Service history of the NF-5 with the RNLAF
In 1966, the Koninklijke Luchtmacht
(Royal Netherlands Air Force, or KLu) selected the F-5 Freedom Fighter
to replace its fleet of aging F-84F Thunderstreaks. The Netherlands had
originally hoped to co-produce over 200 F-5s under license in
collaboration with Belgium, but Belgium chose the Mirage 5 as its F-84F
replacement. The KLu was not exactly overjoyed about the choice of the
F-5, and wanted several improvements to the basic design. It turned out
that these improvements very closely matched those that were implemented
by Canada in its CF-5. Consequently, on February 1, 1967, the Dutch
government decided to acquire its F-5s from the Canadair production line
rather than to build them at home.
In KLu service, the single-seater was to be designated NF-5A, with the
two-seat version being designated NF-5B. Initially, the order was to
include 90 single seaters and 15 two-seaters, but was later revised to
include 75 NF-5As and 30 NF-5Bs.
Technically, the NF-5 was the most advanced Freedom Fighter to date. It
differed from the CF-5 primarily in having manoeuvring leading-edge
flaps incorporated into a stronger wing structure. When set for
high-speed manoeuvring, the electrically-operated leading and trailing
edge flaps are synchronized by a control box and are controlled by a
thumb-operated switch on the starboard throttle lever. These manoeuvring
flaps are claimed to give a 50-percent increase in the instantaneous
turning rate. The NF-5A/B also had increased external fuel capacity, and
the stronger wing enabled more ordnance to be carried. Provision was
made for larger external fuel tanks and for the use of ejector bomb
Many of the avionics systems fitted to the CF-5 (such as the UHF D/F,
Sperry navigation system, ISIS sight and camera system) were deleted
from the NF-5. The NF-5As had the standard Northrop non-computing gun
sight, but replaced the Sperry gyro heading and reference system with
a Bendix attitude and heading reference system. The NF-5 was equipped
with a Canadian Marconi Type 668 Doppler navigation system and 703
navigation system with a roller map. It was equipped with an attitude
heading and reference system, emergency UHF radio, and a radio
Delivery to the Royal
Netherlands Air Force
The first NF-5A built was rolled out by Canadair on 05-03-69 and first
flew on 24-03-69, followed by the first NF-5B on 07-07-69 a further two NF-5s
entered the flight test programme by May 1969. At the some moment 24 Dutch technicians
were trained as technical instructors. The First NF-5A K-3001 and three
NF-5B were officially handed-over to the Air Force on 08-10-69 at
As the NF-5s had no in-flight refuelling equipment; several ways had to be
taken into consideration to transfer new built aircrafts to the
Netherlands: by ship, airlift or commercial contract ferrying by
The Air Force decided to handle the transfer itself after
having received confirmation of in-flight support by the USAF's 2nd
Aircraft Delivery Group with its 2 Lockheed C-130 for radio relay and
rescue. A project called "Hi-flight" was set-up to ferry the
aircrafts across the Atlantic in batches of 4 to 6 in each flight. Starting from Bagotville AB (Canada) they stopped on route at Goose Bay (Canada),
where a Dutch technical team provided a couple of check fights,
Sonderstrom (Greenland), Keflavik (Iceland) and Lossiemouth (UK) before
arriving at in the Netherlands.
Particularly delicate was the leg between Goose
Bay and Sonderstrom as the aircrafts had only a 30 minutes fuel reserve
and it was most important to be sure about good weather on arrival as
there was no alternate airport within range.
First ferry flight ("Hi-flight" Nr 1) took place with 4 NF-5B
(K-4002/03/05/06), these landed at Twenthe AB on 19-11-69. A total of 20
flights, lasting between a minimum of 3 and maximum of 25 days, took
The last NF-5 (a NF-5A, serial number
K-3075) was delivered to the Netherlands on March 10, 1972
The aircrafts were used during their Dutch career mainly in the
fighter-bomber role (apart from training), flying low-level missions
against troops and ground installations. The Vliehors range, on the island
Vlieland, was utilised for weapons training.
They were also used as day only interceptors (due to lack of radar),
armed with AIM-9J, Sidewinder for a few months at the beginning of 1982,
during an interim period between the phase-out of Lockheed F-104G and
the operational introduction of the General Dynamics F-16.
Upgrades were done throughout the operational years; the canopy was
strengthened to cope with the high number of bird strikes, avionics were
added; ALE-40 chaff and flare dispensers were mounted on the rear
fuselage as well as Radar Warning Receiver devices on the tail while
some aircrafts had AIM-9J Sidewinder missile launching rails added to
their wingtips, not standard on Canadair-built machines.
