The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page  -  Home

  


 
 Polemiki Aeroporia/Hellenic Air Force

 

  Credit: Roundels of the World

                                        Last update 09-05-2013


BASES                                                               INITIAL PROCUREMENT

 The history of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter in Greek
 service begins after the 1960 USA elections, when, instead
 of the 96 Lockheed F-104G foreseen to be delivered under
 the Military Aid Program to equip 5 Hellenic AF Squadrons,
 the US governement decided, due to financial reasons, to
 supply its NATO partner with only 36 F-104G for two Squa-
 drons and to equip three Squadrons, later augmented to
 four, with the less expensive Freedom Fighter
, as first
 European nation
. Plans were established to procure 55
 Northrop F-5A, 16 Northrop RF-5A, 9 Northrop F-5B and
 to concentrate all day fighter aircrafts within the 111th
 Figther Wing at Nea Anchialos AB with the 337th, 341st,
 343rd Squadrons, plus a separate reconnaissance, 349th
 Squadron at Larissa. 

 Training of a first nucleus pilots started at Williams AFB at
 the end of 1964 with the 4441st Combat Crew Training
 Squadron, in charge of converting allied aircrews to the
 Northrop F-5A.

Deliveries started in May 1965, the aircrafts being initially transferred to Greece on aircraft carriers to Pireaus port and tranferred to Hellenikon Airport (Athens) by road where they were prepared to fly to Nea Anchialos AB. The first Squadron (341st) had its full complement of 16 F-5As and 2 F-5Bs by January 1966. Additional Northrop F-5As and F-5Bs were received to equip a total of two and a half Squadrons by April 1967, when the USA suspended the delivery of further F-5s, following cooling down of relations between the two countries due to a Greek military coup on 21-04-67.

The embargo was lifted by late 1968, enabling to bring three Squadrons to full strength. US Military Aid Program was completed in July 1971, totalling 51 Northrop F-5A, 16 Northrop RF-5A, 9 Northrop F-5Bs, all new. Additionally, one former USAF F-5A was delivered in September 1988.

 Photo: Jack Morris
Northrop RF-5A 97168 in silver colours at Wright Patterson AFB on 17-10-70 before delivery.

The fleet received few modification in its service life: the aircrafts started to be camouflaged in the Europe 1 scheme end of the 60's; during the mid-70s the original Northrop ejection seat was replaced by a Martin Baker Mk10LF, the same as those installed on the former Jordanian aircrafts. Most notable modification was the removal of cameras from RF-5As, only 5 receiving the "normal" fighter nose.

One of two known Hellenic AF operations abroad was the posting of a technical mission to Lybia after the withdrawal of US personnel in 1970; 17 officers were detached to Okba Ben Nafi AB (former USAF Wheelus AFB) to maintain the local Northrop F-5s. Some sources mention that 2 F-5As were received in exchange for the help, but there is no trace of their use in Greece.

The other operation had been a detachment of Douglas C-47s to Korea during the war.

WAR OPERATION
Relations with Turkey changed abruptly after a new military coup on 25-11-73 followed by the Cyprus crise in July 1974, when 10 Northrop F-5As transferred to on 18-07-74 to Heraklion AB played a defensive role. For the full details of the crise (Greek point of view) see http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_296.shtml and http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_298.shtml.

ADDITIONAL PROCUREMENT
New, Military Aid Program aircrafts were followed by an important number of used ones, bought from various countries. Iran transferred 12 Northrop F-5A in 1975; Jordan delivered aircrafts in two batches: 12 Northrop F-5A and 8 F-5B, plus 1 F-5A for spares recovery only, on 14-11-83 via Larnaca (Cyprus), followed by 13 F-5A in 1989; Norway supplied 9 Northrop F-5A starting May 1986.

According to an official US list funding was provided for the Security Assistance Program FY 1976 (or previously) 12 F-5A, 3 F-5B.

   
    Former Royal Jordanian AF Northrop F-5B 604, still in desert camouflage, seen June 1998. Was it
    already wihdrawn from use? See modified nationality markings.
                                                                                  Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Finally, to balance the delivery of similar aircrafts to Turkey and to complicate the work of maintenance crews, 10 Canadair NF-5A and 1 Canadair NF-5B were supplied by the Netherlands in 1991. The Canadair's had a short service life in the Hellenic AF due to missing commonality with the other aircrafts. Their withdrawal started already in 1997.


