Ejercito del Aire / Fuerza Aerea Española - Spanish Air Force

   Credit:  Roundels of the world
Roundel
              
                  F-5 bases on mainland and islands

 
SQUADRONS / WINGS


The structure of the Spanish AF was at the beginning of the 70's based on Escuadrones (Squadrons). Those equipped with Spanish built F-5s were:

Escuadron 202     "Gallo se mueve" / Cockerel really moves

 Formed on 11-12-69 under the Mando Aereo Tactico (Tactiacl Air Command), it was based at
 Moron de la Frontera AB, was the first unit to receive the new fighter, mainly double-
seaters
 CASA/Northrop SF-5B; the first of these already arriving on
07-01-70, later followed by some
 
CASA/Northrop SF-5A. The Squadron inherited the traditions of the locally based, North American
 F-86F equipped Escuadron 103 (disbanded on the same day)
.
 It was an active duty Squadron, initially in charge for pilots training. Disbandment came on
 15-04-71
, following an Air Force restructuration; its single-seaters and combat duties went to the
 Ala 21, its double-seaters
, starting from 12-11-70, to the Escuela de Reactores/Ala 73 for training.


Early air-to-air picture of
CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-007/202-7 and sistership
AE.9-012/202-12 near to their Moron base. Note badge on tail.
  Photo: Juan Arraez-Cerda

Escuadron 204     "Vade, vide et vice" / Go, look and win

 

 General information state that this was the second Squadron, formed 01-04-70, to receive

 CASA/Northrop SRF-5A and SF-5B, based at Moron de la Frontera AB with pilots training
 duty but no sighting or photos of 204-xx codeded
 aircrafts have surfaced, casting doubts
 regarding active operation by the unit.
 The Escuadron was disestablished on
 15-04-71, following an Air Force restructuration.

After a short time of the introduction of the fighter, an important restructuration of the Spanish Air Force saw the disestablishment in 1971 of above Squadrons and the establisment following new units:

Escuela de Reactores / Ala 73    (Jet School/Wing 73) 


 The Jet School, based at Talavera AB
was renamed Ala 73 in September 1971. First three, former
 Escuadron 202 aircrafts,
CASA/Northrop SF-5B had already arrived on 12-11-70, followed by six
 others on 16th, 18th and 26th of the month and an additional 19 in December/beginning 1971.

 They replaced Lockheed T-33A and the North American F-86F in the advanced training role;
first
 course on the new trainer started in
 September 1971.
 Aircraft maintenance was centralised at Ala level for both Escuadrones.


All aircrafts had only the Ala badge painted on tail.

The Ala was, apart from normal training duties and participation to local exercises, active in international collaboration: seven Chilean pilots converted to the trainer in 1975 before this country received their own Northrop F-5E; on 30-10-84 two SF-5B of the school went to Morocco, starting the Spain/Morocco exchange known under the name "Atlas" exercice, alternating yearly fighter deployments to Talavera la Real, Albacete AB (Spain) and Sidi Slimane, Meknès AB.

On 04-11-76 the Escuela had reached 25'000 hours flown by the Escuela de Reactores on the 
CASA/Northrop SF-5. In March 1979 the school had flown 34'000 hours on the Northrop aircraft, graduating 229 pilots with an average of 95 flight hours, celebrating the 25th anniversary having 23 double-seaters at its disposal.
The next target, 50'000 flight hours, was reached
on 15-10-82.

 Escuadron 731     "Patas negras" / "Black legs"
 The Squadron, equipped with Lockheed T-33A, inherited the traditions of the Escuadron 202.
 First 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5B arrived at Talavera la Real on 12-11-70; its Lockheed T-33A and
 N. American F-86F were transferred to the sister unit, Escuadron 732.

  
 On 15-05-80 the Squadron had a complement of 11 
CASA/Northrop SF-5B.


           
                              CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-031/731-31 at Torrejon AB in May 1976.
                                           
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


Escuadron 732
    "Patas negras" / Black legs
The unit was equipped with Lockheed T-33A and North American F-86F fighters used for operational
training 
when it inherited the traditions of the Escuadron 204 and received CASA/Northrop SF-5B, but
the last Squadron's
Lockheed T-33As were only transferred to other units beginning 1973.

