Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page - Home
Republic of Iran Air Force /نيروي هوايي جمهوري اسلامي ايران
Credit: Roundels of the world
Last update 04-08-2014
- Teheran/Mehrabad = 1st "Shahid Lashkari" Tactical Air Base
datas given in this section are unofficial, details
= 2nd "Shahid Fakoori" Tactical Air Base
= 4th "Shahid Nojeh" Tactical Air Base
- Akha Jari/Omidieh =
5th Tactical Air Base
= 8th "Shahid Babel" Tactical Air Base
- Chah Bahar
= 10th "Shahid Dol Hamed" Tactical Air Base
= 14th "Shahid Babael" Tactical Air Base
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.
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.
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
purchase, amongst which 160 F-16s foreseen as successors to
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 Foreign technicians had been withdrawn,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
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
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
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.
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
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.
"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
Bomb laden F-5F 3-7172 ready
to go on next
mission with Mk82 bombs equipped with "Snakeye"
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
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.
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
and Iraq generally sought to conserve their aircraft though there were
F-5 combats against Iraqi MiG-21s with losses on both parts,
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
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
ones. No confirmed details are known,
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 ejection-history.org.uk 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
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
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)
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
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
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.
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
Mikoyan MiG-29s were bought from Russia and China to re-equip some
As of the beginning of 1995 the Northrop F-5 changes had been reported as follows:
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.
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
Photo: T. Babak
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)
23rd Tactical Fighter
Squadron with Saegeh (3), MiG-29A (ca 8) MiG-29UB (ca 3)
Dezful/Vahdati / 4th
Tactical AB - 41st
Tactical Fighter Squadrons with (ca 10 F-5E,
Tactical Training Squadrons with (ca 11 F-5F)
Southern - no F-5
/ 8th Tactical AB - houses the Air Force Flying School with the
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.
Mashhad / 14th Tactical AB - 141st Tactical Fighter
Squadron with F-5E (ca 3), F-5F (ca 3)
Air Base transferred to the Air Defense Force by September 2014 which was formed in 2008,
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.
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
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).
PARADES, EXERCISES, MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS
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.
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
versions (see Iran Upgrades page). Some are shown
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 MiG-29A, Mig-29UB and Sukhoi Su-24MKs.
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.