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                                        Last update 10-02-2014

Due to continous tension with the People's Republic of Korea (technically still at war) little official information about its aircrafts/units; much information given here is subject to confirmation, particularly details written in blue.

All first line units are under the command of the Air Force Operations Command at Osan AB (near Seoul).

An internal paperof the US Commander in Chief Pacific dated 1964 there is mention of a sixth F-5 Squadron; only five units have been cofirmed/identified.



10th Fighter Wing

  The first Northrop 16 F-5As and 4 F-5B entered
  officially service at Suwon with the 105th Fighter
on 30-04-65,
 nine single-seaters over-
  flew Suwon during the ceremony; it had
  operational status on 01-09-65.

  The second unit to reequip was the 102nd Fighter
  Squadron, also based at Suwon AB, with 14 F-5A;
  by mid January 1966 both units were operational;
  one USAF instructor was attached to the Wing.

  The Squadrons were originally based at Kimpo AB,
  equipped with North American F-86F.
 Handing over ceremony on 30-04-65  Photo: R.O.K AF

  Photo: unknown
Early photo of Sidewinder armed F-5A-15 38436 10th Fighter Wing; Squadron attachment was shown with two
darts painted on tail, green or red. Unfortunately no details are known which colour belonged to which Squadron.

11th Fighter Wing
 The 110th Fighter Squadron at Daegu AB followed
as third Squadron on 01-05-1966, again
 replacing N. American F-86F at Kimpo AB.
 The Squadron was re-equipped with McDonnell F-4Ds, the first four arriving in Korea in August 1969.

Initial rate of operation of the both F-5 equipped Wings was high, around 70%; 13 flying hours per aircraft/month.

1st Fighter Wing
Gwangju AB
Sixteen of the two-seater were Fiscal Year 1974 aircrafts, received under the US programm Peace Needle; they went to the 115th Undergraduate Pilot Training Squadron; the Squadron recorded its 27'000th accident free flying hours on F-5B in over 4 years on 12-12-77. The same unit obtained during 1977 the Top Gunnery trophy; it was at a later stage renamed 115th Flight Training Squadron, based at Yecheon AB. The F-5Bs were replaced by Northrop T-38A starting from May 1999.

It can be cold in Korea! F-5B 42122 at Osan AB 30-01-81                     Photo: Eugene L. Zorn

The 1st Wing, in the form of the 102nd Fighter Squadron and 122nd Fighter Squadron received the remaining Northrop F-5A and F-5B when the newer Northrop F-5E Tiger was introduced (see F-5A Retirement below).
132th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 39th Tactical Reconnaissance Group
The Group was attached to the 10th Fighter Wing at Suwon AB, the 132 TRS flew Northrop RF-5A, the 131st TRS Squadron operated McConnell RF-4Cs.

  The Northrop RF-5A reconnaissance Squadron was most probably designated 125th Tactical
  Reconnaissance Squadron before 1978.
  Some Northrop F-5A and F-5B were also received as trainers. The reconnaissance version soldiered
  on till June 2007; no RF-5A has been lost till their retirement.

Badge 125 Squadron

Hawker125-800 RA and Hawker125-800 SIG for electronic and SIGINT reconnaissance were ordered in 1995 and delivered beginning of the next century; the Group was transferred to Seongnam AB.

                Air-to-air view of former Vietnamese RF-5A-45 97148               Photo: R.O.K AF

Black Eagles
The acrobatic formation, equipped with F-5As, replaced the Blue Sabre Team's North American F-86F in 1967; it flew in a formation  of six aircrafts, initially as part of the 10th Fighter Wing with special painted aircrafts. They only trained 2-3 months before the only foreseen performance, the Air Force Day at Seoul on October 1st; the same for the years 1968, 1969, after which the shows were supended. The years 1973 till 1978 saw again the appearance of the formation, having obtained some Northrop RF-5As from 1974.
It was disbanded in 1978, when simple overflies of F-5 from the Squadrons were organised till the formation was reformed on 12-12-94 flying Cessna A-37Bs.

  Black Eagle Badge 1973

  Black Eagles during 1967
  Photo: R.O.K. AF
F-5A Operations/exercises
Some known F-5A operations are the interception on 11-05-66, some 110 km NE of Ullung Island (off Korea's East coast), of a Soviet AF An-8 which was monitoring  fallout from an Chinese nuclear experiment that had taken place two days earlier.

Photo: R.O.K AF

On January 23rd, 1971 2 Northrop F-5A intercepted an hijacked a Korean AL Fokker F-27 flying towards North Korea, forcing it to crash-land before reaching the border.

