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Quwwat al Jawwiya al Malakhiah as Sa'udiya
Saudi Air Force
Last update 12-02-2014
In January 1964 there were cosultations between the US and the Saudi
governments regarding the possible purchase of a new fighter to
arm two/three Squadrons. The US
preferred to offer the Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter over the Lockheed
F-104G or F-104H to limit the use of the aircrafts in short range,
air-defence and light ground-attack duties. Northrop F-5B demonstrator
serial 63-08442 was evaluated in June 1964 at Wiesbaden, in August 1964
Contemporanously British Aircraft
Corporation conducted demonstration flights in Riyadh
of the much more powerful, but highly complex, Lightning and on 22 December 1965 Saudi Arabia announced an order to
supply for 34 BAC Lightning F. 53 and 6 Lightning T.55, putting an end to US
- An new, ambitous, programm to develop the Air Force was
established in the early '70s, when a less sophisticated aircraft,
mainly for ground attack and as secondary air interception
duties, was looked for to train local personnel and to reduce
the heavy dependance on foreign military support and of contractor
technicians. The Saudi aim was to achieve maximum self-sufficiency
in all facets of F-5 operations, training and support, but to
leave room for augmentation by outside help.
- The Northrop F-5,
modified in an pecular to the country form, was selected,
purchase went through US Foreign Military Sales channel. The
technical operation was integrated into the US Air Force spares
system so that parts and even complete refurbished aircraft would be
obtained direct from the USA. A large, double than required by NATO,
stock of spare parts was bought and stored at airbases and dispersal
- At the same, in 1973 McDonnell F-4 were requested
but the offer from the USA government placed unacceptable
restrictions, as it preferred to build bases with large hardened
aircraft shelters near to its main port/holy cities (Jeddah/Medina)
and sensitive borders (Yemen and Israel/Jordan/Iraq) in order to
make good for the short range of Northrop F-5s.
- Introduction of
the Tiger was accomplished in six phases, called Peace Hawk I to
Peace VI and lasted from 1971 till 1986; 1'000 air-to-air missile
AIM-9J, and in a second phase 600 AIM-9P-3, were also bought. In
flight refuelling tankers were needed for the rapid deployment to
the very distant bases; four, later increased to eight, Lockheed
KC-130H were received in 1975, first being part of No 4 and No 16
Squadron, later to equip No 32 Squadron
at Al Kharj AB (one has been lost on 16-02-85).
delivery (via the Atlantic in USAF markings) of the first two
Northrop F-5B was on 07-09-72, followed by two on 10-10-72, to be
completed 05-02-73 when the last six were delivered.
- The phases were
- Peace Hawk I
- A Letter of Offer and
Acceptance for 20 Northrop F-5B two-seat trainers was signed on
28-06-71 for USD 42.3m by the Saudi Arabian Minister of
Defense and Aviation, and included USD 25.2m for the
aircrafts, the remainder for check-out equipment, spares, mobile
training units and various other support equipment.
Northrop F-5B 01352 in USAF
delivery markings departing Prestwick on 05-02-73 under an winter
The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast collection.
The second Letter of Offer and Acceptance, this
time for 30 Northrop F-5E and support equipment was signed on
29 September 1971 for the value of USD 106.7m; the aircrafts cost
was USD 56.8m the remaining amount was utilized for the purchase of
support equipment, spares, contractor technical support, and
These aircraft, and the Northrop F-5B, had
some special features: aerial refueling capability (not on F-5B),
assisted take off system (JATO), LN-33 inertial navigation
system, reconnaissance nose with a KS-121A camera, ARN-58
instrument landing system. These features increased the total cost
to USD 128.4m. As a result of these changes, first deliveries
could only take place in January 1974 instead of December 1973, as
planned. Normal delivery schedule which was completed anyhow in late
First Northrop F-5E built 00903 for Saudi Arabia in early tests with Northrop RF-5A nose cone,
witout a-a refuelling drogue.
Northrop F-5E 00915 (Peace Hawk II) awaiting
delivery at McClellan AFB in 1974.
The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast collection
On 04-02-72 a contract was signed with the USAF to
establish with Northrop Aircraft Division (NAD), on behalf of Saudi
Primary objective was to assist the RSAF in
achieving maximum self-sufficiency in the operation and support of
their aircrafts. Northrop was to train pilot and technical
training for assigned RSAF personnel, construct and modify required
facilities at Dhahran and Taif Air Bases, conduct English language
courses, required maintenance and supply support while training RSAF
personnel to assume these duties.
