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  Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force /
نيروي هوايي جمهوري اسلامي ايران

Credit:  Roundels of the world

                            Last update 14-06-2017

    - Teheran/Mehrabad  =  1st "Shahid Lashkari" Tactical Air Base
    - Tabriz                    =  2nd "Shahid Fakoori" Tactical Air Base
    - Dezful/Vahdati        =  4th "Shahid Nojeh"   Tactical Air Base
    - Akha Jari/Omidieh   =  5th  Tactical Air Base
    - Isfahan                   =  8th
"Shahid Babel"   Tactical Air Base
    - Chah Bahar             = 10th "Shahid Dol Hamed" Tactical Air Base
    - Mashad                   = 14th
"Shahid Babael"  Forward Air Station

  All datas given in this section are unofficial, details
  written in 
blue without underline are not confirmed.
  Only confirmation is to where aircrafts are based
  as some F-5s have the number of the Air Base where
  they are based painted on the tail.

 The Islamic Republic has been lately more open in
 showing aircrafts, but sometimes mixing reliable to confusing information. Good photos of F-5s have
 surfaced thanks to local information agencies and aviation enthusiasts.

Transitional Period 1979-1980
The Islamic Republic of Iran was officially declared on 01-04-79, after the overthrow of the Imperial Iranian government; almost the whole Air Force had been virtually grounded by late 1978 due to the unrests, situation improving by mid-1979.

Withdrawal of membership to the CENTO defence pact had already been announced in February 1979 as well as the cancellation of USD 7 billion worth of arms purchase, amongst which 160 F-16s foreseen as successors to the Northrop F-5.
Much of the Air Force equipment was grounded in the latter half of 1978 and for most of 1979; a high number of personnel had left the country and many others were no more available. Foreign technicians had been withdrawn, while the new government assumed an anti-Western stance; the US declared an arms embargo on 09-11-79 and broke diplomatic relations with Iran on 07-04-80.
It is claimed that the departing American advisors wiped out the computer-based spare parts inventory control system, causing a logistical headache, which took Iran years to sort out.
All these evenments brought as a consequence a severe spare and maintenance problem for the F-5 fleet.

By late 1979 following Wings/Squadrons were thought to exist:

1st Reconnaissance Wing
at Teheran/Mehrabad
    11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron with RF-5A (Sqn had also RF-4E, RT-33A)
    - Was flying McDonnell F-4E, RF-4E by the beginning of the Iraq war (22-09-80)

    12th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Tehran /Mehrabad with F-5A / F-5B
- Was flying McDonnell F-4E by the beginning of the Iraq war (22-09-80)

21st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tabriz 
    21st, 22nd, 23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron with F-5E

41st Tactical Fighter Wingat at Dezful/Vahdati
    41st, 42nd Tactical Fighter Squadron with F-5E
     43rd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron with F-5E, F-5F

The war with Iraq (1980-1988) brought a sharp change to this situation.
Starting from beginning of 1980 friction along the 800 miles Iraqi/Iranian border,
initially limited to small arms and artillery shells and flights along the borders. This evolved into full war on 22-09-80 when Iraqi MiG-21s and MiG-23s attacked 10 Iranian air bases in an attempt to destroy the Air Force on the ground. This failed, mainly because most of the aircrafts were in specially strengthened hangars and within a few hours Iranian fighters attacked two Iraqi Air Bases. A total of approximately 160 Northrop F-5E were available.
Operation "Kaman 99" was organised for the next day as a response to the aggression; 48 F-5Es from Tabriz AB participated attacking Mosul AB in northern Iraq and 40 F-5Es heavily damaged Nasiriyah AB in southern Iraq.  One report mention the participation of "only" 40 Northrop F-5E, F-5F from Tabriz AFB and Vahdati AFB.

All available personnel (mainly young, at any level) was mobilised; the operation's target was to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy while saving the aircrafts as there were no replacement ones and little spares available. Every damaged F-5 was repaired as quickly as possible or, if not possible, stored, cannibalised (to keep others flying) to be repaired after the war in thousands of working hours.

        Bomb laden F-5F 3-7172 ready to go on next mission with Mk82 bombs equipped with "Snakeye"
        fins.                                                                                                     Photo: unknown

Spare parts were bought through any possible source, arms dealers and from other F-5 users, but in the later years the own aircraft industry could supply locally manufactured parts.

