The final upgraded F-5M fighters for Brazilian Air Force from the Embraer Defense have been completed.
The Brazilian F-5M is considered a deeply modernized version of the F-5 family. Project F-5M was launched in 2001. The first modernized F-5M appeared later, in September 2005.
The goal of the F-5M project is to restore combat readiness, extend the life and improve the basic characteristics of existing aircraft. The F-5M will maintain the essential combat effectiveness of the Brazilian Air Force until brand new equipment appears in service, at least until the air force’s Saab F-39 Gripen multirole fighters gain full operating capability, presently scheduled to occur in 2025.
In terms of design, the airframe, general aircraft systems and engines were overhauled with an extension of the service life by 15 years. In addition, various improvements have been made, mainly related to the installation of new equipment. The aircraft received an aerial refueling receiver.
The new F-5M has a larger nose cone to accommodate the larger radar equipment. Central to this upgrade package is the Leonardo Grifo F radar. This is a pulsed Doppler radar with mechanical scanning to target multiple aircraft, as well as a data link developed domestically by Embraer, called Link-BR2, that allows real-time sharing battlefield data to be exchanged with other F-5Ms within the same formation. The new radar is capable of detecting targets at a distance of 80 km.
The F-5M also received weapon upgrades, while retaining the weapon capabilities of the F-5E/F. Thanks to the new radar, the fighter can fire Rafael Derby missiles by active radar, in addition to infrared missiles such as Python IV and the Brazilian MAA-1B. Ground targets can now be attacked using guided aerial bombs, with laser guidance.
Since last year, the Brazilian-developed MICLA-BR air-to-ground missile has been tested on the F-5M. A single Pontiac M39A2 20mm-caliber cannon is retained in the nose of the single-seat jets.
Brazil is buying 36 Gripen E and F models under a contract from 2014. Gripen E deliveries will start in 2021 and the two two-seater Gripen F in 2023. Brazil will receive all ordered aircraft between 2023 and 2024. 36 fighters from Sweden will replace most of the modernized F-5 squadron in the near future. But until then, the F-5Ms will remain the backbone of the Air force.