Although this program was to
end on 15 August 1975, it was extended to 15 February 1976, for the
total cost of $265.7 million
Peace Hawk IV
for the fourth phase started in October 1973 with a the Saudi
price request for 50 Northrop F-5E. This was modified for during
summer 1974 to 40 Northrop F-5E and 20 F-5F; purchase
negotiations were only completed on 04 January 1975 due to
the crise of the Arab oil embargo on the USA; delivery was to be
between 1977 and 1980, price approximately USD 769m.
aircrafts were to be fitted with more sophisticated systems,
including APQ-159 improved radar , four underwing launchers for
the, 1'000 purchased in 1976, AGM-65A Maverick/laser guided bomb
capability (also seen as an anti-ship weapon), APX-101
IFF, ARN-108 ILS/CPO-80 (MOD) Flight Director Computer,
ALR-46(V)-2 Radar Warning Receiver, ALE-40 Chaff/Flares,
Northrop AVQ-27 manual laser target designator, provision for the
ALQ-101/119 ECM pod, Jest Assisted Take-Off (JATO) provision,
developments of some was financed by
Saudi Arabia. Two simulators were also included in the programm
as well as ten interchangeable reconnaissance noses kits for the
Tests for the new equipment was done on USAF
F-5Es from January 1975, initially without fully defined
improvements, delivery of the first aircraft was foreseen for June
1976, but waiting for full improvements, changed to September 1976;
production of the first 2 Northrop F-5E was
completed in September 1976. These aircrafts, together with 2
Northrop F-5F (completed in December 1976 and January 1977), were
utilised for testings at Edwads AFB by Tactical Air Command pilots,
completed by December 1977, though at least one Northrop F-5F
remained in the USA for additional tests. Further production
aircrafts were completed only with limited new systems, the rest was
to be installed in Saudi Arabia.
Part or Peace Hawk IV was the
retrofit the earlier, remaing 29 Northrop F-5E with the same
systems as the new production ones, 18 Northrop F-5B with new
radios and TACAN. The choice was between partial retrofit
in Saudi Arabia or full retrofit either in Saudi Arabia or by
Northrop at Palmdale, being transferred by Lockheed C-5 to/from USA.
This last option was chosen, modification began in July 1977 and was
completed by December 1978.
F-5F 50713 at Edwards AFB with red tail fin for tests in June
The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast collection
Peace Hawk VI
F-5E 00932 being upgraded at Palmdale, June 20, 1978, Saudi serial is hidden. Photo: Franz Wegmann
- This was a government-to-government contract to
provide follow-on support for all 109 Northrop F-5s; it was agreed
on 16-02-76 and was signed on 22-02-76, valued at USD 1'574
millions, covering the upgrading of the Saudi Air Bases system,
including operating depot supply activity at Dhahran and building of
three new ones during a period between 13 February 1976 until 15
June 1979. These bases were built to support the F-5s,
but, equipped with the latest test equipment, the facilities would
support also McDonnel F-15 at a later stage.
Involved the sale and delivery of four Northrop F-5Fs and 5 F-5E
to replace lost ones, similar to Peace Hawk IV aircrafts; it was
initiated on 30 January 1977 at a cost of approximately USD 23,3
millions, delivery foreseen by Lockheed C-5A in the second quarter
of 1978. The last 2 two-seaters were at McClellan AFB in April 1978 on delivery.
The end of Peace Hawk programms came in 1986, when it was phased.
in March 1982 of 10 Northrop RF-5E needed for a dedicated
reconnaissance capability, supplementing the camera nose equipped
Northrop F-5E, was not part of the programm.
and service enter
RF-5E 40195 painted in black transiting Alconbury AFB on delivery.
RF-5E 40196 in desert camouflage at Edwards AFB in 1985. In the
background the third
- prototype of the ill fated Northrop F-20.
Photo: The Northrop
F-5 Enthusiast collection
F-5Bs and first 30 F-5E were in-flight delivered to Saudi Arabia in
February 1974 via the North Atlantic, further deliveries on board of Lockheed C-5A.
The first class of F-5 piltos was graduated in summer 1973, when 16 Saudi-piloted Northrop F-5B participated to a flypast at Dhahran AB. Another flypast, by 16 Northrop F-5s of the Operational Conversion Unit,, took place in front of King Faisal on 03-12-74 at Dhahran AFB , together with 16 E.E. Lightnings.
Preliminary operational status was reached by the first two combat Squadrons by late 1975.
By 1977 there were 35 Tigers based at Dhahran (together with 20 Lightnings) and 35 at Khamis Mushait.
