The F-5E/F is designed as a highly maneuverable, lightweight and inexpensive air superiority fighter. It featured an air-to-air fire control radar system and a lead computing gunsight. The powerful J85 engines required the fuselage to be both widened and lengthened. Therefore the forward wing root was redesigned to give its characteristic triple delta shape.
By 1973, AIDC had built 242 F-5Es and 66 F-5Fs under Northrop license in Taiwan.