Reinforcement of the wings and the stabilisators were introduced to the
aircrafts at the end of the 1980's to keep them flying till their final
withdrawal. Aircrafts withdrawn from General Dynamics F-16 re-equipped
Squadrons were initially attached to 316 Squadron. At a later stage, due
to the high number available a specially unit was formed formed: Vliegend Uit Dienst (VUD)
at Gilze-Rijen AB, and later at Woendsrecht AB. the first definitive retirement was
on 27-03-86, when NF-5A serial K-3057 was withdrawn from use and sent to
The last official NF-5 flight was on 15-03-91 but due to bad weather three
aircrafts, instead of 12 foreseen, flew out of Eindhoven to overfly all
former NF-5 bases.
All NF-5 were officially withdrawn from operational service on
01-05-91 when 316 Squadron officially transitioned on the General
Dynamics F-16, but some flights were still undertaken from Eindhoven for
test purposes and conversion of Greek and Turkish pilots with former 316
Testing and Show aircraft.
One NF-5A was used most off its service life as a test aircraft,
NF-5A K-3001 delivered on 29-07-71. Was first used at Edwards Air force
base for testing and after that delivered to the "Field Technical
Training Unit" in charge of aircrafts technical evaluation. As this
aircraft was to develop the flight manual for the Canadair fleet and
evaluate all modification to the a separate unit was formed on 19-09-71,
the "Testgroep Vliegtuigbeproevingen NF-5". The cannons were replaced by
test and measuring equipment, special sensors were applied on the wings
and fuselage. Several tests were performed, amongst which the in flight
dropping of 275 gallon tanks, the introduction of Paveway laser bombs,
cluster bombs, chaff flare dispenser and AIM-9J Sidewinder air-to-air
When the unit was disbanded in 1984 all test equipment was removed from
the K-3001 and it was re-delivered to the 313 Squadron4.
During its service life with the Royal Netherlands Air Force the NF-5A
was used as a show aircraft.
This started with a NF-5A from 316 Squadron during 1975 till 1978
without any special markings. Followed by aircraft from different
squadrons in different colour schemes. 316 Squadron was the first one to
field a team in 1978 for the 65th anniversary of the Royal Netherlands
AF under the name "Double Dutch". It consisted of 2 NF-5A (K-3031 and
K-3048) plus a reserve (K-3066) marking the first international presence
at Cambrai AB (France) on 04-06-78. The exhibitions of this team lasted
till mid 1979. 315 Squadron from Twenthe followed for the year 1980 with
the same aircrafts but with new colours, unfortunately one aircraft
crashed and its pilot (Hans Könings) was killed. NF-5As K-3019 and
K-3024 in a new scheme were utilised by 315 Squadron in 1981 and for
most of 1982
314 Squadron from Eindhoven was in charge from 1983, but starting its
performances on 21st October 1982 at it home-base with NF-5As K-3021 and
K-3026, again in a new paint scheme; the Squadron performed the display
also for the seasons 1983 to 1985 with the same aircrafts.
A pause followed till 1988 when, on the occasion of the 75th jubilee, a
new edition of the the "Double Dutch" team was established by 314
Squadron at Eindhoven with NF-5As K-3012, K-3014 and K-3072. Several
technical problems, bad weather and the crash of the "Frecce Tricolore"
at Ramstein followed by a disbandment order by the government meant that
almost no displays where given.
Squadrons equipped with the NF-5
Created in 1953 at Eindhoven AB flying the Republic F-84G. It served as
a "maandvlieg" squadron, tasked with keeping former pilots "airworthy".
After one year it was deactivated to be activated again for one and a
half year in 1956. The initial NF-5A reached the Squadron already
beginning of June 1970 but this was officially re-established at Gilze -
Rijen AB only on 01-07-71, when the large 314 Squadron was split to form
the new 316 Squadron. After the work-up was face was completed at
Eindhoven AB the 22 NF-5A and 5 NF-5B
of 316 squadron transferred to Gilze-Rijen AB on 27-04-72.
During the 1980 the squadron shared in the TOCC with 313 squadron
resaving more NF-5B's from other squadrons. During 1986 the TOCC became
the responsibility of 316 squadron as 313 squadron was transiting to the
F-16. In 1988 the squadron moved to Eindhoven AB as Gilze-Rijen AB was
being prepared for the arrival of the F-16.
Squadron stood-down on 01-05-91, being the last Dutch Squadron on NF-5 to start transition to the General Dynamics F-16A . Before
that, on 15-03-91, a flypast was organised on various air bases,
starting from from Eindhoven to commemorate the withdrawal of the type
with 12 NF-5s, but, due to poor visibility, only 3
NF-5B could participate.