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Book Review
The F-5 Tiger
MDF Scaled Down #5 the F-5 Tiger
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]



One of the most enduring military aircraft designs ever produced, the F-5 series has served for more than four decades since its initial flight on July 31, 1963. The F-5 remains an agile, highly manoeuvrable, reliable supersonic fighter; lead-in trainer and ‘aggressor’, combining advanced aerodynamic design, engine performance and low operating costs. More than 2,600 were built by Northrop and with even more built under co-production and licensing agreements with Canada, the Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Spain and Switzerland. From the F-5's first delivery in 1964 to its final one in 1989, every aircraft has delivered the performance as promised, and approximately two-thirds of the original production F-5's remain operational in twenty-six countries, including the United States.

Being smaller and simpler than contemporaries such as the F-4, the F-5 cost less to both purchase and operate, making it a popular export aircraft. The F-5A ‘Freedom Fighter’ entered service in the early 1960s, and although the USAF at the time had no acknowledged need for a light fighter, it did procure roughly 1,200 T-38 Talons, which were directly based on the F-5 design. After winning the International Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970, a program aimed at providing effective low-cost fighters to American allies, Northrop introduced the second-generation F-5E ‘Tiger II’ in 1972. The F-5 was also developed into a dedicated reconnaissance version, the RF-5 ‘Tigereye’ and the ill-fated F-20 ‘Tigershark’. For the F-5 it has been a fast ride into aviation history!

The story of the F-5 is brought to life in this new MDF Scaled Down from SAM Publications, and the types background; operators, colour schemes and roles are all included, along with colour profiles, technical diagrams and extensive walk arounds. This is a must have book for the enthusiast and modeller alike.

The Introduction is as provided by SAM Publications


This new title in the Scaled Down series from SAM Publications looking at the F-5 Tiger is a soft backed publication of 96 pages and a card cover. The author of this offering is Andy Evans and thus far his work has not disappointed me. The book is A4 in size with the pages feeling to be a good quality paper that has taken and displays both the text and photographs well. The book is split into 111 sections which are:
Chapter 1 – Development Genesis of the F-5
Chapter 2 – The F-5 Freedom Fighter, Lightweight, High Performance
Chapter 3 – The F-5 E/F Tiger II Second Generation Fighter
Chapter 4 – US Aggressor Tigers F-5 Bandits
Chapter 5 – T-38 Talon Two Seat Trainer
Chapter 6 – The f-20 Tigershark
Colour Side Views
Modelling the Tiger
Appendix 1 – Walk Arounds
Appendix 2 – Kitography

The introduction section is as you would expect short and to the point and does a good job of getting your attention drawn to this long lasting and hardworking fighter.

Chapter 1 is again a brief section of the book, but you do not need to read very far into it to realise what an exceptional aircraft the F5 was going to be. The first aircraft flight went supersonic despite not having after burner abilities.

Chapter 2 looks at the introduction of the F-5 into service with the US and the huge export success it quickly became. The high speed, low cost and manoeuvrability of the aircraft made the F-5 a winner on the export stage and as its longevity became apparent it made the investment all the sweeter. It should be noted that during its early life the F-5 was built to be a ground attack aircraft as to keep down costs fire control radar was omitted heavy weapons load severely restricted range.

Chapter 3 looks at a modified F-5 dedicated to be an air to air warrior. With a longer and wider fuselage to accommodate suitable fuel tanks that provided a longer range and also suitable radar and sensors for the role of air to air combat. With these modifications the F-5 continued to experience excellent export success across the globe.

This next section will make anyone who watched Top Gun back in 1986 or since then feel at home. The US Navy/Marines and US Air Force all used the F-5 to play the part of the aggressor for training their next generation of elite pilots and flown by the current elite pilots. The F-5 was an excellent replication for the abilities of the Mig 21, however as Russian aircraft have continued to expand and improve their ability the F-5 has lost its purpose in many cases for this role. One of the big pluses of this section is all of the different finishing schemes that could make for a great mix if more than one of these is built.

The next chapter looks at the trainer version of the F-5 the T-38 Talon. The Talon is used by many countries as a trainer, but the US is by far the biggest user of the aircraft. Many NATO pilots have also flown training missions in this aircraft while doing Foreign Service with the US Forces.

Chapter 6 takes a brief look at the F-20 Tigershark. This version of the aircraft was better in every respect to previous versions and it was believed that it would follow previous offerings and excel in the export market. A small order was placed for the aircraft, but was put on hold until further orders came in. The destruction of two trials aircraft and deaths of the pilots in those accidents did nothing for sales and the release of the F-16 onto the export market killed this aircraft off.

The Colour Side Views offered here cover aircraft in service all over the globe, but I find these of limited use and would have preferred some three way drawings to allow better study of the finish; that said you could look up images online to provide further information on a finish you like.

Moving onto the section titled ‘Modelling the Tiger’ we are offered examples of 7 builds, the models and scales covered are:
Kinetic Models 1/48th scale F-5B
Kinetic Models 1/48th scale F-5A
AFV Club 1/48th scale F-5E/F-5N
Classic Airframes 1/48th scale F-51
AFV Club 1/48th scale F-5E Tiger II
AFV Club 1/48th scale RF-5E Tigereye
Kinetic Models 1/48th scale F-5A
The builds and finishes are of course abridged here, but they do offer a good number of tips for your build.

The walk arounds are next up and there are five walk arounds provided here. The aircraft covered are:
Brazilian F-5M
Turkish F-5B/2000
Austrian F-5E
South Vietnamese F-5E
F-5 cockpits and diagrams

The final area covers the models and aftermarket items currently available for the F-5 family of aircraft. I find sections like this a useful addition, but they can be prone to going out of date quickly.


This offering from Sam Publications covering the F-5 Tiger is a good reference title at an affordable price, but it does not hit all of the spots I would have like to see ticked off. The reference material provided is of a high quality and will answer many of the questions that modellers may have, but I was disappointed in two respects: I wanted to see the multi directional drawings that have added so much to my knowledge of subjects from SAM Publication and the schematics that have been included in other titles. With that said I have to also point out that this is a cheaper option than the all singing and dancing titles available and while I have expressed a disappointment in some respects this does provide excellent data for the cost.
Highs: A lot of reference for the money that is presented in an eye catching manner.
Lows: I regret the lack of schematics and/or multidirectional reference material.
Verdict: An affordable reference title for various F-5 aircraft types in service with many countries around the world.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: MDF #5
  Suggested Retail: £14.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Feb 20, 2017

Our Thanks to SAM Publications!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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