The first air force to receive F-5E was the Imperial Iranian Air Force. 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.


1st Tactical Air Base Mehrabad
1 Squadron RF-5E Recon

2nd Tactical Air Base Tabriz
3 Squadrons F-5E

4th Tactical Air Base Dezful (Vahdati)
2 Squadrons F-5E
1 Squadron F-5F Training

The 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.

Serial numbers of Northrop RF-5A Freedom Fighter for Imperial Iranian Air Force:
67-21219/21231 Northrop RF-5A-35-NO Freedom Fighter

Serial numbers of Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter for Imperial Iranian Air Force:
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 +68-9047 +68-9052/9053
68- 9057 + 68-9059/9085 + 69-7091,7095,7105 + 69-7174/7177 + 70-1373/1382

The 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 aircraft carriers.
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.

F-5B two-seater
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.

Serial numbers of Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter for Imperial Iranian Air Force:

F-5E TIGER II Specifications:

Type: Fighter
Performance: combat radius 875 miles; top speed 1050 mph; ceiling 51800 feet
Power plant: two General Electric J85-GE-21B turbojets rated at 3500 lbs thrust each dry; 5000 with afterburner
Armament: two M39A2 20mm cannons, maximum ordnance 7000 lbs, including air to air and air to surface missiles.