Elbit’s May 2008 investor filing with the SEC had this to say about their program history with Brazil’s F-5 fighters:
“In 2001, Elbit Systems began work under contracts for the Brazilian F-5 Aircraft Modernization Program. The program calls for the upgrade of 46 F-5 aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force. Our contracts for the program are with Embraer and the Brazilian Government, with a total value of approximately $230 million to be performed over an eight-year period. The contract with Embraer provides for an avionics upgrade, which includes an EW suite, mission computers, helmet mounted system, radar, displays and other avionics products. Delivery of production aircraft began in 2005. In January 2007, Elbit Systems was awarded an additional order to integrate further advanced capabilities in the F-5 aircraft. The contract with the Brazilian Government covers a logistic support program including establishment of an in-country maintenance center based at AEL.”
Brazil’s F-5BR upgrade program creates F-5EM and F-5FM aircraft.
The FAB’s New F-5EM/ F-5FM
The Northrop F-5E and F-5F were incorporated into FAB at the beginning of the 1970s. F-5EM/FM enhancements involve a wide range of internal systems, but Elbit and Embraer were helped by the smaller, lighter nature of modern electronics. The only noticeable external change to the aircraft is the new and larger nose cone, to accommodate the larger Grifo radar antenna. Inside, however, it’s a whole new fighter.
Hardware & Comms: Aerial refueling probe installed, SELEX’s modern Grifo radar, modern radar warning systems and countermeasures dispensers, improved IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe), a datalink for exchanging information with ground systems or Brazil’s R-99 surveillance aircraft. Two modern computer systems run the avionics and combat systems, along with a modern mission planning system and virtual in-flight training systems that can simulate a wide variety of situations.
Pilot Performance: A “glass cockpit” of 3 multifunctional digital color displays, DASH Helmet Mounted Display integration and equipment, a cockpit-mounted Head Up Display, plus HOTAS (Hands on Stick & Throttle) Controls, fuel management systems, redundant GPS navigation, an On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), and newer ejection seats.
All displays are compatible with night vision goggles, and the combined effect of the changes turns Brazil’s F-5s from daytime, fair-weather fighters to day/night, all-weather aircraft. As a further benefit, the combination of the Grifo radar and Elbit cockpit and computers gives the upgraded F-5s commonality with Brazil’s “A-29″/ EMB-314 Super Tucano light attack turboprops and “A-1A”/ AMX fighters, which are also the subject of upgrade contracts involving Embraer and Elbit.
Weapons: After the upgrades, F-5 EM/FM fighters can carry a wider range of weapons, including RAFAEL’s Derby beyond visual range air-air missiles, Brazilian Piranha and Israeli and Python short range air-air missiles, and laser-guided bombs. In exchange, they lose 1 of their 2 initial 20mm cannons.
Embraer and Elbit have been cooperating in a number of areas, and LAAD 2011 deepened that relationship by creating a joint venture to market unmanned air systems in Brazil. Elbit’s Hermes 450 UAV is already in limited use there with the FAB. With the new F-5s slated to serve for another 15 years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a future upgrade add data streaming and control capabilities for compatible UAV drones.
Contracts & Key Events
The ceremony at Embraer’s manufacturing plant in Gaviao Peixoto, in outstate Sao Paulo, also includes the 1st flight of the similarly-upgraded A-1M, and delivery of the 99th and last Brazilian “A-29” Super Tucano light attack turboprop.
April 11/11: Elbit Systems’ Brazilian subsidiary, AEL Sistemas S.A, announces a follow-on sub-contract from Embraer Defense and Security to upgrade another 11 F-5 fighters under the F-5BR program.
This contract is valued at $85 million, and will be performed through 2013 as a follow-on to earlier 2001 and 2007 contracts. It will include engineering services and the delivery of all system equipment, including the mission computer, display systems, radar, EW(Electronic Warfare/countermeasures) system, ammunition management system and other avionics products. AEL will also supply a flight simulator, spares and ground support equipment. Elbit AEL | Embraer.
December 2010: Embraer signs a new contract with Brazil’s FAB to upgrade 11 additional F-5 aircraft, with the work beginning on the first jet in October 2012. This order would take the FAB’s upgraded F-5EM fleet to 57 aircraft, including the 11 (8 F-5Es, 3 F-5Fs) bought from the Jordanian Air Force. Source.
March 31/08: Half-way. Embraer has reached the F-5BR program’s half-way point, after delivering the 23rd modernized F-5 to the Forca Aerea Brasileira. It took off from the Company’s Gaviao Peixoto facilities to re-join the Pampa Wing at Canoas Air Base, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul.
These F-5 fighters are now designated as the F-5*M by the FAB. Embraer.
Dec 4/03: F-5BR unveiled. Embraer officially unveils the F-5BR project’s 1st upgraded fighter, at its headquarters in Sao Jose dos Campos. Their release adds that the 1st Embraer-upgraded F-5F prototype made its 1st flight “a few weeks ago, with absolute success.”
Feb 19/01: The first 2 FAB F-5s land in Sao Jose dos Campos to begin refits, after flying in from the “Pampa” squadron at Canoas Air Base in Rio Grande do Sul. Embraer Vice President for the Defense Market, Romualdo Barros:
“This is the Brazilian Air Force’s first modernization and re-equipping program, for which Embraer is paying special attention for all that it represents for both FAB and our company. We are very proud to be able to supply this service in the area of air defense for the Brazilian government, with inestimable assistance from Elbit.”
Dec 30/2000: The Brazilian Senate gives the contract Go-Ahead for the Brazilian Air Force’s $285 million F-5BR Program. Embraer:
“This Program, valued at US$ 285 million, foresees a massive modernization for the BAF’s 50 F-5E/F aircraft, including a totally new avionic suite, navigation/weapons aiming/self-defense system, computer system, multi-mode radar, BAF’s standard armament qualification and structural upgrade. The program was jointly developed by Embraer and Elbit, the Israeli high-tech company specialized in developing avionics systems for the defense market… The F-5BR avionics/navigation/weapons aiming/self-defense solution is based on a full commonality with the ALX and AMX-T Programs (also for the Brazilian Air Force)… All F-5E/F aircraft will be upgraded to ensure the F-5BR’s required operational life of over 15 years.”