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BOOK REVIEW


F-5 Tiger - Freedom Fighter, Tiger II and Tigereye, plus T-38 Talon and F-20 -- SAM Publications



Over the years, Northrop developed some rather exceptional airplanes, from the exotic experimental flying wings of the postwar era to the B-2 Spirit which is arguably one of the most vital elements of American airpower since the 1990s.  Yet, their mid-1950s design of a simple lightweight fighter will probably go down in history as their most versatile creation, all starting with the N-156 design that was pitched to the U.S. Army, Air Force, NATO nations, and most everyone in between.  

Christened as the F-5 Freedom Fighter, procurement was initially quite slow by NATO partners and the DoD was hesitant to acquire it for U.S. service since there was no defined need for a light supersonic fighter, but by the mid-1960s, F-5’s utility and value became increasingly clear as a fighter and ground-attack platform.  Being relatively inexpensive, it was ideal and affordable for many smaller nations to equip their air forces.  Some 34 different variants were developed over the years and the jet was flown by no less than 35 nations in addition to the USSR that evaluated F-5s handed over by Vietnam and Ethiopia.  The N-156 design also spawned the T-38 Talon and the F-20 Tigershark, and many concepts about the F-5’s design influenced the YF-17 Cobra that eventually contributed to the genesis of the F/A-18 Hornet.  For such a small aircraft, its impact has been enormous in this respect, as well as its participation in many different conflicts over the last 50 years, from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf and African localities.  In U.S. service, F-5s came to serve as a dissimilar air combat training aircraft at TOPGUN and the USAF’s Fighter Weapons School, and the Navy operates them in this role to this day.        

In this recent book by Andy Evans, the author ably takes on the ambitious task of looking at the F-5 and its many descendants and derivatives.  In this review, we sit down for a look at this book on Northrop’s remarkable lightweight fighter.    

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Evans’ 96-page book on the F-5 family is printed in full color on high-quality paper.  There’s not a wasted inch of layout on any page, and the book is rich in detail and content.  The text is divided into six chapters (Development – Genesis of the F-5; F-5 Freedom Fighter-Lightweight-High Performance; The F-5E/F Tiger II – Second Generation Fighter; U.S. Aggressor Tigers – F-5 Bandits; T-38 Talon – Two Seat Trainer, and; The F-20 Tigershark).  These chapters are followed by a series of 20 full-color profiles of F-5s in diverse color schemes including U.S. aggressor and adversary aircraft.  Each of these chapters is filled with information on the history, development, systems and components, variants – no small task given the nearly-head spinning diversity of variants, modifications, and operators of the F-5, including the Tigereye rece variant. The book’s layout allows for at least one or two good photos of representative F-5s from every nation that I know has operated the type.  There’s even a little coverage of Iran’s mutant twin-tailed Saegeh which was about 90% an F-5 airframe.  In this sense, the book provides a valuable and comprehensive chronicle of F-5 service and paint schemes.

Across these chapters, I especially enjoyed the excellent write-up on the development of the first generation Freedom Fighters and how those events paved the way for the next step embodied by the F-5E/F Tiger II.  Some of the best (and most colorful) photography in the book is in Chapter 4 covering Navy adversary and Air Force aggressor F-5s, highlighting the many distinctive paint schemes they have flown over the years.  The T-38 chapter provides an overview of the airplane’s history and a sampling of USAF and NASA paint schemes over the years.  I know a lot of people that deeply regret that the promise of the F-20 Tigershark was never capitalized upon, and the book’s coverage of the F-20 provides a good look of the ultimate F-5 that was not to be.  

Following the color profiles, the section on F-5 scale modeling is particularly inspiring with seven F-5 builds showcased here.  These include Matt McDougall’s impressive 1:48 scale Kinetic F-5B, George Rodis’s work on the AFV Club 1:48 scale F-5E in VFC-111 markings, and a VNAF F-5A built from the Classic Airframes kit by Chad Summers.  Alexander Alves brings us another build of the AFV Club kit in Brazilian markings, along with a Taiwanese RF-5E in 1:48 scale by Mario Serrelle, and Olliver Soulleys’s take on the Kinetic 1:48 scale F-5A in Greek markings.  Andy Evans is quite consistent in getting high-quality builds in the pages of his books, and here, the quality of the painting and finishes are all impressively well executed in each of these scale models.
   
Appendix 1 features walk-around photography of a few different F-5s, including a Brazilian F-5M, a Turkish F-5B, an Austrian F-5B, and a Spanish SF5-B, with photos all shot of operational airframes.  One former VNAF F-5E on display in Prague also made it into this section, and collectively, the photos provide great details of the cockpit, ejection seats, boarding ladders, landing gear, intakes, pylons, engine nozzles, and most everything else in between.  Selected illustrations from F-5 Dash-1 manuals are also reproduced here.            

The book wraps up with Appendix 2, which provides a complete “kitography” that lists all the kits, aftermarket decals, and aftermarket accessories ever produced for the F-5. 

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There are three points that can be raised about this book in terms of shortcomings. Early in this review, I commended the author on taking on the ambitious task of doing a book on the F-5 and all its variants.  Undeniably, the book succeeds at this task and it’s a very enjoyable and informative read.  Yet, there were many times where I wish this great book was longer and had more content.  For instance, the T-38 chapter is a mere four pages long. It’s a solid, well presented overview, but the reader will probably be wanting more! 

One terminological issue – the terms “aggressor” and “adversaries” seem to be used interchangeably when discussing USN and USAF F-5s.  To be more precise, the Air Force operates aggressor aircraft, and in Navy DACT roles, the term adversary is used to describe their airplanes.  Also, the kitography does not parallel the book’s content as one might hope.  It surely provides a comprehensive list of F-5 kits and aftermarket products, but there’s nothing for the T-38 or F-20.  

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Overall, this is an outstanding volume on the F-5 family and an excellent reference of the jet that resonates with multiple audiences.  Exposing my personal biases of course, I found the content on aggressor/adversary F-5s to be a highlight of the book along with the coverage of the F-20 and the great scale models that are rather breathtaking.  The book is very well written and a pleasure to read.  SAM books really know about including awesome photos, and this book is no exception.  In other words, this book is a “must-have” for all fans of the F-5 family.  Scale modelers will find it to be a valued reference.  

Many thanks to SAM publications for the review sample of this book.  You can find them on the web at http://www.sampublications.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SAMEditor1.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale


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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings of the F-102
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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
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