Twelve Northrop aircrafts were at its disposal on 15-05-80.


                     
                  CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-008/732-8 and AE.9-024/731-24 seen in October 1986.
                                          Photo: H.J. van Broekhuizen

The three number Squadron code on the aircrafts, followed by the last two of the serial number was slowly modified, starting from 1984, to two numbers of the Ala plus the individual aircraft serial number.


CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-027/73-27 seen in March 1987, a few days before disbandment of the Ala.

                                                                                                                               Photo: Kurt Thomsen


Disbandment
Disbandment of the Ala occured
on 18-03-87, when it became Ala 23 de Instruccion y Ataque (Fighter/Strike Training Wing), the Squadrons being renumbered 231 and 232 (see below for details).

Ala 21  (Wing 21)

                 Badges painted on tail:                     Official badges:

                 
                 Metal  /    Camouflaged aircrafts        
1971-1995                       1995-1999

All aircrafts had only Ala badge painted on the tail, except Escuadron 212 before being disbanded.

Established under the Mando Aereo Tactico (Tactical Air Command) on 
15-04-71 at Moron de la Frontera AB it inherited, together with its Escuadrones 211 and 212, the operational duties of former Escuadrones 202 and 204. 

AIM-9B Sidewinder were available by 1974 for interception duties and targets TDU-10/B for training duties.


Escuadron 211      "Gallo" (Cock)

 Operated initially all CASA/Northrop 18 SF-5A as fighter-bombers and 3 CASA/Northrop
 SF-5B as continuation trainers
; these were  replaced beginning January 1982 by a mix of
 
13 CASA/Northrop SF-5A, 7 SRF-5A and 2 SF-5B when the formerly disbanded Escuadron
 212 was re-established. 
By May 1985 its complement was CASA/Northrop SF-5A,
 
7 SRF-5A 2 SF-5B.

 This equipment remained stable till October 1992 when 18 new CASA C-101 Aviojet trainers
 arrived as a replacement, its Freedom Fighters being transferred to the Ala 23.

  Photo: J.L. Gonzalez-Serrano
Beautiful line-up of CASA/Northrop SF-5 at Torrejon AB on 28-05-77, in foreground SRF-5A CR9-069/211-69.

               

           The first built CASA/Northrop SF-5B CE.9-001/211-1 seen at Torrejon AB on 28-05-79.
                                                                                      Photo: J.L. Gonzalez-Serrano


Camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-041/211-41 with an unknown pod under the wing.
                                                                   Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

               

                 CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-070/211-70 with underbelly SUU-20 rocket and
                 practice bomb dispenser
          Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

 
Well worn CASA/Northrop SF-5B CE.9-001/211-01 seen in August 1987.
                                                                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Escuadron 212       "Sison"



  
It was the Wings reconnaissance unit, receiving all 18 CASA/Northrop SF-5B
  as 
continuation trainers.


 First badge painted on tail.


 
CASA/Northrop SRF-5A CR.9-065/212 65 seen at Moron AB in June 1976 in company
with SF-5A 
C.9-059. Note "old" badge.                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

               
 
CASA/Northrop SF-5B CE.9-065/212-3 seen at Moron AB in February 1976,
note code recently modified.
                                                                                Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

The Squadron was disbanded on 04-02-76, contemporanously to the evacuation of the Spanish Sahara colony, enabling the establishment of the  Escuadron 464 (see below).
 

 
 It received a new lease of life being reactivated at Moron on 14-01-82, obtaining 8
CASA/
 Northrop SF-5A, 
8 SRF-5A, 2  SF-5B formerly operated by the by now disbanded Escuadron 464
 (see below).
By May 1985 its complement was 2 CASA/Northrop SF-5B, 8 SF-5A, 7 SRF-5A.



 Second badge applied upon reforming in 1982.



