed by Northrop as a low-cost, low-maintenance fighter jet, the F-5 was intended for use by air forces that had limited resources and technical expertise to maintain a sophisticated aircraft. For Canada, which had an extensive aerospace industry, selection of the F-5 was seen as a step backwards. Selected originally to provide a tactical support role based in Canada, CF-5 squadrons were also committed to NATO's northern flank to act as a rapid-deployment force. However, the role for the CF-5 throughout its service with the RCAF was changed frequently and eventually, the diminutive fighter would serve as a light attack strike fighter, reconnaissance platform and trainer.[2]

Compared to the Northrop F-5, the Canadian CF-5 had several modifications to make it more suitable for operating in Canadian Forces theaters of operations. In order to address complaints about long takeoff runs, the Canadair version featured a two-position nose landing gear; compressed it operated like the original, but extended (before takeoff) it raised the nose and thereby increased the angle of attack and increased lift. The system reduced takeoff distance by almost 20%. A midair refueling probe was installed, Orenda-built General Electric J85-15 engines with 4,300 lbf (19 kN) thrust were used, and a more sophisticated navigation system was added. The nose of the CF-5 was also interchangeable with a specially designed reconnaissance set with four cameras in it. Over the course of its life, it received many upgrades to its avionics and capabilities.

An order for 105 aircraft for the Royal Netherlands Air Force was signed in early 1967, 75 single-seaters to replace the Republic F-84 and 30 twin-seaters to replace the Lockheed T-33. The plan to use some single-seaters for photo-reconnaissance to replace the Lockheed F-104G Starfighters never materialized. Intended production of F-5 in Europe by Fokker and SABCA for both the Dutch and Belgian Air Forces was originally planned, but hesitancy by Belgium led to the Netherlands government ordering under a production sharing agreement with Canada.[4] As part of the production sharing agreement between the Canadian and Dutch governments the centre fuselages for all but the first 31 aircraft were built by Fokker in the Netherlands.[5]

The first CF-5 was formally rolled out in a ceremony at the Cartierville factory on 6 February 1968.[6] The first NF-5 was rolled out on 5 March 1969.[7]

Operational history


CF-5 badge worn by Canadian Forces aircrew and ground crew in the mid-1970s

Initially 433 Squadron and 434 Squadron were the only two squadrons to operate the CF-5. It was intended that three squadrons would fly the aircraft, but due to budgetary restrictions, the excess aircraft were put into storage in CFB North Bay and CFB Trenton, some later being sold to other countries. 434 squadron was assigned to do lead-in tactical fighter training for the Canadair CF-104 Starfighter, but was transitioned to the role of a rapid reaction squadron, being ready to deploy to Europe at short notice in the event of hostilities. The squadron moved to CFB Bagotville with 433 squadron, for a short time, and then on to CFB Chatham.[2]

The training role was adopted by 419 Squadron at CFB Cold Lake; it would continue to provide jet training, dissimilar air combat training (wearing quasi-Soviet "aggressor" paint schemes similar to USAF, USN and USMC F-5Es), and serve as a lead-in fighter trainer for the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet until the aircraft was retired in 1995. All remaining airframes were put into storage at CFD Mountain View.


The Royal Netherlands Air Force took delivery of its first aircraft (an NF-5B two-seater) in October 1969, with the first squadron to be formed being 313 Squadron at Twente. The initial role of 313 Squadron was a conversion unit to train pilots on the new type. The NF-5 would serve with four operation squadrons, 313 and 315 Squadron at Twenthe, 316 Squadron at Gilze-Rijen and 314 Squadron at Eindhoven. The last NF-5 was delivered in March 1972.

From 1986 the squadrons began to convert to the licence-built General Dynamics F-16 and the last NF-5 was stood down in March 1991.

Most surplus aircraft were sold to Turkey (all to Turkish Stars) and Venezuela (mix CF-5A and CF-5D - 18 in 1972, 2 new CF-5D in 1974 and 7 ex-RNAF NF-5A/B in 1990; all served with Grupo de Caza 12) or retained for spares support,[8] a number of aircraft were given free to Greece.