Main duty of F-5E Squadrons was initially to attack advancing Iraqi armor in Southern and Central flat desert war fronts with CBU cluster bombs, heat bombs, napalm bombs and Maverick missiles as well as to attack ground targets like bridges with 500 lbs bombs; second duty was interception. These duties remained throughout the war.
Northrop RF-5As deployed to three bases undertook reconnaissance flights; by 1979 only approximately four of these were operational.

        Northrop RF-5A 2-7207 belonging to the 11th Squadron             Photo: unknown

Iran and Iraq generally sought to conserve their aircraft though there were F-5 combats against Iraqi MiG-21s with losses on both parts,  in addition to losses due to anti-aircraft fire during ground attack operations; the number of F-5s available for combat continually decreased reaching about 65 serviceable by beginning of 1983 and about 40-45 by October 1985.

Reports also indicate that Ethiopia was the source an unknown number of aircrafts. This varies according the source between 8 F-5A, 2 F-5B  and 4 F-5E or only 10 F-5s of an unknown mix
, bought in June 1985 at an initially extremely high price, USD 68m, later reduced to USD 34m; also possible the sale of only 4 Northrop F-5E at a total cost of USD68m in June 1985 (average was 490 hours flown) entering service in 1988 after their refurbishment was completed. It seems that the Air Force would have preferred not to accept the aircrafts at all after seeing the first ones. No confirmed details are known, as all involved parties prefer to keep silence.
This deal is confirmed with the sighting in April 2009 of 3 Northrop F-5A and of 1 Northrop F-5E in September 2009.

A book containing much information about the air war is "Iran-Iraq War in the Air, 1980-1988" by Tom Cooper & Farzad Bishop; other "acig organisation" pages give details about the battles between the two countries.

Losses of Northrop F-5 since 1971 can be found in site. Here 28 F-5s are listed as lost during the war. Unconfirmed reports estimate that a total of approximately 90 aircrafts were lost. Also unconfirmed is the information that one F-5E pilot deserted in 1983 to Turkey and one in 1984 to Saudi Arabia. Both aircrafts were returned to Iran later.
Some aircrafts were recovered by Boeing CH-47C Chinook after having been damaged by Iraqi anti-aircrafts fire.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards - Guards Suicide Squadron
This is a special Corps formed to defend the Islamic Revolution. Some Guards were trained to fly and it has been reported that during the conflict they planned in 1983 suicide missions against the US Fleet in the Persian Gulf. The Squadron was scheduled to fly McDonnel F-4s, but these were too precious to be lost in such missions; they obtained 3 F-5As, 4 F-5B and 1 F-5E, it seems in poor conditions. Training on these aircrafts was at Bandar Abbas AB (Otober 1983). The attacks never happened and the Squadron was disbanded within a relatively short time, returning the aircrafts to the Air Force.

After the conflict (from 1988)

 Couple of Sidewinder armed F-5E flying over a majestic desert landscape   Photo: MEHR Agency

Following air defence units are known to have been equipped armed with Northrop F-5s at the end of the conflict (1988):
                    21st Tactical Fighter Squadron at TFB 2 Tabriz with more than 20 Northrop F-5E, F-5F
                    (equipped with only a small number according another source)
                    71st Combat Crew Training Squadron at TFB 7 Shiraz with Northrop F-5A, RF-5A; it received six former 21st TFS Northrop F-5E approximately 1992
The last mentioned Squadron was mainly tasked with advanced weapons and flight training; it was foreseen to be re-equipped with MiG-29s, but these were enbargoed by Russia in 1992.

Additional units
might have been stationed at other bases; 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at TFB 2 Tabriz had been disbanded.

Most of the remaining fighter force was grounded due to lack of spare parts, being damaged or being only limited mission capable.

Reconstruction of all damaged airframes, some of them under cannibalisation, started to augment the approximately 60 remaining airframes, while Mikoyan MiG-29s were bought from Russia and China to re-equip some Squadrons.

As of the beginning of 1995 the Northrop F-5 changes had been reported as follows:
he only RF-5A equipped Squadron 11 at Mehrabad AB, as well as 23rd Squadron at Tabriz formerly with F-5E, were re-equipped with MiG-29A/C and MiG-29UB received between 07-10-90 and late -91, changing their role to air defence; the remaining Northrop RF-5A (possibly 2) were transferred to Dezful/Vahdati AFB; Squadrons 51, 52, 53 at Omidieh had received Shenyang F-7M and FT-7M (the improved Chinese MiG-21 copy) about 1991, also for air defence.
"Simorgh" aerobatic team with Northrop F-5B existed, but was disbanded following the loss of two aircrafrats early '90s.

Northorp F-5F 3-7172 50689 4th Tactical AB                                   Photo: S. Shahram


    Northrop F-5E 3-7331 2th Tactical AB landing at Teheran-Mehrabad; well visible in the
    background the snow covered Albourz mountains.                          
Photo: T. Babak

Present deployment

Recent photos show F-5s tails adorned with the numbers 2, 4 or 8, relating to the Tactical AB where they are based. Only four Tiger Squadrons have been reported to exist after the war, plus one advanced training Squadron with F-5B/Simorgh; no pictures show tail with number 14 (TAB).
Western  - Tabriz               / 2nd Tactical AB - 21st Tactical Fighter Squadron with F-5E
(ca 18), F-5F (ca 4)
Tactical Fighter Squadron with Saegeh (7), MiG-29A  (ca 8) MiG-29UB (ca 3)

              - Dezful/Vahdati   / 4th Tactical AB - 41st
Tactical Fighter Squadrons with (ca 10 F-5E, possibly F-5F)
 43rd Tactical Training Squadrons with (ca 11 F-5F)
Southern - no F-5 equipped unit

Eastern   - Isfahan           /  8th Tactical AB
 -  houses the Air Force Flying School with the
                                                                    85th Advanced and Weapons Training Squadron - F-5A (ca 3),
F-5B (ca 8), FT-7N (some)
                Based at Isfahan from the mid 90's till March 2010.
/ 14th Tactical AB  - 141st Tactical Fighter Squadron with F-5E (ca 3), F-5F (ca 3)
                                        Air Base transferred to the Air Defense Force (
formed in 2008) September 2014,
                                        controlling all land based air defence (surface-to-air missiles, radars, anti-aircraft guns only)

  Photo: Danial Behman
All Northrop F-5 versions in Iranian use are shown in this photo taken at Dezful-Vahdati AB in March 2010

Two Northrop F-5B and two RF-5A were placed in storage approximately 2006 and usad for spare parts source, but were sent to Mehrabad F-5 repair center in 2009 and redelivered to the Air Force in December 2010 after overhaul and several modifications.

Some losses are also known:
Two Northrop F-5B, part of the "Simorgh" aerobatic team were lost early '90s; one aircraft (type?) from Vahdati AB on 10-05-07
a collision with fatal consequence happened on 22-09-09 between 1 Northrop F-5E and 1 Northrop F-5F of the 21st Tactical Fighter Squadron; another 21st TFS Northrop F-5E was lost on 09-09-11 during the military exercise in Northwestern Iran (Tabriz).

Regular aerial parades above Teheran sky and particularly Mehrabad AB take place on the Army Day (18th Apr) and on 22nd September (Anniversary of the start of the Iraq war), while exercises are mainly held in September/October. Air shows and open days take also place, especially at Vahdati AB.

The yearly parades are very importat to the regime to show to the population and to show abroad the Iranian military power. Aircrafts participating are mainly based at Teheran-Mehrabad (1st TFB).

The 2007
National Army Day parade took place on 22-04-07 with the participation of 3 Saegeh.

The 2008 National Army Day (April 17th) was the biggest ever; a total of 23 Northrop F-5E and F-5F participated to a flypast: 1 F-5A, 15 F-5E, 7 F-5F, in addition to 10 locally modified versions (see Iran Upgrades page). Some are shown hereunder:

  Line-up of Northrop F-5E and F-5F at Tehran-Mehrabad on 17-04-2008 to participate to the air-parade

The parade on 22-09-09 brought six Northrop F-5E, 9 F-5F from Tabriz AB (
2nd TAB) and Dezful (4th TAB) plus 2 Northrop F-5B from Izfahan (8th  TAB) and 4 Saegeh over Teheran's sky.

Three Saeqeh, three Northrop F-5F from the 21st Tac tical Fighter Squadron, one Northrop F-5F of the 42nd TFS were to participate to the 2012 edition on April 17th but only the last mentioned aircraft could participate due to poor weather at Tabriz AB.

Three Saeqeh and three Northrop F-5F participated to the parade on 18-04-14.

Complete maintenance and overhaul of the Northriop F-5 series is been taking place at Tabriz AB, now named Shaheed Fakouri AB.


The first "Milad-e-Noure-Velayat" exercise took place at the end of June 2007 in Southern Iran; one Northrop F-5F was lost during it.

