Warplanes: Turning An Old Timer Into A New Killer


April 23, 2011: Brazil is paying $85 million to refurbish and upgrade eleven of its F-5 jet fighters. An F-5 flight simulator is included in the package. Brazil bought the eleven F-5 fighters from Jordan, and the upgrades will bring the Jordanian F-5s up to the same standards of the refurbished F-5s Brazil already has.

The F-5s is a 12 ton fighter roughly similar to the 1950s era MiG-21, and is a contemporary of the Russian fighter. The F-5 was built mainly for export to nations that could not afford the top-line Western fighters, but did not want the MiG-21s. The F-5 is normally armed with two 20mm cannon, and three tons of missiles and bombs.

The upgraded Brazilian aircraft is called the F-5EM and has modern electronics, making it capable to using long range air-to-air missile (the Israeli radar guided Derby, in addition to the heat-seeking Derby). A look-and-shoot helmet is also part of the upgrade. There is only one 20mm cannon, but lots of missiles and smart bombs.

Brazil bought 42 F-5Bs in 1975 and 22 F-5Es in 1988. Starting six years ago, 34 of the 46 surviving aircraft were upgraded to F-5EMs, which are good for at least another decade of service. Brazil was so satisfied with the way this turned out, that they expanded the program to the Jordanian F-5s they got cheap on the second-hand market.

The Brazilian Air Force is the largest in South America, with 221 combat aircraft and 500 trainers, transports and other support planes and helicopters. The F-5 work will be done by the Brazilian subsidiary of Israeli firm Elbit. This type of refurbishment has been popular with older aircraft, as it turns an aging airplane into one that can fight at long range, and is able to take on much more recent warplanes.


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