Canadair NF-5A 3005 with Dutch F-16 camouflage seen before departure for delivery on
11-04-91 at Eindhoven.                                      Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Known details about these transfers are shown in our Northrop F-5A, RF-5AF-5B, NF-5A, NF-5B lists.

Overhaul of Freedom Fighters airframes, as well as of the General Electric J-85 engines, has been since the foundation in 1975 of Hellenic Aerospace Industries at Athens-Hellenikon airport, this facility being part of the Hellenic Air Force in the earlier years.

TRAINING
At the beginning of the 70' relations with Turkey, its old antagonist, were unusually good enabling Squadrons exchanges
and participation of F-5s to NATO to meetings in this country. Best Hit 1970 meeting at Eskisehir-Murted AB was one of these, while the 337th Squadron participated to an exchange visit to Bandirma AB in April 1973, lasting 10 days.

Squadron Exchanges as well as participation to NATO excercises was from the very beginning a high priority for the Air Force Command: some are listed hereunder:
Istrana AB (Italy) saw the participation of F-5As of 341 Squadron to the NATO meetings in 1970 and July 1973;
in August 1984 F-5As and 1 F-5B visited Istrana AB (Italy) on an exchange ith the 2nd Stormo Fiat G-91R;
2 Northrop F-5A, 2 RF-5A, 1 F-5B of the 349 Squadron visited Rimini AB (Italy) in May 1991;
Excercise Dynamic Mix in October 1998 saw the participation of 4 Greek F-5A, together with a large number of McDonnell F-4E, RF4-E, LTV A-7E, A-7H, GAMD Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000, C-130, Orions; participation was repeated in May/June 2000.

     
      Northrop F-5A-30 69136 landing at Rimini AB with a full load of
tanks on 28-05-91.
                                                                          Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

RETIREMENT
With the progressive disbandment of three Squadrons all operational F-5s were gathered within the only remaining Freedom Fighters unit by 1997, the 343rd Squadron at Mikra; its official role was ground attack, but also played an important role in advanced training of young pilots before being transferred to Mirage 2000 or F-16 units.

Canada tried to sell to Greece 28 CF-5s for USD75m, but without success.

A glorious period of 36 years for the Hellenic Air Force closed on 29-03-01, when the 343rd Squadron was disbanded with an official ceremony, 3 F-5A overflying Mikra AB, and the Freedom Fighter being withdrawn from the Hellenic AF Order of Battle, though the Air Force had some second thoughts about a possible reactivation. Airframes received maintenance and their systems were protected till 2007, when the definitive withdrawal order was given.
The presence of the F-5 was very significant, because in times of crises, like the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, Greece had a modern fighter in large numbers to defend the nation. Even when more advanced aircraft, like the F-4, entered operational service, the F-5 had still many advantages for its ease of maintenance and in aerial combat because of its small size that made it difficult to spot.

The 113 combat wing, as an end user of NF/F-5A/B and RF-5A, constituted the main deposit. With the exit of the type from active service in March of 2001, 18 F-5A/B   and 1 RF-5A were stored within the deposit area of the Wing, the air force having some second thoughts about possible new exploitation. However, nothing finally did happen.

The aicrafts stored at various bases were: 10 F-5As, 2 F-5Bs, 5 NF-5A were seen at Mikra AB already on 20-06-99; 10 F-5A, 6 RF-5A at Larissa and 14 F-5A, 1 RF-5A, 2 F-5B, 5 NF-5A being noted at Mikra on on 11-11-00. Many of these lived a

In 2007 the remaining aircrafts were no longer catered for maintenance and protection of their systems, standing out and showing obvious signs of deterioraton. In september 2010, almost all of the F-5 moved on to the 113 Combat Wing when, until August 1997, the remanants were saved and obtained a second life later, preserved at various Air Bases, museums and as monuments in towns. See our lists for further details.

            
                      Northrop F-5-30
69228 preserved in Volos, near Nea Anchialos AF, in April 1997
                                                                                      Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Only one RF-5A and one F-5A obtained for the retirement ceremonies special colours, respectively serialled RF-5A 697170 in so-called Asteri colours and F-5A serial 97174 in "Icarus" colours. Others were painted with spectacular colours after having been in storage for a long time.