CASA/Northrop SF-5A AE.9-042/212-42 wearing the second badge of Escuadron 212 seen at Moron AB.
                                                                               Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                 
CASA/Northrop SRF-5A AR.9-056/212-56 serving with the "second" Escuadron 212 seen in November 1990.
                                                                                    Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Ala 21 aircrafts also changed the three Escuadron code to the two Ala code in the nose in 1987.

           
CASA/Northrop 18 SF-5A A.9-052/21-12 equipped with one TDU-10B target dart accompanied
by two Mirage F.1EE of the 46 Wing Mirage F.1EE on an air-to-air shooting session.
Exact date is not known but is between 1987 (when codes were changed to show the Ala number)
and October 1992.                                                                            Photo: Tomas Asensio



CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-045/21-07 at Talavera la Real on 08-10-90 equipped with
two camouflaged long range tanks to make good for the short range of the aircraft.   Photo: Lucio Alfieri

               
                CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-069/21-51 at Talavera la Real on 08-10-90, also equipped
                with two camouflaged long range tanks.           
 Photo: Lucio Alfieri


Camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5B A.9-018/21-73 at Talavera la Real
on 08-10-90.    Photo: Lucio Alfieri

Records show that Moron AB reached on March 12th, 1974 25'000 SF-5 flying hours, on 21-06-81 50'000 hours, 75'000 hours on 31-01-85 and by 10-12-88 100'000 hours

Active operations
The Ala was called on a war duty on August 1974 and September 1975 during the first part of the Spanish Sahara colony crise, when some of its aircrafts flew out from Gando AB (Canary Islands) and El Aaiun (Spanish Sahara) on more than 500 armed reconnaissance, show-down and air escort flights in the desert and along the African coasts, supported by a mobile radar on the mainland, based at El Aaiun. Flares launching CASA-127 (Do-27) of Escuadrilla 408 illuminated the targets during night operations.

Some of the known  exercises and Squadron Exchanges are listed below:

Domestic Exercises
A shooting action, this time not operationally, took place on 16-05-77 when 4 CASA/Northrop SF-5A and 1 SRF-5A of the Ala took part to the  "Primavera 77-1" exercise, simulating several attacks of an (fictitious) air base at the las Bardenas shooting range together with all the range of Spanish fighters and aircrafts and helcopters.

Operation "Faron 78" took place between the 19th and thw 29th October 1978 on the Mediterranean sea between Cartagena and the island of Mayorca with the participation of 3 CASA/Northrop F-5s, attacking ships in a convoy.

Another exercise, "Orellana 78", took place in November of the same year: Ala 21 participated to it with 5 Northrop
RF-5A and F-5B between the 21st and 24th, together with 5 CASA HA.200 Saeta, with armed reconnaissance and attack missions.

1979 saw the participation of 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A and 1 SRF-5A (together with 4
CASA HA.200 Saeta) to the exercise "Operacion Velero 79", involving photographic reconnaissance on targets and simulated ground-attacks on the 25th and 26th June.

"Otono 83" exercise on 29-11-83 was the attack to a simulated air-base on the Bardenas range by Casa/Northrop SF-5A/SRF-5A of the Ala 21, SF-5B of the Escuela de Reactores and GAMD Mirage IIIE, McDonnel F-4C, Mirage F.1 of the various Alas. The
Casa/Northrop SRF-5A undertook reconnaissance missions, SF-5B illuminating the target and SF-5A attacking targets on the base with rockets, bombs and napalm.

Exercise "Velero 84" took place between the 8th and the 12th April 1984 with the participation of two ground attack Ala 21 Casa/Northrop SF-5A detached to Talavera AB.

International exercises
Moroccan/Spanish Squadron exhanges, known under the name "Atlas", started un 1984 when two CASA/Northrop of Ala 73 deployed to Meknes AB on 30th and 31st October.

