The team was formed on November 7, 1992 and was named the Turkish Stars on January 11, 1993.
Turkish Stars fly with eight Canadair NF-5s, obtained from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, making them one of the few national aerobatics teams to fly supersonic aircraft, and the only one with formations of eight supersonic jets. Twelve F-5s are available to the team. The team uses CN-235, C-130 Hercules and Transall C-160 support aircraft in Turkish Stars colours. It is stationed at the Konya Air Base of 3rd Main Jet Base Group Command.
The Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and the F-5E/F Tiger II are part of a family of light supersonic fighter aircraft, designed and built by Northrop. Being less complex and advanced than contemporary aircraft such as the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the F-5 was cheaper to procure and operate, making it popular on the export market. Though it was not procured in volume by the United States and thus has only a limited U.S. combat record, it was perhaps the most effective U.S. air-to-air fighter in the 1960s and early 1970s. The aircraft has a high sortie rate, low accident rate, favorable flight qualities and high maneuverability. Its small visual and radar cross section size and consequent detection difficulty often conferred the F-5 the advantage of surprise. The flying qualities of the F-5 are often highly rated, comparable to the North American F-86 Sabre and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. Fiscally, the F-5 is reportedly unmatched among supersonic fighters, a contributing factor to its service life, which extends over 50 years.
The F-5 started life as a privately funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s. The design team wrapped a small, highly aerodynamic fighter around two compact and high-thrust General Electric J85 engines, focusing on performance and low cost of maintenance. Armed with twin 20 mm cannons and missiles for aerial combat, the aircraft was also a capable ground-attack platform. The F-5A entered service in the early 1960s. During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies. Though the USAF had no acknowledged need for a light fighter, it did procure roughly 1,200 Northrop T-38 Talon trainer aircraft, which were directly based on the F-5.
After winning the International Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970, a program aimed at providing effective low-cost fighters to American allies, Northrop introduced the second-generation F-5E Tiger II in 1972. This upgrade included more powerful engines, higher fuel capacity, greater wing area and improved leading edge extensions for a better turn rate, optional air-to-air refueling, and improved avionics including air-to-air radar. Primarily used by American allies, it was also used in US training exercises. A total of 1,400 Tiger IIs were built before production ended in 1987. More than 3,800 F-5 and T-38 aircraft were produced in Hawthorne, California.
The F-5 was also developed into a dedicated reconnaissance version, the RF-5 Tigereye. The F-5 also served as a starting point for a series of design studies which resulted in the Northrop YF-17 and the F/A-18 navalized fighter aircraft. The Northrop F-20 Tigershark was an advanced variant to succeed the F-5E which was ultimately cancelled when export customers did not emerge. The F-5N/F variants are in service with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps as an adversary trainer. The F-5 is in service in the air forces of more than 25 nations as of November 2013.
The design effort was led by Northrop vice president of engineering and aircraft designer Edgar Schmued, who previously at North American Aviation had been the chief designer of the successful P-51 Mustang and F-86 Sabre fighters. Schmued recognized that an efficient supersonic light fighter could be developed by taking advantage of the compact but high thrust-to-weight ratio General Electric J85 turbojet engine and the recently discovered transonic area rule to reduce drag. His team’s goal was to reverse the trend in fighter development towards greater size and weight and deliver an aircraft with enhanced maneuverability, a cost advantage over contemporary fighters, and possessing high military effectiveness. The J85 engine had been developed to power McDonnell’s ADM-20 Quail decoy employed upon the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The J85 engine with thrust-to-weight ratios of 6.25 to 7.5 over various versions had a notable thrust per lb. advantage over contemporaries, such as the 4.7 thrust-to-weight ratio of the J79 engine used in the F-4 Phantom.
The F-5 development effort was formally started in the mid-1950s by Northrop Corporation for a low-cost, low-maintenance fighter. The company designation for the first design as the N-156, intended partly to meet a U.S. Navy requirement for a jet fighter to operate from its escort carriers, which were too small to operate the Navy’s existing jet fighters. That requirement disappeared when the Navy decided to withdraw the escort carriers; however Northrop continued development of the N-156, both as a two-seat advanced trainer, designated as N-156T, and a single-seat fighter, designated as N-156F.
The N-156T was quickly selected by the United States Air Force as a replacement for the T-33 in July 1956. On 12 June 1959, the first prototype aircraft, which was subsequently designated as YT-38 Talon, performed its first flight. By the time production had ended in January 1972, a total of 1,158 Talons were produced. Development of the N-156F continued at a lower priority as a private venture by Northrop; on 25 February 1958, an order for three prototypes was issued for a prospective low-cost fighter that could be supplied under the Military Assistance Program for distribution to less-developed nations. The first N-156F flew at Edwards Air Force Base on 30 July 1959, exceeding the speed of sound on its first flight.
Although testing of the N-156F was successful, demonstrating unprecedented reliability and proving superior in the ground-attack role to the USAF’s existing North American F-100 Super Sabres, official interest in the Northrop type waned, and by 1960 it looked as if the program was a failure. Interest revived in 1961 when the United States Army tested it, (along with the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and Fiat G.91) for reconnaissance and close-support. Although all three types proved capable during Army testing, operating fixed-wing combat aircraft was legally the responsibility of the Air Force, which would not agree to operate the N-156 or allow the Army to operate fixed-wing combat aircraft, a situation repeated with the C-7 Caribou.
Top speed: 1,698 km/h
Wingspan: 8.13 m
Length: 14 m
First flight: July 30, 1959
Engine type: General Electric J85