The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page  -  Home

       لقوات الجوية الملكية السعودية
     Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Malakhiah as Sa'udiya
        Royal Saudi Air Force
        Roundel - Credit:  Roundels of the world

                                        Last update 19-02-2017

        Bases / Wings
       Saudi Bases are named after Kings and Princes,
       Wings are attached to each base:
       Al Kharj            - Prince Sultan AB        - Wing 6
       Dhahran           - King Abdullah Aziz AB  - Wing 3
       Khamis Mushait  - King Khalid AB           - Wing 5
       Tabuk              - King Faisal AB            - Wing 7
       Taif                 - King Fahd AB             - Wing 2


Squadrons re-equipmet/establishment
Hereunder Northrop F-5 equipped are listed, their former equipment or if they were new established unit; some information might be incomplete or incorrect. Squadrons/Wings badges can be found under - Order of Battle.
No 2 Squadron  was the last Lightning F.53 and Lightning T.55 equipped unit based at Tabuk AB till mid January 1986 (last flight 22-01-86), after which it moved to Taif AB receiving Northrop F-5E from Peace Hawk IV programm for the strike role.

                                  Photo: unknown
        The past, the present and the future:B.A.E. Lightning F-53,McDonnel F-15C and Northrop F-5E of No 6 Squadron

 No 3 Squadron 

A new unit formed around 1975 at Taif AB with Northrop F-5E aircraft from Peace Hawk II    programm; it was the initial type conversion unit, its pilots being additionally trained for the reconnaissance role
flying reconnaissance nose equipped aircrafts. Later it received at least 3 Northrop F-5F two-seaters.



   Photo left: A welcome to No 3 Squadron leaflet showing
   several Northrop F-5Es, possibly at Tail AB, the nearest
   one still with USA serial.

Of interest is the US Peace II serial (not the Saudi one known to be normally weared), the No 3 Squadron badge
(left), the unknown badge on the higher middle part of the photo and the Arabic inscriptions (what do they mean?)

No 6 Squadron

    At Dhahran AB, earlier based at Khamis Mushait armed with Lightning F.53 and Lightning T.55 when it was disbanded in 1971,
was one of the three units to receive Northrop F-5E 
from Peace Hawk IV programm around 1977.
No 7 Squadron  Dhahran AB, at the time flying North American F-86F as an Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), was the first to re-equip in 1974 with Northrop F-5E/F-5F from Peace Hawk II programm, keeping the OCU role, but having operational duties in emergency; some Northrop F-5Bs were added when No 15 Squadron was re-equipped with Tigers.
No 10 Squadron at Taif AB received Northrop F-5E from Peace Hawk IV programm(when?). It provided fighter alert aircrafts for the Mecca/Jeddah area and provided tactical strike training. 
The Squadron replaced 1986English Electric Lightnings at Tabouk AFB to ensure the air defence of the area. (when was it relocated?)

No 15 Squadron at Dhahran AB, was equipped with Lockheed T-33A when these were replaced by Northrop F-5B from Peace Hawk I programm in 1972-73. This was the advanced training unit, handling new pilots having received 200 hrs basic training on BAC 167 Strikemaster. It converted to Northrop F-5E/F-5F when the first single-seaters were delivered in 1974, transferring most of  its Northrop F-5B trainers to No 7 Squadron.

Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5B 743 landing at its home base.
Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E 1523 "B" armed with 4 AGM-65 Maverick in front of an hardened shelter.

                    GPU Mk 82 bombs armed Northrop F-5E taking off from Dhahran AB in June 1978.                                                                                                                                                Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast 
No 17 Squadron formed mid 1985 at the new built Tabuk AB it received Northrop F-5E aircrafts from Peace Hawk IV programm, replacing No 2 Squadron BAE Lightnings. Its Tigers were supplemented (when?) by 10 reconnaissance Northrop RF-5Es received between January and December 1986.

Operations and re-equipment till mid 90s

An important advisory mission in developing an effective combat capability was played by the Unites States Military Training Mission with detachments at the main bases; it provided for example No 7 Squadron at Dhahran assistance on Northrop F-5 training with instructor pilots. USAF aggressors pilots have visited Saudi Arabia before 1983 to train local pilots on Soviet aerial tactics. It has a detachment at Taif to assist locally based F-5E/F-5F and RF-5E Squadrons.