During the Yellow Sea incident 26/27-02-75, when North Korean boats approached South Korean (disputed) islands, a counter-inflirtation package of 2 Northrop F-5A, 1 Lockheet AT-33A, 1 C-46 flare ship took-off and conducted an combat air patrol over the disputed area, without need to intervene. During the same days North Korean fighters (thought to be MiG-21s) penetrated the South Korean Air Defence Identication Zone) and South Korean McDonnell F-4D, Northrop F-5As were scrambled. It seems that the North Korean aircrafts retreated when they were met by the F-4Ds with their AIM-7E Sparrows missiles, but ignored the F-5As.

On 14-07-75 Northrop F-5As and US F-4E conducted the first combined emergency landing and take-off exercise on the Seoul-Pusan expressway near Suwon.

F-5A Retirement

                   Camouflaged F-5A-50 01386 seen on 11-08-75 at Osan AB
                                                                                  Photo: The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast archives

All remaining single- and double seaters were kept in use by the 1st Fighter Wing at Kwangju AB when the more modern Northrop F-5/F was delivered to various units. Its  102nd Fighter Squadron (transferred from the 10th Fighter Wing at Suwon AB) and 122nd Fighter Squadron operated as Operational Converion Units till 03-08-05, when they were disbanded, enabling the withdrawal on 03-03-06 of the approximately 40 remaining Northrop F-5A and F-5B; half of them was put on sale for USD 100.00 each (as a strategy to export the new KAI T-50 supersonic trainer), without success; the rest was used for educational and demonstration purposes.

Badge 102 Squadron     Badge 122 Squadron Jaguar

The 122nd Fighter Squadrons was transferred to the 11th Wing at Daegu and received McDonnell F-15Ks from December 2006. What a performance jump! The second F-15K equipped Squadron was the 102nd, also transferred to the 11th Wing at Daegu.

               Photo: R.O.K. AF
            F-5A-15s 01383/10522, 102nd Squadron in new air-defence colours        

Serials not known: Two F-5A collided on 13-12-92; one F-5A and 1 F-5B collided on 19-10-94.

Preserved aircrafts
Several Freedom Fighters and early Tigers have been noted at various locations:
69131 at Seoul; 10552 at Sacheon Airspace museum; 38436 at Osan AB, 38391 at Gunsan;
89046 at Seoul War Memorial Museum; 69146 at Muan; 13309 where?

42117, is at the Boramae Park                                                                Photo: unknown
Others are:
89095 at Cheongju; 63449 at Seoul - Aviation University


              F-5E 50573 with RWR, new air defence camouflage and Sidewinders
        Photo: Alex Fushi

Unfortunately no fully confirmed details about units are known; herewith a list of Wings/Squadrons thought to have been re-equipped or new formed, see end of page for units aircrafts re-equipment:

1st Fighter Wing - Kwangju AB
115th Fighter Squadron
Early reports mention this as one of the first Tiger equipped Squadrons, see F-5A 115th Flight Training Squadron

123rd Fighter Squadron
Early reports mention this as one of the first Tiger equipped Squadrons, now KF-16 equipped
206th Fighter Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F

                         8th   Fighter Wing - Wonju AB                   
103rd Fighter Squadron  (ex North American F-86F at Kimpo AB)                207  Fighter Squadron
 - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
203rd Fighter Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
The Squadron was re-equipped with  KAI T-50 becoming a training unit in 2008 and transferred to Wonju AFB.
207th Fighter Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E, Northrop/KAI KF-5E / KF-5F.                                                            Now transferred to Suwon AFB in May 2014.


 Photo: Rider!s
Northrop F-5E 50599, 103rd Squadron with Dissimilar Air Combat Training pod

The 103rd Fighter Squadron at Wonju AB received the first of sixty KAI FA-50 on 20-08-13.

                Photo: unknown
Three Northrop F-5E and two F-5F of the Wing at the opening ceremony of the Seoul Airshow 20-10-09

10th Fighter Wing - Suwon AB

  101st Fighter Squadron - equipped with Northrop F-5E   
  Northrop/KAI KF-5E / KF-5F (ex N. American F-86F at
  Kimpo AB)
  201st Fighter Squadron
- equipped with Northrop F-5E
  Northrop/KAI KF-5E / KF-5F

Badge 10th Wing                                                                     Badge 101st Squadron, 201st Squadron
  The 10th Wing has the 38th Fighter Group - Kunsan AB as a
  subordinate unit.                                                         
The 111th Fighter Squadron is part of the Group, was equipped with
  Northrop F-5E / F-5F
                                                                              Badge 111th Squadron

111th Fighter Squadron was transferred from Kunsan to Suwon AB beginning 80's where its North American F-86F were replaced by F-5Es, returning mid 80's to Kunsan AB. The Tigers were replaced by General Dynamics F-16s in October 1986.                                                   
 16th Fighter Wing - Yecheon AB
 Tigers of this Wing have logged 50'000 flying hours free of accidents on
 26-05-81 after 56 
months of F-5E operation (has received F-5Es
 in January 1976). It was the first time of grounding a fighter type
due to
 an accident
.                                                  Badge 202nd Squadron
Fighter Squadron  - first unit to be equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
This Squadron was disbanded in March, to be re-equipped from September with KAI FA-50 T-50, la mission by four
Northrop F-5 on 28-02-14. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  18th Fighter Wing - Gangneung AB
Badge 112th Squadron