Between 11th and 22nd March 1985 the Ala partecipated to the "DATEX-85" exercise in France, together with Spanish GAD Mirage IIIEE, McDonnel F-4C, Mirage F.1 and other aircrafts (about 400) from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the USAF

                   
 
In flight picture of CASA/Northrop SF-5A AE.9-052/21-12 and AE.9-039 still with the old 211-39 code while on
 exchange exercise at Bierset AB (Belgium) in April 1989.
             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Four
CASA/Northrop SF-5A participated between 20th April and 02nd of May 1989 (together with soldiers, aircrafts and ships from Italy, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdon, USA) to the NATO Air Force/Army/Navy "Dragon Hammer 89" exercise. Their duty was to attack Navy units in the Mediterranean Sea.

Squadron exchanges
Two CASA/Northrop SF-5B participated to the Ramstein AFB (Germany) open-day in June 1980.
Two CASA/Northrop SRF-5A and two SF-5A went for an Squadron Exchange with the Mirage 5BR equipped Belgian AF 42e Escadrille to Bierset AB In mid July 1987 and again in April 1989 by three CASA/Northrop SF-5A and two SRF-5A.
In Germany, RAF Laarbruch was visited end of October 1988 by 3 Casa SRF-5A, 1 SF-5B in an Squadron exchange with Tornado FGR1 equipped 2nd Squadron.


Disbandment
The Ala, and its remaining CASA/Northrop SF-5s equipped Escuadron 211, was disbanded in October 1992 its duties and aircrafts being taken over by Ala 23 (see below). The last of seven Freedom Fighters left Moron AB for Talavera AB on 09-10-92.

Ala Mixta 46  46th Mixed Wing


The air defence of the Canary Islands (100 km off the coast of Africa and around 1'000 km from
mainland Spain) has traditionally entrusted to the Ala Mixta 46 (Mixed Wing 46).
Its
Escuadron 462, with its low performance Hispano Aviacion HA-200B Saeta and North American
T-6 support aircrafts, were not in a position to grant an efficent 
support, needed after the
withdrawal of Spanish troops from
the Spanish Sahara colony due to the existing Moroccan/
Mauritanian-Polisario tension/war
. A simple, but advanced performance fighter was needed  to
defend the skies of the Islands - the Freedom Fighter was perfectly suited. 


Escuadron 464

This unit was formed in January 1976 with two former Ala 21 CASA/Northrop F-5B and 8 of each
SF-5A 
and SRF-5A, replacing the Saetas and T-6s, put at the disposal of the Mando Aereo de
Canarias (Canary Air Command).
Main base was Gando AB, secondary Lanzarote AB.
Its main mission was air defence, secondary missions being ground and naval attack and tactical
reconnaissance.


The new unit received a slightly modified emblem and the traditions of
Escuadron 462, disbanded during February 1976.


CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-046/464-46 at Getafe on 28-05-77.    Photo: J. L. Gonzalez-Serrano

                 
                In-flight view of SRF-5A CR.9-068/464-68 during 1988.    
 Photo: Tomas Asensio

 
SF-5B CE.9-003/464-3 rolling to take-off from Las Palmas-Gando.    
 Photo: Tomas Asensio

Fortunately the fighters had never to intervene in anger. Starting from 1981 some of its pilots were sent to Albacete AB to convert on the GAMD Mirage F.1EE for the resurrection of Escuadron 462. On 08-03-82 Escuadron 464 was disbanded, having flown 13'474:30 hours with only one serious accident and its aircrafts disposed to the Escuadron 212. The last two CASA/Northrop aircrafts (SF-5A A.9-044/464-44 and SRF-5A A.9-066/464-66) had left Gando AB for Moron AB on 04-03-82; the reformed Escuadron 462 took over defence of the Canary Islands with the first 4 GAMD Mirage F.1EE starting from 08-03-82.

Ala 23 de Instruccion de Caza y Ataque (23rd Fighter/Strike Training Wing) " Pata Negras"

  The Escuela de Reactores/Ala 73 was officially  renamed  "Ala 23 de Caza y       Ataque" on 23-03-87, taking over all advanced training duties and all former
  Ala 21 aircrafts in November 1992.
  The unit came under the command of the Mando de Combate (Combat Command) in 1996.


  Badge painted on camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5B+/SF-5M
Two Escuadrones were again part of the Ala, though only for administrative purposes:
  


 Escuadron 231
 Inheriting the traditions of Escuadron 731, clearly visible from its badge.

