first air force to receive F-5E was the Imperial Iranian Air
During the 1960's and 70's, the Imperial Iranian Air Force
had become one of the largest and best-equipped air forces
in the world. By most accounts it was the 5th air power in
the world. The IIAF put into service its initial squadron
of 13 Freedom Fighters on February 1, 1965. On that date,
11 F-5As and 2 F-5Bs arrived at the 1st Tactical Air Base
at Mehrabad to replace the F-84 Thunderjets in the strike
role. The planes were declared operational in June of 1965.
Subsequently, the government of Iran in 1972 purchased a total
of 104 F-5As and 23 F-5Bs.
A total of 166 F-5Es and Fs Plus Some 15 RF-5E Recon Version
were purchased by the IIAF between 1974 and 1976, enough to
equip eight squadrons. The Imperial Iranian Air Force F-5E/Fs
were equipped to a high standard, with an onboard Litton inertial
navigation system and weapons/ballistic computer. The first
delivered in January of 1974, when 28 F-5Fs were received
in Iran for conversion training. By this time, IIAF had disposed
of virtually all of its earlier-model F-5A/Bs, selling them
to Greece, Turkey, Ethiopia, South Vietnam, and Jordan, although
some F-5Bs were retained for training purposes.
During the war the effects of the arms embargo and the shortage
of spare parts caused the number of F-5s which were available
for combat steadily to decrease, and by the beginning of 1983,
about 65 F-5s could be put into the air at any given time.
In the beginning Iranian Air Force was only able to keep its
F-5s flying by scrounging replacements from whatever source
it could acquire spare parts, like Greece and other nations
which were F-5 users, but later it used its own aircraft industry
to keep F-5 fleet operational.
F- 5 TIGERS SQUADRONS AS OF LATE 1979:
Tactical Air Base Mehrabad
1 Squadron RF-5E Recon
Tactical Air Base Tabriz
3 Squadrons F-5E
Tactical Air Base Dezful (Vahdati)
2 Squadrons F-5E
1 Squadron F-5F Training
RF-5A (N-156C) is the reconnaissance version of the F-5A.
It was ordered in October of 1967, but did not make its first
flight until May of 1968. It retained some combat capability
with the additional provision of four KS-92 cameras mounted
in the nose. The KS-92 camera was provided with an individual
light sensor and individual light sensor and automatic exposure
and had a 100-foot magazine. The cameras gave forward oblique,
trimetrogon and split vertical coverage. All four cameras
could be removed, reloaded and replaced within five minutes.
The use of different lenses gave six basic camera configurations.
The RF-5A could be distinguished from its single-seat fighter
cousin by the rather angular nose cutouts for the camera ports.
The cameras were accessed via the upper surface of the nose
which hinged forward. The aircraft was otherwise quite similar
to the F-5A. Both cannon were retained, even when the cameras
were fitted. In theory, the nose of the RF-5A could be replaced
by the standard F-5A nose, but in the field this operation
took too long to be practical.
The first of 89 RF-5As was delivered in the 1965. The first
customer was the Imperial Iranian Air Force, for 12 ships.
numbers of Northrop RF-5A Freedom Fighter for Imperial Iranian
67-21219/21231 Northrop RF-5A-35-NO Freedom Fighter
numbers of Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter for Imperial Iranian
63-8382/8392 (8383,8385 later transferred to Vietnam)
65-10481/10484 (10482 later to Vietnam)
65-10533/10544 (10536 later to Vietnam)
66-9155 +66-9170/9176+66-9189/9192+66-21212/21218 + 67-22548/22550
68- 9057 + 68-9059/9085 + 69-7091,7095,7105 + 69-7174/7177
development of the Northrop F-5 began as far
back as 1954, when a Northrop team toured Europe and Asia
to examine the defense needs of NATO and SEATO countries.
The result of the tour was a 1955 company design study for
a lightweight supersonic fighter that would be relatively
inexpensive, easy to maintain, and capable of operating out
of short runways and secondary airstrips as well as from small
A $20 million fixed-price contract was signed in October of
1962, calling for a mix of single-seat F-5As and two-seat
F-5Bs in a ratio of 9:1.
The F-5B was the two-seat version of the F-5A. It was generally
similar to the single-seat F-5A but had two seats in tandem
for dual fighter/trainer duties. The two crew members sit
in tandem rocket-powered ejection seats, and are separated
from each other by a windscreen to protect the instructor
from windblast in the event of an ejection. The cockpits have
separate manually-operated rearward-hinged jettisonable canopies.
The instructor's seat in the rear is raised 10 inches higher
than that of the pupil in front to give an improved forward
view. The length of the fuselage was the same (46 feet 4 inches)
as that of the T-38.
The fuselage of the F-5B is quite similar to that of the T-38
Talon two-seat trainer, so similar, in fact, that one must
look twice to tell the difference between the two aircraft.
Unlike the T-38A, the F-5B retains the wing leading edge flaps
and wing root extension of the F-5A, which is perhaps the
easiest way to tell the difference between a F-5B and a T-38A.
Other differences between the F-5B and the T-38A are a bit
more subtle. The F-5B has a braking parachute housing at the
rear of the vertical stabilizer just above the engine exhausts,
which the T-38A lacks. The F-5B has a double fork on its noseweel
in area and lack the square splitter plates of the F-5B.
The F-5B was fully combat-capable and was capable of carrying
the same external ordnance load as the single seat F-5A. However,
the nose cannon armament of the single-seat version was deleted.
The takeoff weight was 19,700 pounds, considerably greater
than the T-38s 11,700 pounds.
The first F-5B (63-8438) flew on February 24, 1964. 63-8343
went supersonic in a dive for the first time on February 28.
The first F-5B was accepted in March, with the aircraft being
declared operational on April 30, 1964, which was four months
ahead of the single-seat F-5A.
The eighth F-5B (63-8445) was selected as a company demonstrator.
It carried out a sales tour later in 1964, visiting 12 European
and Middle Eastern countries in search of customers.
A total of 200 F-5Bs were built by Northrop's Palmdale facility.
numbers of Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter for Imperial Iranian
TIGER II Specifications:
combat radius 875 miles; top speed 1050 mph; ceiling 51800
plant: two General Electric J85-GE-21B turbojets rated at
3500 lbs thrust each dry; 5000 with afterburner
two M39A2 20mm cannons, maximum ordnance 7000 lbs, including
air to air and air to surface missiles.