In 1975, South Vietnam fell, and while many escaped, a lot of gear fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese. In fact, as late as 1987, FlightGlobal.com credited the Vietnamese People’s Air Force with as many as 50 F-5A/B/E variants in service, along with at least 25 A-37 Dragonfly counter-insurgency planes. Tigers might be next.
Now, Vietnam, which is facing off against China in the South China Sea, may be considering an effort to bring some of the F-5s back into service. This is not a real surprise in some respects. The Marine Corps has been looking to acquire used F-5s for service as aggressors in recent months. Upgrade kits have kept the Tiger as a capable fighter, notably with Brazil and South Korea, according to FlightGlobal.com’s 2017 inventory.
Presently, Vietnam has 40 Su-27/Su-30 “Flanker” fighters in its inventory, with six more on order, according to FlightGlobal.com. These planes are supplemented by 36 Su-22 “Fitter” ground-attack planes, similar to those targeted earlier this year in a Tomahawk strike on a Syrian air base. Vietnam retired its MiG-21 “Fishbed” fighters in 2015. Like the F-5, upgrade kits are available for the Fishbed.
The F-5E was a widely exported daytime fighter, capable of carrying up to 7,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, and AIM-9 Sidewinders. It has a top speed of 1,060 miles per hour, a range of 870 miles, and was first flown in 1972. It is equipped with a pair of M39A2 revolver cannon, each with 280 rounds.