  • CF-5A : Single-seat fighter version for the Canadian Forces, designation CF-116A. 89 built. 16 sold to Botswana.
  • CF-5A(R) : Single-seat reconnaissance version for the Canadian Forces. 50 interchangeable camera noses built to swap the CF-5A's twin 20mm cannon nose with a quad 70mm Vinten camera nose. Canadian Forces provisional designation CF-116A(R).[2]
  • CF-5D : Two-seat training version for the Canadian Forces, CF-116D. 46 built. 2 sold to Botswana.
  • NF-5A : Single-seat fighter version for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. 75 built.
  • NF-5B : Two-seat training version for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. 30 built.
  • VF-5A : Single-seat fighter version for the Venezuelan Air Force.
  • VF-5D : Two-seat training version for the Venezuelan Air Force.


CF-5 of the Botswana Defence Force
Canadian Air Force CF-116 Freedom Fighter, displayed at CFB Borden
Greek CF-5B Freedom Fighter
NF-5B of the Turkish Air Force.
Venezuela Air Force Northrop (Canadair) VF-5A (CL-226)
  • Botswana Air Force[2]
    • Total of 18 ex-Canadian fighters delivered in 1996 and 2000; (16 single seat CF-5A and 2 double seat CF-5D). 3 CF-5A were conversion trainers, but now assigned to 2 CF-5D; all assigned at Z28 Squadron and stationed Maparangwane Air Base[9]
United States
  • Tactical Air Support, Inc. – In 2013, the company added four Canadair CF-5D Freedom Fighters and 20 years' worth of spare F-5 parts to its fleet.[10]

Former operators

  • Hellenic Air Force
    • 12 NF-5s (10 NF-5As, one NF-5B and one NF-5B for spares) were donated by the Netherlands to Greece in 1991 for use with 349 "Kronos" Squadron. They were withdrawn in 2001.[11]
    • Sale of 28 used Canadian CF-5 offered in 2001 was unsuccessful and eventually the aircraft were disposed of.[12]
  • Royal Netherlands Air Force[2] 105 NF-5 (75 single and 30 dual seaters) were introduced into service between 1969 and 1972, decommissioned in 1991[citation needed]
    • No. 313 Squadron; Twente Air Base (transitioned to F-16 in 1987)
    • No. 314 Squadron; Eindhoven Air Base (transitioned to F-16 in 1990)
    • No. 315 Squadron, Operation Conversion Unit (OCU); Twente Air Base (transitioned to F-16 in 1986)
    • No. 316 Squadron; Gilze-Rijen Air Base (transitioned to F-16 in 1991)
    • Field Technic Training Unit NF-5 (1971–1984); Twente Air Base

134th Acroteam Squadron Command (10 NF-5A and 2 NF-5B in service for Turkish Stars aerobatic display team[13])

  • Venezuelan Air Force[2]
    • Air Group 12 (Including 8 former Royal Netherlands Air Force NF-5's) and withdrawn between 2000 to 2015.

Aircraft on display

CF-5A on display at the Cold Lake Air Force Museum


Specifications (CF-116)

Orthographically projected diagram of an F-5 Freedom Fighter

General characteristics

  • Crew: one–two
  • Length: 47 ft 2 in (14.38 m)
  • Wingspan: 25 ft 10 in (7.87 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 2 in (4.01 m)
  • Wing area: 186 sq ft (17.28 m2)
  • Empty weight: 8,681 lb (3,938 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 20,390 lb (9,249 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Orenda-built GE J85-15 turbojet, 2,925 lbf (13.01 kN) thrust each dry, 4,300 lbf (19 kN) with afterburner


  • Maximum speed: 978 mph (1,575 km/h, 850 kn) [32]
  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.3
  • Range: 875 mi (1,400 km, 760 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 34,400 ft/min (175 m/s)


