Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 6: Jets, Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter

Canadian Warplanes, Jets, 

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter

Data current to 3 Oct 2019.

 (DND Photo via James Craik)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighters firing CRV-7 rockets, Primrose Lake, Alberta.

The Canadair CF-5 (officially designated the CF-116 Freedom Fighter) is a Canadairr license-built version of the American Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter aircraft flown primarily by the Canadian Forces (as the CF-5) and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (as the NF-5).  The CF-5 was upgraded periodically throughout its service career in Canada.  The Canadian Forces retired the type in 1995, although CF-5s continue to be used by other countries.

The CF-5 was ordered by the RCAF, which became part of the Canadian Forces on 1 February 1968.  The new unified force took delivery of the first CF-5s (it was almost universally referred to as the CF-5 except in official documentation) at the end of 1968.  Production by Canadair for the Canadian Forces was 89 single-seat aircraft, 46 dual-seat aircraft and 75 single-seat with 30 dual-seat aircraft for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, a total production of 240.  Some surplus Canadian aircraft were sold to Venezuela.  (Wikipedia)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (89), CF-116D (46) for a total of 136 aircraft.

 (DND Photo via Chris Charland)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116733) from 433 "Porcupine" ÉTAC based at CFB Bagotville, Quebec.

 (Toronto Star Photo Archive)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116742) from 433 "Porcupine" ÉTAC based at CFB Bagotville, Quebec, taking part in the 1974 Toronto International Airshow.

 (CF Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116733),  433 Sqn, 1973.

 (CF Photo via Mike Murphy)

Canadair CF116 (Serial No.116715), 419 Sqn, AEC 89 1048.

(DND Photo via James Craik)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116710).

 (Canadian Forces Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116703), 419 Sqn.

(Alain Rioux Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116703).

 (DND Photo)

Canada’s first female fighter pilots, Capt Jane Foster (left) and Capt Deanna (Dee) Brasseur, posing in front of a Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter in 1988.

 (NMNA Photo)

 Canadair CF-116A Freedom Fighter and CF-116B, Canadian Forces, in formation with two US Marine Corps McDonnell F-4N Phantom II (BuNos. 151514 and 152977).

 (DND Photo, TNC78-79, via James Craik)

Canadair CF-116B Freedom Fighter, CAF (Serial No. 116815), 419 Squadron, Aggressor colours, CFB Trenton, Ontario, 1978.

Aggressor Training

Why was it important to want to know about former Soviet combat aircraft such as the MiG, Sukhoi, Mil and Tupolev variants that my colleagues and I studied as Intelligence personnel? What could the aircraft brought to the West by various defectors have told us about the opposition forces our Air Force personnel could have faced during the Cold War, and on into the present age of counter terrorism? The years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, allowed for a great deal of aviation information to come to light – sometimes good – sometimes not so good. Canadian pilots who eventually got the chance to fly some of the former Soviet block aircraft learned, for example, that the Sukhoi Su-27 and later Su-35 Flanker would have killed a Hornet in a vertical climb – a lesson that could have been learned the hard way in aerial combat, but one to be aware of for the future. Appropriate counter measures can be taken once you know the rules to fly by. 

RCAF Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk pilots defending Alaska on America’s behalf in 1942 knew that they should not try to dogfight a Mitsubishi A6M Zero on equal terms, but catch them in a dive using speed and hit and run tactics. They knew this because Curtiss P-40 Warhawk pilots in the China-India-Burma theatre had passed on their experiences and hard-won lessons learned.

An examination of combat aircraft brought to the west by defectors from a variety of countries certainly added to our library of knowledge of Soviet-built jets and equipment. The fact that a MiG-25 Foxbat could fly faster than any machine we had in the air only once because the engine burned out was seen in a different light. The Foxbat was crudely and very cheaply made – ten of them could be built for the price of a Hornet. The Russians had a large number of them. Perhaps they only needed to out-fly us once. In the end, quantity has a quality of its own, and if we had lost air superiority over the battlefield, the outcome would not have been pleasant for us. The Kalashnikov machine-gun may seem crude by western standards, but it works even after being dragged through the mud and put together with homemade parts, and there are a lot of them still being used against us with deadly effect in countries we have to serve in on international peace-making missions.

During the Cold War era, the West was at a great disadvantage in gathering information about Soviet aircraft and equipment. There was relative lack of free movement in Warsaw Pact (WP) countries where trained observers could get a view of their equipment in operation. Our Attachés did their best, often at great personal risk (including at least one being forced off the road, their vehicle covered by a tarpaulin and the passengers left to wait inside for more than ten hours).

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the West opened a Military Liaison Mission based at Potsdam just outside of Berlin, Germany, in the Soviet Sector – a relatively isolated site. The Soviet Military Liaison Missions (SMLMs - fondly referred to as ‘smellums’) were based in Baden-Oos in the French Sector, Frankfurt in the US Sector and near Rheindahlen in the British Sector. These were not isolated locations, so the Russians could often be seen observing base activities along the road at CFB Baden-Söllingen. They could also monitor the base electronically from their nearby mission. Also in the Russian’s favour, particularly in Germany, was a relatively easy ability for them to run WP agents. For Air Shows, the Canadian and other Allied bases were often open to the public with free access, so the Russians didn’t have to work very hard to get information on Western aircraft. For Western nations, then, access to defectors and their equipment provided very valuable insight into Russian thinking, design and perceptions of how an air war was likely to be conducted, not just political prizes.

(The author served as an Intelligence Officer at HQ CFE in Lahr from 1981 to 1983, and again with 4 CMBG at Lahr from 1989 - when the Berlin Wall fell, to 1992 - year before our bases Germany closed. We saw SMLMs often during our exercises).

The end result was a recognition that our air combat tactics had to be modified to incorporate the lessons learned from the defectors and their aircraft. American aerial losses in Vietnam, and Israeli engagements in the Middle East added more information to the list of tactics to consider and this in turn led to the development of aggressor squadrons – units using equipment similar to the Soviets (if not the actual MiGs) flown by well-trained pilots using Russian tactics.

The USAF began operating Aggressor Squadrons after recognizing “that far too many aircrew were not surviving their first 10 missions”. The losses were due to a combination of air combat, ground fire and surface-to-air (SAMs) missiles. Advanced aerial combat training designated RED FLAG exercises came into operation, hosted at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. From 1975, air crews from the USAF other US military branches and allies have taken part in the exercises, each of which is six weeks in duration. 

In 1977 Canadian Forces personnel participated in RED FLAG with CF-116s and CF-104s from CFB Cold Lake and CFB Bagotville, their first time there. From 1978, Canadians hosted their own version of this training, designated MAPLE FLAG, initially directed by RED FLAG staff until Canadian Forces staff had learned the ropes.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter Survivorsonon display:

 (Mike Klaybourne Photo)

 (Mike Kaehler Photo)

 (Mike Kaehler Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116740), c/n 1040, 419 Sqn, mounted on a pylon outside the Airport terminal at Kamloops, British Columbia.  Originally ordered as RCAF (Serial No. 14740), this aircraft was re-marked before completion.  Delivered direct to storage at CFB North Bay or CFB Trenton, Ontario.  With 433e L’Escadre de Combat when it visited California in 1983.  Later with 419 Squadron, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.  Special airshow markings (red and white all over) as “Moose Bird”.  Stored at Cold Lake in February 1995.  Mounted on pedestal at Fulton Field, Kamloops, British Columbia, on 17 June 1995.  (Fulton Field is named after first commander of 419 Squadron, W/C J. “Moose” Fulton, lost in action July 1942.)  Robert Thomson designed the colour scheme on this aircraft.

 (Peter Paulsen Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116707), mounted on twin pylons.  The RCAF Museum, The Military Museums, 4520 Crowchild Trail SW, Calgary Alberta.

 (Krystle Wilson Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116736), mounted on a pylon, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.  Originally ordered as RCAF 14736, re-marked before completion.  Initial delivery to CFB Bagotville, Québec.  Served with 433e L’Escadre de Combat, CFB Bagotville, Québec.  Preserved, displayed at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta by April 1995.

 (Slavic Historian Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116704), CLAFM, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.  Flew with 433 Squadron, 434 Squadron and 419 Squadron.  It finished its life with 419 Squadron and was sent into storage at CFB Mountain View in 1995. It was later shipped to the museum, and in 2007, it was assembled and painted in CAF Era Markings by 1 AMS.

 (Krystle Wilson Photo)

Canadair CF-116D Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116832), 419 Squadron, silver, dual.  CLAFM, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116D Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116815), R-AM, Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116749), camouflage, mounted on a pylon on the corner of Ness Ave., and Conway St., AFHM&AP, CFB Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Originally ordered as RCAF (Serial No. 14749), re-marked before completion.  Delivered direct to storage at CFB North Bay, or CFB Trenton, Ontario.  With No. 434 Squadron in 1982.  With 433e L’Escadre de Combat in 1983. Became instructional airframe A887. Preserved, on display at Air Command Headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba by April 1995.

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116759), inside the Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario.

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116769), in front of the Officer's Mess, Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario.

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116710), Base Borden Military Museum, CFB Borden, Ontario.

 (Alain Rioux Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116713), Canadian Air Land Sea Museum (CALSM), Markham, Ontario.

 (Alain Rioux Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116724), Canadian Air Land Sea Museum (CALSM), Markham, Ontario.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116726), Canadian Air Land Sea Museum (CALSM), Markham, Ontario.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116743) Canadian Air Land Sea Museum (CALSM), Markham, Ontario.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116747) Canadian Air Land Sea Museum (CALSM), Markham, Ontario.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116750) Canadian Air Land Sea Museum (CALSM), Markham, Ontario.

 (Alain Rioux Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116763) Canada Air and Space Museum (CASM, Ottawa, Ontario.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No.), Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No.), Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No.), Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No.), Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No.), CFSATE, CFB Borden, Ontario.

 (jiggs11 Photo)

 (Andre Blanchard Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116730), 419 Squadron, Memorial Military Museum (MMM), Campbellford, Ontario.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116772), Memorial Military Museum (MMM), Campbellford, Ontario.

 (Ahunt Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Ahunt Photo)

Canadair CF-116A Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116757), CWHM, Mount Hope, Ontario; Ontario.  Originally ordered as RCAF 14757, re-marked before completion.  Delivered direct to storage at CFB North Bay or CFB Trenton.  Later to No. 434 Squadron.  After it was retired from the Canadian Forces in 1989, it was moved to the RCAF Memorial Museum in Trenton, Ontario. Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum acquired the aircraft from the Department of National Defence in 1996.  

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116715), camouflage, mounted on a pylon near 1 Canadian Division HQ, CFB Kingston, Ontario.

 (Author Photo) 

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116721).  National Museum of the RCAF, CFB Trenton, Ontario.  The museum’s Freedom Fighter initially served as a tactical fighter and trainer for No. 434 Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta.  In 1976, it was transferred to No. 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron, where it was used primarily for training.  The paint scheme for 116721 commemorates the history of ‘Moose’ Squadron and the colours of our national flag.

Canadair CF-116A Freedom Fighters (Serial Nos. Unknown), Mountainview Storage Centre, CFB Trenton, Ontario.

  (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116746), mounted on a pylon near the Army Reserve HQ, Toronto, Ontario.

 (Alain Rioux Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116739), silver, mounted on a pylon near Highway 401 at Glen Miller Drive, Trenton.

Canadair CF-116A Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116739), Trenton, Ontario.  Originally ordered as RCAF (Serial No. 14739), re-marked before completion.  Delivered direct to storage at CFB North Bay or CFB Trenton.  Later to 433e L’Escadre de Combat, CFB Bagotville, Québec.  Visited Portage, in this unit’s colours in 1983.  Preserved, displayed in front of the Holiday Inn at Trenton, Ontario by April 1995.

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116D Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116809), grey cam.  Ordnance Museum, Montreal, Quebec.

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116733), BADM, CFB Bagotville, Québec.  Originally ordered as RCAF 14733, re-marked before completion. Delivered direct to storage at CFB North Bay or CFB Trenton. Used to test Canadair designed camera nose. Later to 433e L’Escadre de Combat, CFB Bagotville, Québec in 1982 and 1983. Seen with flight refuelling probe while at Bagotville. Preserved, displayed at Bagotville by April 1992.

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116748), ACAM, Halifax Airport, Nova Scotia.  Originally ordered as RCAF 14748, re-marked before completion.  Delivered direct to storage at CFB North Bay or CFB Trenton.  Later to AETE, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, 1972.  With No. 434 Squadron in 1983. In storage at Aircraft Maintenance Development Unit at CFB Trenton by February 1995. Being disassembled for spares at that time.  To Atlantic Canada Aviation & Space Museum, Halifax International Airport, spring of 1998.  Repainted in 434 Squadron markings from 1980s.

Canadair CF-116D Freedom Fighter (Serial No. 116832), SAM, Shearwater, Nova Scotia.  419 Squadron, Silver, dual.