Spain will operate the Northrop F-5 light fighters until 2028

MADRID, SPAIN — Spain’s Ministry of Defense will invest 25 million euros between 2023 and 2024 to ensure the operation of the long-range F-5 fighter jets. It is expected that this funding will be sufficient for the operation of the light fighters until 2028. Spain plans to have a replacement for the F-5 by then. Pilot training in Spain takes place at Talavera La Real Air Force Base [Badajos].

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The Secretary of State for Defense, Mrs. Amparo Valcarce, explained last Wednesday in the Senate that the ministry will allocate “approximately 25 million euros” between this year and next “for the maintenance of F-5 aircraft”. The funds will go towards avionics and engine maintenance.

Meanwhile, the department is already working to have a replacement for this veteran aircraft in service in 2028. This year, the F-5s will be phased out “for structural or fatigue reasons,” Valcarce confirmed in response to Senator Mr. Francisco Xavier Fragoso.

The Spanish Air Force currently has a fleet of 19 F-5Ms in service at Wing 23 in Talavera la Real, operational for over 50 years. These aircraft underwent a modernization process at the beginning of this century to extend their life. Two decades later, their replacement is one of the priorities, as Air Chief of Staff General Javier Salto has repeatedly insisted.

Substitute in 2028

Valcarce insisted several times that the replacement of the F-5 will be in service in 2028. In 2024, the program to acquire a new aircraft “will already be mature”, which will ensure that “in 2028 in the country will be the new aircraft to train our fighter and attack pilots”. Spain’s training of fighter and attack pilots is considered a strategic capability for the Air Force.

The Spanish MoD has yet to provide guidance on possible aircraft that could replace the F-5. Among the options that exist on the market is the M-346 of the Italian company Leonardo. There has also been speculation about the option of switching to the PC-21, a turboprop engine already in service with the Air Force.


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