105th Fighter Squadron (ex Northrop F-5A/F-5B, 10th Fighter Wing)                   Badge 105th Squadron Early reports mention this Squadron with 11th Fighter Wing at Daegu AB
112th Fighter Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
(ex North American F-86F at Kimpo AB)
205th Fighter Training Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F was established on
20-09-77 as an fighter pilot training unit. Disbanded 30-11-15.
  Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E 01642 205 Squadron landing at Gangneungin February 1976, note RWR, 205th Squadron badge on tail.

The milestone of 120'000 flight hours without a single accident was reached on 13-01-10 by the 205th Squadron, setting a new world record of flight hours without accident for a single Squadron on a single fighter type. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  29th Tactical and Training Group - Cheongju AB
  192th Tactical Development and Training Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F, KF-5E/KF-5F.
  This Squadron provides Dissimilar Air Combat Training and Fighter Weapons Instructor courses.

F-5E 50521 at Kunsan on 16-02-02                      Photo: Archives The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Regular exercises called "Team Spirit" have been hold since 1976 and 1993 with the participation of the US Air Force. Korean F-5s have participated to all issues, including one in March 1978 against USAF F-4s.

In August 1984 F-5s and Korean F-4s participated to Team Spirit '84 with USAF F-15s, F-4s, F-16s, while in January 1991 landings on a highway landing site was exercised.

"Max Thunder" exercise in June 2007 at Kunsan AB saw the participation of 8 Korean General Dynamics/KAI KF-16, 4 McDonnell F-4, 2 F-5E and 20 USAF F-16s, 4 A-10s. The same exercise has been repeated in June 2008, this time including the participation of Korean F-15Ks and USAF F-15E.

  Photo: Greg L. Davis
Northrop/KAI KF-5F 10595, 10th Fighter Wing, in a line-up with USAF 8th Fighter Wing F-16s on 28-09-03.

Another important exercise was the participation at Nellis AFB of 3 Northrop F-5F to the Red Flag exercises between 18-08-79 and  29-09-79 as well as between 05-03-80 and 15-04-80, each time with 3 (plus 1 reserve) new built Northrop F-5F, before these were transferred to Korea.

F-5F 80787 at Nellis AFB on 29-03-80                                                   Photo: Ben Knowles

Not an exercise but an operation on alarm by KF-5Es of the 201st Fighter Squadron, was the escort to Suwon AB on 21-02-86 of defecting People's Republic of China Shenjang J-6 (MiG-19) serial 3283, a reconnaissance aircraft.
Several interceptions were also made of Soviet reconnaissance aircrafts, amongst which the escort beginning 1989 of a Tu-16 Badger in close vicinity of S. Korea, as well as of several Il-20 Coot-A ELINT during the cold war years.
Another interception happened on 20-02-03: 2 Northrop F-5E were deployed (followed by other 4) to engage a North Korean MiG-19 when it crossed a western maritime boundary; they flew 8 miles into S Korean airspace before heading back.

     Ilyushin Il-20 ELINT aircraft being intercepted by an F-5E           Photo: Republic of Korea AF

The latest known scramble of 4 Korean Northrop F-5s happened on 08-03-05, when an Japanese civil aircraft violated the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone near the (with Japan) disputed Tokdo Islets, keeping the aircraft away from the islets.

Serials not known: one F-5E 09-04-97, 14-09-99, 13-05-03 (16th Wing), 19-09-03 2 F-5E (8th Wing), 11-03-04 2 F-5E (10th Wing), 2 F-5E from Suwon AB collided on 02-11-04, 13-07-05 1 F-5F(10th Wing) collided with 1 F-4E (17th Wing), 1 F-5E on 04-11-08 from Wonju AB (8th Wing) colliding with another F-5E.


First Tiger Squadron to re-equip was the 203rd Squadron at Wonju AB, changing its role from a fighter to a trainer unit and its home base to Kwangju in June 2005. It received Korean Aerospace Industries T-50s, first 2 examples being delivered in December 2005. Pilots training began in February 2007.

The 111th Fighter Squadron followed shortly after, transitioning to the locally built KAI/General Dynamics KF-16C and transferring its Tiger to other units. The final Tiger flight of the Squadrn was made on 13-10-06 by 2 F-5E; contemporaneously it was transferred to the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan AB, receiving in November 2006 its first KF-16s.

It was foreseen to replace the remaining Tigers with an armed, single-seater version of the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 trainer, designated FA-50; 22 were ordered.

The 202nd Fighter Squadron  was disbanded in March 2014, to be re-equipped from September with KAI FA-50 T-50, last mission by four Northrop F-5 on 28-02-14.