Refurbished TacAir Aggressor F-5 Photographed Over St. Augustine, Florida

This is the first shot we know of showing one of TacAir's splinter-schemed F-5s in the air.

Frank Crebas/Bluelifeaviation.com

We have been following the progress of Tactical Air Support Inc.'s F-5E Tiger II aggressor program from before we even knew it existed. Since then the company has made huge strides in bringing an advanced F-5E/F derivative to the commercial adversary support marketplace. The 21 jets, which came from overseas surplus stocks, are all being refurbished at Northrop Grumman's St. Augustine facility, after which they will head to TacAir's home base at Reno's Stead Field where they will receive extensive upgrades. This process will include fitting an all-new glass cockpit in the sleek fighters. But to our knowledge, none of these jets have been photographed in flight—that is until now. 

Our good friend and one of our favorite aviation photographers, Frank Crebas of Bluelife Aviation (make sure to follow his Instagram linked here, you won't be disappointed), captured the splinter-schemed F-5 during a test flight out of St. Augustine's Northwest Florida Regional Airport. 

Frank Crebas/Bluelifeaviation.com

Apparently, this is the fourth TacAir F-5 that has received a refreshing from Northrop Grumman—the other three are already back at Stead Field in Nevada. So there can be no doubt that TacAir's Tiger II fleet is rapidly evolving. 

These are truly exciting times for commercial adversary support contractors. The USAF has laid out its grand plan for embracing privatized aggressor and other tactical air power training services and it's impressive. The competition for these and other contracts is stiff, but it looks like there will be plenty of opportunities to go around. Considering the high cost of sustaining and operating a 5th generation fighter dominated future force, along with many other factors I have been discussing for nearly a decade, the decision by USAF to finally leverage the private sector to the maximum degree possible for portions of its tactical air combat training needs isn't really a choice anymore as it had been in decades past. 

This is a necessary evolution and one that will save money, result in a far more elastic set of training capabilities and options, and it will result in better-trained pilots than what the in-house alternatives can provide. 

Frank Crebas

But regardless of the business case surrounding commercial adversary support services, TacAir's F-5s are gorgeous and they will be truly impressive machines once their upgrades are complete. 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com