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Canadian Armed Forces (5 March 2010). "Historical Aircraft". Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Aeroware (2012). "Canadair CF-116 CF-5". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  3. ^ Canadian Armed Forces (6 April 2004). "Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighter". Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  4. ^ "Canadian F-5s for RNAF". Flight International. 91 (3022): 223. 9 February 1967.
  5. ^ "Canadair's CF-5 Production". Flight International. 94 (3113): 759. 7 November 1968.
  6. ^ "Defence". Flight International. 93 (3076): 280. 22 February 1968.
  7. ^ "Photo caption". Flight International. Iliffe. 95 (3133): 459. 20 March 1969.
  8. ^ "CF-5 with Venezuela".
  9. ^ "Botswana Defence Force". Archived from the original on 20 January 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  10. ^ Gallop, Gerry (5 March 2013). "Launch of F-5 Parts Sales Enterprise". Tactical Air Support Inc. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Hellenic Air Force Historical Aircraft". HAF Official website. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  12. ^ Ottawa, The (22 April 2006). "Forces to scrap jet parts worth $200M". Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  13. ^ Hv. K. K. Mebs (19 May 2011). "About the NF-5 Aircraft – Türk Yıldızları". Archived from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  14. ^ Goldsborough, Gordon. "Historic Sites of Manitoba: Air Force Heritage Museum and Air Park (Air Force Way, Winnipeg)". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  15. ^ Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum. "Canadair (Northrop) CF-5 Freedom Fighter". Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  16. ^ Canada Aviation and Space Museum (n.d.). "Canadair CF-116 (CF-5A)". Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  17. ^ Canadian War Museum, Where People and History Come To Life Archived 13 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, dated 2003-4, retrieved 10 August 2013
  18. ^ Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. "Northrop CF-5A Freedom Fighter Vintage Fighter Aircraft". Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  19. ^ "Cold Lake Museum – F5". Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  20. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Kenter, Peter (2012). "Steel key for CF-5 fighter jet monument at Toronto defence facility". Daily Commercial News. Reed Business Information. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014.
  22. ^ Boyko, Steve. "On laughter-silvered wings." Flickr, 12 November 2012.
  23. ^ "Aircraft – National Air Force Museum of Canada". Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  24. ^ "Aviation". Reynolds Museum. Government of Alberta. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  25. ^ The Military Museums (2020). "CF-5". Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  26. ^ Henniger. "Feature: Canadian Air, Land and Sea Museum.", August 2005. Retrieved: 27 January 2010.
  27. ^ cite web|url= |title = Wrecks and Relics}}
  28. ^ Van Gent, C.J. De Northrop NF-5: De historie van de NF-5 bij de Koninklijke Luchtmacht.
  29. ^ cite web|url= |title = Wrecks and Relics}}
  30. ^ "Northrop NF-5B 'Freedom Fighter' jachtbommenwerper / trainer met registratienummer K-4011 (in Dutch)".
  31. ^ cite web|url= |title = Wrecks and Relics}}
  32. ^ "Canadair (Northrop) CF-5 Freedom Fighter." Retrieved: 23 July 2011.


  • McIntyre, Bob. Canadair CF-5 (Canadian Profile: Aircraft No. 4). Ottawa, Ontario: Sabre Model Supplies Ltd., 1985. ISBN 0-920375-02-2.
  • Pickler, Ron and Larry Milberry. Canadair: the First 50 Years. Toronto: CANAV Books, 1995. ISBN 0-921022-07-7.
  • Stachiw, Anthony L. Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighter (Canadian Service Aircraft No.1). St. Catharine's, Ontario: Vanwell Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-55125-073-X.
  • Van Gent, C.J. De Northrop NF-5: De geschiedenis van de NF-5 in Nederland. Alkmaar, Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Alk, 1992. ISBN 90-6013-518-0.
  • Van Gent, C.J. De Northrop NF-5: De historie van de NF-5 bij de Koninklijke Luchtmacht. Odoorn, Netherlands: Uitgeverij Lanasta, 2020. ISBN 978-90-8616-179-9.
  • Van Gent C.J. De Starfighter: De geschiedenis van de Starfighter in Nederland. Maarssen, Netherlands: Uitgeverij Geromy, 2012. ISBN 9789081893619.

External links

  • CF-5 (CF-116) Freedom Fighter – Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum