Canadair CF-116 (CF-5A)

  • A U.S. supersonic fighter bomber designed and built by Northrop Aircraft of Hawthorne, California (also made in Canada, South Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan) and produced from 1962 to 1989
  • Closely related to a two-seater trainer known as the T-38 Talon
  • F-5 was widely supplied through U.S. Military Assistance Program and operated in thirty-four countries
  • A Canadian version of the Northrop F-5 was the "Freedom Fighter," a low-cost, low-maintenance fighter that reversed the 1950s trend of large expensive fighters
  • Produced by Canadair Limited in Montreal; was the last fighter manufactured in Canada
  • Engines were made in Canada by Orenda Limited
  • Used by Canadian Forces on NATO missions and as a trainer for pilots transitioning to the CF-18
First Flight
July 30, 1959
Display Status
On the Museum Floor.

Background History

The Northrop F-5 helped reverse the 1950s trend that favored the development of large and expensive tactical fighters. Employing high-thrust but low-weight engines initially designed for guided missiles, the aircraft was planned as an affordable replacement for the subsonic jets developed after Second World War. The United States Air Force showed more interest in the two-seat versions as supersonic trainers, the world’s first. As the fighter version was well suited for defending a small country’s borders, it became the developing world’s most widely used light-weight fighter through the U.S. Government’s Military Assistance Program.

A modified version was built in Canada during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the last fighter manufactured in this country. Modifications included a probe for air-to-air refueling, more sophisticated avionics and higher powered Canadian-built engines. Many went directly into storage after Canada reduced its NATO commitments but those used in the training role became popular with fighter pilots making the transition to the CF-18.

Museum Example

Registration #
Canadair Ltd., Canada
Manufacture Date
Construction #
Acquisition Date
Transfer from Canadian Forces
Museum Catalogue #

This CF-5 (officially designated CF-116) was manufactured by Canadair Limited of Montreal, Quebec in August 1970. Delivered to the Canadian Armed Forces in December of that year, it was put in storage until 1979.

Over the course of its active career, the aircraft was based at several locations across Canada, including Trenton, Ontario; Chatham, New Brunswick; and most frequently at Cold Lake, Alberta. It was put in storage in 1995.

The CF-5 was transferred to the Museum by the Canadian Forces in 1997. It retains its Warsaw Pact "aggressor" markings from its last training exercises.

Technical Specifications


Wing Span 7.9 m (25 ft 8 in)
Length 14.4 m (47 ft 2 in)
Height 14.4 m (47 ft 2 in)
Weight, Empty 3,937 kg (8,680 lb)
Weight, Gross 9,249 kg (20,390 lb)
Cruising Speed N/A
Max Speed 1,200 km/h (748 mph)
Rate of Climb 9,450 m (31,000 ft) /min
Service Ceiling 15,240 m (50,000 ft)
Range 630 km (390 miles)
Power Plant two Orenda J85-CAN-15 1,950 kg (4,300 lb) thrust each with afterburner