The 2008 "Fedaiaan-e-Harim 4", Defenders of Velayat Sanctuary 4, exercise started on 20-12-08; it saw the participation of Northrop F-5s and Saeqeh in addition to McDonnell F-4s, Mirage F.1 and Sukhoi Su-24

Several Northrop F-5E, F-5F, Azkharash and at least 2 Saegeh participated to the "Milad-e-Noure-Velayat" exercise, held over the Persian Gulf between June 22nd and 24th 2009, together with McDonnel F-4 Phantoms and Sukhoi Su-24s; one of the participating Northrop F-5F from 43rs TF Squadron crashed during the manoeuvers.

A massive exercise was held in October 2010 in Western and Central Iran called "Modafeen Harim Velayat".

The "Milad-e-Noure-Velayat 2" 2010 edition was between August 4th and 7th from Tabriz AB; Northrop F-5s, 3 Azkharashs were present together with McDonnel F-4 Phantoms, Chengdu F-7s and Sukhoi Su-24s. They practiced aerial gunnery, hitting air-to-ground targets and perform overnight operations.

Northrop F-5s, Azarakhsh and Saeqeh participated between September 7th and 15th, 2011 to the main phase of the "Fadayeen-e Harim-e Vellayat 3" (Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries) exercise in the Tabriz area (Northwestern iran) together with McDonnel F-4s, Sukhoi Su-24s and Mig-29s; reconnaissance, attack missions, night raids on fixed and mobile target. A Sidewinder fired by a Northrop F-5 during the exercise was destroyed by a MiG-29 launched R-73 air-to-air missile. One Northrop F-5E from 21st TFS was lost during the exercise, on 09-09-11.

Northrop F-5E 3-7306 with SU-22 rockets launcher armed was seen during exercise Fadayeen-e Harim-e Vellayat 3

The fourth edition of
 Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 3 exercise took place between 12-11-12 and 18-11-12 with the participation of Northrop F-5 and McDonnell F-4, Grumman F-14 and Sukhoi Su-24 based in Eastern and Southern Air Bases.

Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 4 exercise, December 21st and 22nd 2013, was concentrated on the defence of Bandar Abbas port in Southern Iran; Northrop F-5s and Saeqeh together with Sukhoi Su-24, McDonnell F-4s and Mirage F.1 paricipated to it.

 Photo: IRNA
Northrop F-5E 3-7335 50689 2th Tactical AB with 2 exercise bombs seen on take-off during
Milad-e-Noor-e-Velayat manoeuver June 22-24 2009 in Southern Iran.


                     500 pounds bombs armed second and fifth prototypes during the exercise
                     "Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 3" in September 2011.       Photo: IRNA

                Fifth prototype 3-7370 seen during
"Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 3" exercise

 Photo: MEHR
                        Armed Northrop F-5F 3-7169

Fada'ian-e-Harime Velayt 5 (Devotees of the Country's Territory-5) was an held in the Izfahan province took place two phases, between
between May 2nd and 14th and in July  2015 . This saw the operation of new ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) tactics flown by McConnell F-4Es and Sukhoi Su-24MKs with their locally upgraded AN/ALQ101 pods. Participants were Northrop F-E and F-5F from 21st and 23rd Sqn, (based at Tabriz) as well as the 41st Sqn (based at Dezful).
A third phase was restricted to two days (September 5th and 6th) with the participation of 3 Northrop F-5E (21st Sqn), 2 Saegeh I, 1 Saegeh II  (23rd Sqn) based, both at 2nd TFB Fakkuri, and the 41 TFS (based at the 4th TFB Vahdati) with 1 Northrop F-5E and 4 Northrop F-5F. They concentrated on strike sorties at higher altitudes than normal, protected by the ECM aircrafts.
All these were temporarely based at TFB8 at Babalee (Khatami) together with Chengdu F-7,
MiG-29A, Mig-29UB and Sukhoi Su-24MKs.

Defenders of Velayat Skies 7 took place in south Iran 
on December 2016 improving aerial security of the country. There is no official mention of Northrop F-5 participating to this excercise, though very probable

Beginnig 2016 some Northrop F-5E were based at Mashad Forward Air Station to keep "Zulu Scramble* excercises together with GAMD Mirage F.1s.

Unofficial sources informed that Tigers from the 2nd (Tabris) and 4th TFB (Dezful/Vahdati) performed several interdiction sorties
between November 18th and 20th 2014 against Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Iraq, Diyala province.

Beginnig 2016 some Northrop F-5E were based at Mashad Forward Air Station to keep "Zulu Scramble* excercises together with local GAMD Mirage F.1s.

    Photo: unknown
                                  Northrop F-5E performing an excercise with a two-seater MiG-29.