The Northrop F-5 was developed in the 1950s under the specification NF-156F, as a cheap fighter with low maintenance cost. The first flight took place on 30th July 1959. But for aircraft like the F-5, there was no market at this time. Even if the US Army was interested in the design, to use it for close air support roles, the US Air Force neither wanted to let the US Army fly their fighters, or to fly fighters for the Army.
President John F. Kennedy founded a Military organisation to help other allied countries upgrading their Military equipment. The organisation searched for a cheap fighter aircraft and was immediately interested in the F-5A fighter. So that the designs of the NF-156 were revived and the fighter was now designed for export roles. One of the first Nations receiving this fighter was South Vietnam. It was used at the border to North Vietnam during conflicts. During those battles the Freedom Fighter received its nickname “Tiger”.
The F-5A was criticized because of its range (when equipped with weapons its combat radius was less than 1,000 km) und the bad flight performance (the maximum speed was less than 1,500 km/h, and the rate of climb was less than 900 m per minute). But the good thing is that it was easy to maintain, because of low fuel consumption, making it cheap.