A Swiss Air Force Northrop F-5E Tiger II in Patrouille Suisse colours (the Swiss Air Force demonstration team) sits proudly on display at the entrance to the excellent Swiss Air Force Centre (Flieger Flab Museum) in Dübendorf near Zurich, plus another in standard military grey is on display in Hall 2 (get there early as there is much to see and limited operating hours most days!). These photos of this handy little fighter aircraft were taken during my visit to the museum in 2015.
Ageing but cheaper to operate than modern fighters and highly suitable for operations in limited Swiss air space, the Swiss fleet of 22 Northrop F-5E Tiger II single seat fighters and 4 F-5F two seat training aircraft are expected to soldier on (98 F-5E and 12 F-5F were originally purchased with the first F-5F entering service in 1976 and the F-5E in 1978, with more of both types purchased in 1981). There are plans to retain 18 F-5E and 4 F-5F aircraft in operation into 2018 at least (the Patrouille Suisse will also continue to fly the F-5E), when a decision will be made on a replacement fighter to fill the void (the purchase of 22 Saab JAS 39 Gripen E fighters was rejected in a 2014 Swiss referendum).
From the Swiss Air Force website: “Despite the fact that, compared to modern fighter aircraft, their engagement possibilities in aerial combat might be limited, the Tiger aircraft serves well in area air-defence (up to approx. 6000 m elevation).”
In 2002 the US Navy purchased 32 F-5E from Switzerland in a unique “reverse” Foreign Military Sale (FMS). They were to be used as aggressor aircraft and following an overhaul were in US service by 2008 redesignated as an F-5N (12 more were also purchased from the Swiss). Many of these aircraft continue to be operated today by the US Marine Corps VMFT-401 “Snipers” aggressor squadron in Yuma, Arizona and the US Navy VFC-111 “Sundowners” aggressor squadron in Key West, Florida.
In 2004 the Austrian AF also leased 12 Swiss F-5E for 4 years as a stop-gap measure before receiving their Eurofighter Typhoon (the first was delivered in 2007). There still seems to be plenty of life in this plucky little fighter yet!