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Quwwat al Jawwiya al Malakhiah as Sa'udiya
Saudi Air Force
Last update 19-02-2017
Bases are named after Kings and Princes,
- Wings are attached to each base:
- Prince Sultan AB
- Wing 6
- King Abdullah Aziz AB - Wing
Mushait - King Khalid AB - Wing
Faisal AB - Wing 7
King Fahd AB -
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 http://scramble.nl/sa.htm - Order of Battle.
- Squadrons re-equipmet/establishment
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.
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
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?)
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
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.
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
- The Squadron replaced 1986English Electric Lightnings at Tabouk AFB to ensure the air defence of the area. (when was it relocated?)
No 15 Squadron
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.
Northrop F-5B 743 landing at its home base.
- 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
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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
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
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.
"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.
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
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 2013; No 15
Squadron at Khamis Mushait AB has been disbanded.