MANILA — While delivery of the Mach 1.5 (990 miles per hour) capable FA-50PH this Friday will regenerate the supersonic capability of the Philippine Air Force, it is interesting to note that the PAF was one of the first military units to operate the faster-than-sound Northrop F-5 “Tiger” jet fighter.

The F-5 was acquired to replace the subsonic North American F-86 “Sabrejets” which the country’s fighter squadrons was then equipped.

The F-5 has a top speed of Mach 1.6 (roughly 1,060 miles per hour) and a combat range of 760 nautical miles.

The PAF version of the F-5 is armed with two 20mm automatic cannons and wingtip fitted AIM-9s “Sidewinder” heat-seeking missiles.

The F-5 was a very maneuverable fighter and could turn and dogfight well its larger and more capable counterparts.

At the time, the Philippines was one of the largest operator of the aircraft in Southeast Asia.

South Vietnam was also one of the first user of the aircraft.

The F-5A/Bs were used by the PAF’s “Blue Diamonds Aerobatic” team, underwent an upgrade which equipped it with surplus AN/APQ-153 with significant overhaul at the end of the 1970s to stretch their service life another 15 years.

The aircraft was used for air and ground attack missions by the PAF.

In 2005, the Philippines decommissioned its remaining F-5A/B fleet, including those received from Taiwan and South Korea, due to lack of funds and airframe attrition.

Its air defense tasking was then passed on the subsonic SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers.

The said aircraft will be doing this mission until the commissioning of the FA-50PH later this year.

The F-5 started life as a privately funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s.

The first-generation F-5A entered service in the 1960s.

During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for US allies. PNA