Saturday, March 4, 2023

Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-5S fighter still has secrets to keep


Front office: This is what the cockpit of a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Northrop F-5E Tiger II looked like in the mid-1980s. An extensive upgrade that brought it to F-5S standard replaced many of the steam gauges and gave F-5 pilots an improved radar and NVG-compatible cockpit optimised for night flying.

Visitors who have seen the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-5S Tiger II fighter at the Air Force Museum may be curious why the cockpit canopy was frosted.

The fighter type is no longer in RSAF service and was decommissioned in 2015 after 36 years of service. So what’s so hush-hush?

The special HUD in the locally-modified F-5 might have led to the frosted canopy, which conceals everything within such as displays in the NVG-compatible cockpit.

The HUD is thought to be proprietary and possibly unique to the RSAF. Considering that Singapore only had around 40 F-5s, the amount of effort invested to give this relatively small fleet a secret edge is commendable. Hint: the F-5S HUD had homegrown capabilities that were superior to the HUD found on vanilla F-16C/Ds that were of a more modern design.

Hopefully, the full story of the RSAF’s outstanding F-5 upgrade project can be told one day…

Here’s what the front office of an RSAF F-5E looked like in the mid-1980s before Singapore’s defence scientists and engineers had a go at giving the fighter a new lease of life.

P.S. I’ve not visited the Air Force Museum at Paya Lebar Air Base for many years. Will aim to visit one day. 

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