On Jul. 20, 2020, one of the three twin-seater F-5F of the U.S. Navy flew for the first time in a brand new three-tone gray camouflage scheme. The new paint job, dubbed “Siberian Tiger”, is inspired to a sort of arctic color scheme applied to the Russian Sukhoi Su-27SKM with bort number “Blue 305” that took part in Paris and MAKS airshows in 2005. The livery was only applied to the prototype of the export version of the Su-27SM single-seat multirole fighter and did not make to operational use neither with the Russian nor the Indonesian Air Force (that purchased Sukhoi Su-27SK, Su-30MK, Su-30MK2 but gave them slightly different color schemes).
The F-5F made its maiden flight in the new Su-27 Flanker-inspired camouflage from Northeast Florida Regional Airport, formerly St. Augustine Airport, north of St. Augustine, Florida, the airport where Northrop Grumman performs depot level maintenance for the Navy’s fleet of F-5E/F aircraft. Our friend @mr_roberts_203 was there and took the interesting photo that you can find in this post. The image shows that the aircraft lacks the squadron markings so, at the moment, we don’t know which unit will eventually operate the “Siberian Tiger”.
The U.S. Navy continues to operate a fleet of modernized F-5E/F purchased from Switzerland in 2006. These 36 low-hour jets were updated as F-5N/Fs with modernized avionics and other improved systems to support adversary training mission with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps as part of the VFC-13 at NAS Fallon, Nevada; the VFC-111 at NAS Key West, Florida; and VMFT-401 at MCAS Yuma, Arizona. Both fly aircraft that are painted in a variety of colorful adversary schemes of blue, gray and brown camouflage.
The only three Navy’s F-5F jets are called “Franken Tiger” because each one is a hybrid aircraft, made with the cockpit of an older F-5F and the rest of the airframe coming from a newer low-hours F-5E acquired from the Swiss Air Force surplus.
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.