An attempt to buy modern advanced trainers was blocked by the 2008 financial crise; a suggestion to resuscitate and upgrade 6 Northrop F-5B and 1 Canadair NF-5B stored at Mikra AFB since 2002 was also rejected due to the costs.

======================================================================================================

WINGS, SQUADRONS, GROUPS HISTORY
Designations:
                   Pterix Mahis                           / Combat Wing
                   Mira Dioseos Bombardismoy       / Fighter-Bomber Squadron
                   Mira Taktikis Anagnoriseos        / Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron

                   Mira Angatiseos Imeras            / Day Intercept Squadron
Σμήνους Μετεκπαίδευσης / Sminos Metekpedephsis (SMET) / Operational Converion Unit

Following units received Freedom Fighters, shown in re-equipment sequence with their F-5 operation history:

Wings:

                       
        110th Wing                              111th Wing                         113th Wing                        115th Wing
    Nea Anchialos AB                        Larissa AB                             Mikra AB                           Souda AB

Squadrons:
The original statutory strength was 16 single and 2 double-seaters but the number varied later very much, due to
attrition (kown losses: 24 F-5A, 3 RF-5A, 4 F-5B till its retirement) and aging of the airframes with consequent withdrawal from use.

341st Squadron   "Assos / Ace"
The 341st Day Intercept Squadron, 111 Combat Wing at Nea Anchialos, was equipped            
with Canadair F-86E Mk2 when it officially received its 16 Northrop F-5A and 2 Northrop
F-5B on June 17th 1965, transitiong as first unit on the Nothrop fighter. It was declared
operational at the end of the same year (
the first NATO Northrop F-5 equipped) having
day interception as primary and close support as secondary
role. Its roles changed to
close support/day interception in June 1971 and back to day interception/close support
in 1975; additionally in worked as an Operational Conversion Unit (SMET) for young pilots.

                     
               Northrop F-5A-30 69142 341st Squadron at Istrana AB (Italy) in June 1970.
                                                                    Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

 

Northrop F-5A-15 38405 at Istrana AB in June 1970. In the background F-5A-30 69135 still in the
colours of the
"New Hellenic Flame" acrobatic team.  Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

               
                Northrop F-5A-40 89054 341st Squadron seen at Istrana in July 1973.
                                                             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


The Squadron was disbanded i
n August 1993, its aircrafts were transferred to the 343rd
Squadron; it was
reactivated on 30-03-98 with the arrival of new General Dynamics F-16C/D Block 50.

343rd Squadron   "Asteri / Star"

 The 343rd All Weather Intercept Squadron gave up its North American F-86D beginning
 May 1966 to re-equip
with Freedom Fighters, to be reclassified as an Day Intercept
 Squadron
. It was fully equipped by spring 1967, having close-support as secondary duty. 
 Following restructuring of the Hellenic AF it was transferred in July 1974 to the 113 Combat
 Wing at Mikra AB until June 1985, when it returned to  the Nea Anchialos based
111th
 Combat Wing,
moving definitely back to Mikra AB in July 1987.

 The year 1993 saw the arrival of 10 Canadair NF-5A and 1 Canadair NF-5B formerly in use
 by the 349th Squadron and the concentration of all variants (F-5A, RF-5A, F-5B, NF-5A,
 NF-5B) in this unit, withdrawal of the Canadairs starting already in 1997.

The Northrop Fighter, though its main role was close-support, was armed with AIM-9P3, Sidewinders to provide an improved interception capability, after an incident at the end of 1997, when Turkish F-16s chased a transport aircraft with the Greek Defence Minister on board. They were driven away by an F-5 patrol from Mikra AB.

The Squadron was on constant alert for daylight interception of foreign aircrafts, particularly Turkish, introducing into Greek, or disputed, air-space; Turkish F-10G, F-104S, F-4E, RF-4E, F-16C, F-16D fighters and S-2E Trackers and some helicopters were intercepted in addition to US Navy and Marines F-14, P-3 Orions and CH-53 helicopters during its stay at Mikra AB .

      Photo: unknown
Beautiful line-up of AIMP-9P3 Sidewinders armed Northrop F-5As, ready to depart.

