In 1967 the RAAF started the selection process for a fighter to replace the 12 year old locally made Hawker Hunter in the air-superiority role.
The Lockheed Starfighter, SAAB Drakken and Dassault Mirage were all evaluated. Northrop also made a submission with their planned upgrade of the F5 Freedom Fighter. This interested the RAAF as the J85 turbojet was already in planned use with the recently selected A-37. Other factors were the basic design's record of twin engine safety and reliability under harsh operating conditions. It also easily out manoeuvred the other main contenders with its superior handling qualities.
The design was to be produced by GAF with an order for 125 airframes (95'E' and 30'F' 2-seaters). The J85 was also to be produced locally by de Havilland Australia. GAF was further licensed to produce aircraft for sale to the many anticipated Asian customers.
In 1972, No. 3 Squadron became operational followed shortly by No.75 and 77 Squadrons. The final squadron to activate was No. 79 in 1980 with the final retirement of the Hunter. The F-5E continued in service until 2004 when it began to be replaced by 49 recently retired and refurbished bargain priced USN F14D Super Tomcats.
This particular model represents a No. 79 Squadron aircraft circa 1995. It displays recent SLEP work with the upgraded radar (APG-66) in the stillborn F20's aerodynamically refined shark nose. It is equipped for a pure CAP role; armament being 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder and 2 x M39 20mm cannon plus 3 x drop tanks.