Northrop F-5E replaced the
BAC Lightning F. 53 in the attack and reconnaisance role, and
by 1978 they were RSAF's chief multirole fighter,
for the protection of sea lanes. The BAC Lightning
was formally retired from Saudi service at the end of 1985.
The first three Northrop RF-5E transited Prestwick airport
(United Kingdom) on delivery on 13-01-85, the last on 22-03-85. At
least four, most unusually, wore a very dark black colour the
others a normal desert camouflage.
Operation since mid 1990s
From 1994, poor
leadership of the Air Force, the mishandling of overall training,
underfunding and mismanaged Saudition, brought the Air Force to the
point of near-crisis. Lack of readiness, poor aircrew and
maintenance to aircraft ratios (heavily depending on foreign
labour and knowledge) forced the near-grounding of the
mid-1990s, the Kingdom began entering into agreements directly with
the third-party service providers to obtain maintenance and support
for the F-5 fleet. This was earlier done via USAF organisations. On
10-03-94 an agreement was signed with Lear Siegler to provide
technically qualified contractor manning to augment, assist, train
and advise RSAF personnel in overhaul/repair of aircrafts, ground
equipment and navigation aids for F-5 operation; on 16-03-95 for support
services; on 10-10-95 for spares; on 15-04-96 again for support
services; on 20-06-97 for technical data and assistance.
these contracts, F-5 parts and components that needed repair were
shipped from Saudi Arabia to Lear in San Antonio. Additonally Lear
sent peronnel to Saudi Arabia. These integrated with RSAF personnel
providing training and support in post-ejection survival, photo
reconnaissance, flight operations and in fighter weapons and
in-country operation and maintenance was secured by a local company,
All Mozoon Group (in partnership with Lear Siegler), with the
acquisition of all new and rebuilt parts.
- Remaining nine Northrop RF-5E were upgraded with
the installation of Global Positioning System navigation in a
$7.4m deal with Northrop Grumman in 1997. Twenty-seven RF-5E
mission-planning systems were purchased from Lockheed-Sanders
Corporation (now BAE Systems) in 1995; structure was strengthened to
prolongue operational life.
mentioned contracts with Lear Siegler expired
in 1999; aircrafts parts still in storage at San Antonio and Saudi
Arabian taxes claims leaded to an US court dispute, only partially
solved 10 years later.
Requests for authorisation for purchase of spares for Northrop F-5 and
RF-5 were placed with the US Governement till at least October 2005,
but number of Squadrons operating Tigers were constantly reduced (see Units/operation page).
- Lack of finance and necessity to improve
readiness, training, and capability for joint operations were
factors that delayed the selection/purchase of a Tiger replacement till 2007, when on September 11th a
contract was signed with the United Kingdom governement for the
acquisition of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon, first two being delivered to Taif AB on 24-06-09.
- The only known preserved aircraft is at the Air Force Museum, on show at his premises in Riyadh, first noted in April 2006. Northrop F-5F
Northrop F-5E 1504 at the Air
Force Museum on 15-11-07
is no news of Northrop F-5 intervention against Houthi rebels at the
Saudi/Yemeni border during November 2009-January 2010; confirmed are
only McDonnel F-15s and BAE Tornado operations. About a dozen Tugers were reactivated only for a short time in 2010.
According to unofficial sources an
offer for sale of 55 Northrop F-5E/F was issued on 17-08-09, additional to
follow later; two simulators for each 15 aircrafts purchased were
available as well as a free training programm for 4 aircrews and 4
groundcrews per 15 aircrafts purchased. No price was given, just the
highest bid; no aircraft could be sold.
Another tentative to sell 79 Tigers was started via an US broker in
December 2014, opening date of envelopes offers being the 20th February
2015. The 78 aircrafts. Northrop F-5E, F-5F and RF-5E, are stored at Taif - Al Fahd AB along an auxiliary runway.
Fortyeight of the strored Northrop F-5 have been offered to Tunisia in
the context of security co-operation between the two countries.
exact information is available regarding various training losses.
losses till 1976 were: two Northrop F-5B and 1 Northrop
F-5E; by 2000 approximately 20 of all types.
- Some (serials not known) are listed hereunder, others (serials known) in the serials sections:
Northrop F-5B: 21-07-76 at Taif,
13-04-92 at Khamis Mushait
Northrop F-5E: 27-08-78 near Hofuff; 1982, 1984, 1985 at Taif, 16-07-88 near Dhahran
Northrop F-5F: 1977 at Taif, 01-03-88 in Northern Saudi Arabia, based at
Taif, 05-04-04 at