The Navy awarded Tactical Air Support Inc. a $265 million contract to modify 22

Northrop Grumman [NOC] F-5 Tiger aircraft the service bought from Switzerland.

This contract specifically covers non-recurring engineering, inspection, modification, and block upgrade efforts for 16 F-5E and six F-5F Tiger II aircraft from a Switzerland configuration to a Navy/Marine Corps N+/F+ configuration. The Defense Department announcement said this contract also procures eight block upgrade retrofits to existing fleet aircraft. 

Last year, Navy officials told a House panel the service is using 22 F-5s it bought from Switzerland along with F-16s from the Air Force and Air National Guard to serve as “red team” opposition forces in training, replacing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet reserved fighters previously used in that role. This is part of the Navy’s effort to resolve the strike fighter shortfall (Defense Daily, July 19, 2021).

Then, last September, the Navy’s Specialized and Proven Aircraft program office (PMA-226) delivered the first upgraded F-5N adversary fighter to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to start ground and flight tests (Defense Daily, Sept. 21, 2021).

The service said F-5s upgraded to F-5N+/F+ add instrumentation providing air-to-ground warning, severe weather protection, fuel level warnings, and tactical capabilities aiming to improve air-to-air training.

Work will occur in various locations throughout the U.S. and is expected to be finished by June 2027.

No funds were obligated at the time of award but will be provided as individual orders are issued.

The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with U.S. Code regulations.

The F-5 was first developed in 1965 and offered as a candidate as a lightweight U.S. fighter. Later, the aircraft became popular for overseas export, including with the Swiss Air Force. The Navy bought low-hour F-5E/F aircraft from Swiss surplus in 2016 for adversary training and bought this current batch of 22 F-5s in 2020.