The Northrop F-5 tactical fighter was designed as an extremely maneuverable, supersonic fighter with a high rate of reliability at a low operating cost. The F-5 first flew on July 30, 1959 with the first customer delivery in 1964. The last of more than 2,600 F-5’s was produced in 1989 and about two-thirds of these are still in service with 26 countries more than 4 decades later. The F-5 was manufactured by Northrop Grumman and under license in Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland.
The Royal Saudi Air Force purchased Northrop Grumman F-5Bs and F-5Es with the first being delivered by in-flight Trans-Atlantic crossings arriving in February 1974. The first two squadrons were operational by late 1975 and began to replace the BAC Lightning. By 1977 there were 35 F-5s based at Dhahran and 35 at Khamis Mushait. By 1978 the F-5E was the Saudi main multi-role fighter. In January 1985 the first of 10 RF-5Es began to arrive. At least 4 of the RF-4Es arrived with all black paint schemes.