                   
  Northrop F-5A-25 10480 in F-16 colours seen in April 1996. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

 
 Northrop F-5B-10 6413377 at Grazzanise AB (Italy) 17-06-97; camouflage Europe 2. In background
 F-5s in various camouflages.                                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

               
            F-5B 13378 at Mikra in 1993 in F-16 camouflage           Photo: Greekmilitary.net   


Top view of F-5A 97175 F-16 camouflage                                   Photo: Greekmilitary.net

The Squadron was disbanded on 29 March 2001, contemporaneously to the official retirement of the Freedom Fighter from Greek use. 

Reformed at Souda AB (Creta) on 21-07-03 it received the latest Lockheed Martin F-16C and F-16D Bock 52+.

337th Squadron   "Φάντασμα / Fantasma / Ghost"

On 31-05-67 the 337th All-Weather Fighter Squadron, equipped with North American F-86D Sabre, attached to the 112 Combat Wing, ended its operation and started conversion on the F-5 as Day Intercept Squadron.

An selective embargo on armament delivery, imposed by the US government due to a military coup in Greece on 21-04-67, blocked re-equipment. Two flights were established as a provisional solution, one fully operational on the North American F-86D as above, the other training on F-5s at the 111th Combat Wing.

Anyhow, the  337th Day Interception Squadron was re-established on 16-11-67, deliveries of Freedom Fighters starting again in late 1968 when the embargo was cancelled; the Squadron could be declared operational at the end of June 1969. Its pilots manned from July 1967 the Greek aerobatic team: the New Hellenic Flame with 5 Northrop F-5As. Unfortunately, the team performed only 2 apperances, disbanding late 1967.

                       Photo: unknown
        Northrop F-5A 69135 seen at
Istrana AB in June 1970 in "New Hellenic Flames " colours.

The end as an F-5 unit came on 31-03-78, when it was disbanded, to be reformed on 07-09-78 flying McDonnell F-4Es.

349th Squadron   "Kronos / Phoenix" 

 The Squadron was equipped in November 1970 with Republic F-84F at Larissa AB with the
 110th Combat Wing when it  started conversion to the Northrop RF-5A, changing its role to
 reconnaissance, 
shared with the 348th Reconnaissance Squadron's Republic RF-84F, but
 still  keeping close support as secondary role.

 The Squadron won the NATO Best Hit Meeting for fighter-bombers at Larissa on 21-07-72
 against US Navy A-7B, USAF F-4E , Turkish AF F-104G, Italian AF G-91R.
 Main role changed
in April 1975 to day-interception as the Air Force preferred to use the
 Republic RF-84F, elderly but having longer range, for reconnaissance duties
. Cameras were
 removed from the
 aircrafts, the reconnaissance nose being kept except for 5 RF-5As which
 obtained the "normal" fighter nose. The Squadron's main role switched again to close-
 support in 1983, being re-deployed to the 110th Combat Wing at Larissa in September 1987.
 The furtherst base reached by Greek F-5s was by 2 Northrop RF-5A and 2 F-5B of this Squadron, when they rotated with the Spanish Ala 21 to Moron de la Frontera on 29-06-89.
 April 1991 saw the arrival of a new version of the Freedom Fighter: 10 former Dutch
 Canadair NF-5A and 1 NF-5B; these were transferred to the 343rd Squadron in 1993.
 Disbandment of the Squadron followed on 05-09-97.

  Photo: unknown
Northrop RF-5A-50 01620 349 Squadron at Larissa on 20-07-72, Best Hit Weapons Meet.

               
                Northrop RF-5A-45 97164, with RF nose but without cameras, seen on 03-06-91  Photo: Sergio Bottaro

 
Canadair NF-5A 3062, painted in Aegean Blue colours; before delivery to Greece it was in special red
colours with inscription "Redskins go F-16".                        Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


130th Combat Group


 Formerly designated Lemnos Air Detachment it was renamed 130th Combat Group sub-
 ordinated to the
111th Combat Wing in September 1974; 6 F-5s were detached to the
 Group in March 1975.

 The Group reported directly to the Tactical Air Force Headquarter as of 01-01-77. It
 transitioned later to Mc Donnell F-4E.