 




 
Escuadron 232
 The second unit, inherited the traditions of Escuadron 732.
 The Squadron was temporarely disbanded while the fleet underwent the modification for the CASA/
 Northrop F-5B+ programme at the end of 1994; it was reactivated in 1995 when enough aircrafts
 became again available.



               
        CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-022/23-12 at Talavera la Real AB during October 1989.
                                                           Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

  All aircrafts were provisionally grounded pending a thorough check in 1989, following the
  loss of 
CASA/Northrop SF-5A 28-04-89, but flying (with restrictions) was allowed after a few
  weeks.
  CASA started an upgrade programm
in June 1992, only for the two-seater, under the desi-
  gnation CASA/Northrop SF-5B+; the first aircraft returned to Ala 23 on 14-12-93, the last
  (AE.9-031) during November 1995.


  Badge painted on tail of the upgraded aircrafts.

A considerable boost of the strength happened in November 1992, when all aircrafts of the dissolved Ala 21 were received. At the end of 1993 the double-seater inventory consisted of 22 CASA/Northrop SF-5B+/F-5B; additionally, 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A, 4 SRF-5A of the 24 originally received between November 1992 and February 1993 were operational. The remaining single-seaters were stored at Talavera AB, being cannibalised for spares.
All single-seaters were grounded, following the loss on 
30-04-03 of CASA/Northrop SRF-5A AR.9-070/23-33, especially painted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Escuela de Reactores.

               

      CASA/Northrop SRF-5A AR-9-070/23-33 in flight seen on 31-03-03, shortly before its tragic end.

                                                                          Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


Some operational tasks were illumination of targets with a laser designator pod for laser guided bombs equipped Mirage F1. and F-18 Hornets, as well as ground attack with 2.75in rocket pods, 250, 500, 1000 lbs bombs. Target towing was mainly a task for single-seaters; air defence exercises saw the Ala's aircrafts in the role of aggressors.
Self-defence was granted by AIM-9P3 Sidewinder, later replaced by the improved AIM-9J version.

Modification of the double-seaters was at the time in full swing; six of its instructor pilots were with the Argentine AF, while four Argentinian pilots had already been trained in 1992 as instructors on a two-way exchange programme.

Intense activity at Talvera la Real AB is documented as the Ala had reached 75'000 hours on 09-05-88, 100'000 flying hours on 11-04-96, 125'000 hours on 19-04-01.

                       
                       Camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-044 / 23-28 at Talavera la Real in May 1996.
                                                                Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                   

CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-069 / 23-32 at Talavera la Real
in May 1995 equipped
with two long range underwing tanks and SUU-20 practice bombs/rockets launcher.

                                                     Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

               
        Training Sidewinder AIM-9 armed CASA/Northrop SF-5B+ A.9-017 / 23-10 ready for take-off,
        May 1996. Note still in metallic colours and no Ala badge on tail.
                                                                      
 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                  Photo: unknown
      CASA/Northrop F-5B+ AE.9-010/23-04 at Zaragoza AB in 2001 loaded with two 500 lbs bombs.









  Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5
  Enthusiast










CASA/Northrop F-5B+ AE.9-012/23-06 with two-tone grey camouflage and underbelly
SUU-20 rocket and practice bomb dispenser for air-to-ground exercises; May 1995.


The goal of 125'000 flight hours on SF-5 was reached on 19-04-03; by the end of the year 2003 there have been a total of 734 Spanish pupils/instructors plus 24 Argentinian, 6 Chilean, 1 Colombian and 1 Moroccan ones trained on CASA/Northrop F-5.

Training of Forward Controllers had been also put under the responsability of the Ala 23 as of the year 2002.

A new era started on 01-12-03, when the first avionics upgraded CASA/Northrop F-5M arrived at Talavera la Real AB. The first pilot training course on the upgraded aircraft took place from September 2003 till 11-06-04.
Deliveries followed till the twenty second and final one reached the base in May 2007. This was also the second which had received structural modifications, the first arrrived at Talavera la Real AB only on 23-07-07.