The first, and only known, exercise abroad was by Northrop F-5Es of No 10 Squadron when they were deployed to Mafraq AB (Jordan) in November 1975, together with Lockheed C-130, Agusta-Bell 205, Agusta-Bell 212. The Squadron participated in a combined air/ground Jordanian/Syrian/Saudi forces, demonstrating the Air Force's ability to deploy large components to Jordanian bases and operate from there, relying entirely on Jordanian ground crews. The F-5s gave air support and air defense to their own troops, while cooperating with the Syrian-Soviet operated Ground Control, and coordinating their operations with Syrian MIG 21s and 23s as well as Sukhoi Su-20s.
In 1978 pilots began Dissimiliar Air Combat training against Lightnings; in addition a large inert dart target was carried during some combat training, always to the benefit of Lightning pilots; Tigers fired a Sidewinder  air-to-air missile as a target. Additionally, Northrop F-5s designated targets for simulated laser equpped bombs to the benefit of the bigger fighter.
Four Northrop F-5B were transferred to the Yemen Arab Republic Air Force in 1979, during a conflict between the republic (North) and South Yemen, to help training of local pilots for the recently received Northrop F-5E.
The year 1981 saw an increasing number of their periodic deployment to Tabuk AB (near to the Jordan/Israeli border) of No 10 and No 3 Squadrons aircrafts, normally based in the South/West. An important event was the participation in November 1980 to the "Red Flag 81-1" exercise at Nellis AFB (USA) with USAF, 425th TFTS, loaned aircrafts. The crews used 4 Northrop F-5B, 6 F-5E, 2 F-5F showing with Saudi Arabian AF, beside USAF, markings; 12 pilots flew 135 of the planned 140 sorties, assisted only by own ground personnell.
An unfortunate episode was the late scramble in 1982 to counter a defecting Iranian McDonnell F-4, too late to intercept the aircraft before entering Saudi Arabian air-space in the Dhahran oil area and landing.
Depot-level capibility of the airframe and avionics at Dahran AB plus full operation of the Northrop fighter had largely been taken over by Saudi Arabian personnell by 1983, some other bases having total responsability for the aircrafts. Flights of 12-14 aircrafts were detached to remote bases on exercises.
The complement of No 7 Squadron in 1983 was of 38 Northrop F-5B/F-5E/F-5F; it was encharged with main air defense role of the Gulf area oil facilities having 2 Northrop F-5E on a five minutes alarm readiness until No 13 Squadron pilots were combat ready on their new McDonnell F-15C (operating from January 1982), though there were also 2 of these new fighters on alert duties.  Squadron's pilots were trained for dissimilar air combat and flew against McDonnell F-15Cs simulating MiG-21 and MiG-23.
                Photo: unknown
 Northrop F-5E 701, probably the first Tiger delivered, in company with an McDonnell F-15C of No 13 Squadron in 1988
Taif based No 3 and 10 Squadron operated together 35 Northrop F-5E and 9 F-5F during 1983.

First Tiger unit to receive re-equipping with McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D was No 6 Squadron at Dhahran AB, before 1986.

No 15 Squadron moved again from Dhahran AB to Khamis Mushait AB, possibly before 1986, on re-equipment of No 6 Squadron with McDonnell F-15C/F-15D. The Squadron with Northrop Tigers was at some time disbaded and reformed with the delivery of the latest Saudi fighter: the Boeing F-15S; Khamis Mushait is now the main maintenace base for McDonnell Douglas F-15.

Another change to an Tiger unit came with the order in September 1985 of 48 BAE Tornado IDS heavy fighter-bombers. No 7 Squadron at Dhahran AB was chosen as its Operational Conversion Unit. In June 1986 it was operating 15 Northrop F-5E, 8 F-5F, 14 F-5B. These were transferred to other units upon arrival of the new aircrafts; in July 1986 at least 1 F-5E, 5 F-5F, 13 Northrop F-5B went to Taif AB, 1 F-5E equipped with RF nose went to Tabuk AB.
Additionally there were in 1986 22 Northrop F-5E/F-5F at Khamis Mushayt AB, 36 Northrop F-5E/F-5F and 8 Northrop RF-5E at Taif AB. The purchase of a total of 2500 AGM-65A and AGM-65B missile gave an attack capability to these aircrafts.
Operation "Desert Storm" took place in August 1990 following Iraqi invasion of  Kuwait. At the time there were four Northrop F-5Es equipped Squadrons: No 15 at Khamis Mushayt, No 3 and No 10 at Taif (all with Northrop F-5E/F-5F), No 17 at Tabuk (with Northrop F-5E/RF-5E). This last was the nearest base to Kuwait, its Northrop F-5E/F-5F attacking entrenched Iraqi infantry, RF-5E flying reconnaissance missions along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. It seems that some aircrafts from other Squadrons were deployed to Tabuk AB. Between 17-01-91 and 28-02-91 Northrop F-5E flew 1'129 and RF-5E 118 sorties; Northrop F-5Fs equipped with laser spotter/tracker and armed with GBUs did some strike missions, "lased" by Saudi Bell 406 Combat Scout helicoptes. Only 1 F-5E was lost to anti-aircraft artillery on 13-02-91.

            Photo: USAF
An Sidewinder armed No 17 Squadron Northrop F-5E during operation "Desert Storm" flying next to
           McDonnel F-15C of the
 33rd Fighter Wing (USAF), based at Tabuk AB, flying low over the desert.

No 17 Squadron at Tabuk AB with Northrop F-5E/F-5F and RF-5E was transferred to Taif AB (when?). It seems that some Northrop F-5B have also been on its strength by January 1991. Its reconnaissance aircrafts played a critical role in providing surveillance of the unstable Yemeni border. The unit was reactivated for a short time in 2010 with about 12 aircrafts of the three variants.
It is believed that the unit has been disbanded by 2013 or earlier; some reconnaissance capable Tornados from other Squadrons have replaced the remaining Northrop RF-5E in this role.

Retirement - Units conversion/disactivation
Northrop F-5 had lost their operational capability for the defence of North-West Saudi Arabia when No 2 Squadron  at Taif AF was transferred to Tabuk AB in March 2003, contemporaneously converting to former No 6 Squadrons McDonnell Douglas F-15C/F-15Ds, these being later replaced by Boeing-McDonnell F-15S.
Replacement for the tiny/simple Northrop fighter was finally ordered on 11-09-07 in the form of 72 much advanced Eurofighter Typhoon.
First two Eurofighter Typhoon were delivered to Taif AB on 24-06-09 for No 3 Squadron which acts initially as the Operational Conversion Unit with Typhoon T.51; by mid-October 2009 the Squadron had started flying operations with the first four aircrafts delivered; eight were serialled in No 10 Squadron range but went to No 3 Squadron, as well as all other first 24 aircrafts.
No 10 Squadron at Taif AB is claimed as hosting almost all operational Typhoon FGR.50 by the end of 2013No 15 Squadron at Khamis Mushait AB has been disbanded.