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中華民國空軍   /  Chung-Hua Kong Jun

Republic of China Air Force  /  Taiwan

Data written in blue are subject to confirmation.

                                        Last update 13/10/2017


 Several reorganisation of the Air Force command structure took
 place during the service life of the Northrop F-5 Freedom
 This review shows only unit's designation under which the F-5
 was operational. Later designations are not taken in conside-
 ration.  Initial organisation was based on the USAF structure of
 Tactical Fighter Wings (with low numbers: 1st, 2nd etc) and
 Tactical Fighter Squadrons.
 The numbering of the Wings was modified on 01-01-76 into
 Tactical Fighter Wings with high numbers: 558th (ex 1st) etc,
 quickly changed on 16-08-76 to new, similarly high numbered
 (eg: the 558th
Tactical Fighter Wing became 443rd Tactical
Wing). The Squadrons kept their original numbers.

 Air Force reorganisations led to the introduction of
 Fighter Groups
(Operations Groups in Chinese language). These
 were placed in the command structure between the Wing and
 the Squadrons. Air Base Commands with
directly reporting
 Tactical Fighter Groups/Squadrons were also established.

On 29-10-02 a new reorganisation saw the disbandment of the previous (see above) command structure and the redesignation on 01-12-02 of all
front-line Fighter Squadrons as
Tactical Fighter Groups (Operations Groups in Chinese language); the Northrop F-5 equipped Squadrons of the 737th TFW/
7th TFW kept their old Squadron designation as they are training units.

443rd Tactical Fighter Wing   -   1st Tactical Fighter Wing
1st Fighter Group

Components:            1st, 3rd, 9th Tactical Fighter Squadrons

  1st/443th Wing          1st Group            1st Squadron          3rd Squadron         9th Squadron     

The Wing is one of the oldest Republic of China AF unit, established in November 1936 as 1st Bombardment Group at Nanchang on the Chinese mainland.
Transferred to Taiwan Island, it participated, designated as 1st Tactical Fighter Wing,
with its North American F-86F to the air battles of the first and second
Tawain Strait crises in 1954-55 and 1958 against People's Republic of China MiG-15s and MiG-17s.
For the introduction of the Northrop F-5conversion unit was established at Tainan in 1965.
The 1st Tactical Fighter Squadron was the first Republic of China AF Squadron to convert on the fighter
(from North American F-86F) in 1965, its aircrafts being
officialy handed over on 09-12-65. Operational conversion of the 3rd (
from Republic F-84G) and 9th Squadron (from North American F-86F) and the
1st Squadron
was completed in by 24-03-68.

           Northrop F-5A 1226 691284
1st Wing, 9th Squadron, October 1971                         Photo: unknown

Northrop F-5A 1211 10523, 1st Squadron in alarm sunshed with AIM-9B Sidewinder    Photo: unknown

           Northrop F-5A 1238 69204, 3rd Squadron                                                            Photo: unknown

Freedom Fighters were delivered in plain metallic colours. Later those of the 1st Tactical Fighter Squadron received a red nose and tail insignia, aircrafts of the
3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron a
yellow/orange and of the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron a dark blue nose and tail insignia.

The national aerobatic team had been part of the Wing since 1953, when an unofficial team was founded flying Republic F-84G; this flew North American F-86F in 1967 when it converted to the Northrop fighter. For additional details see under "Thunder Tiger" aerobatic team below.

A task force, called "Sung Shan" was established at Tainan on 01-12-74 to organise the introduction of the more advanced F-5E and F-5F starting from January 1975; the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron was officially declared combat ready on 30-06-75, official operational introduction ceremony taking place on 10-09-76 when all three Squadrons had been re-equipped.

In the meantime, on 01-01-76, the unit had been redesignated 588th Tactical Fighter Wing, shortly afterwards (on 16-08-76) being redesignated 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing; the subordinate 1st Tactical Fighter Group beings created on an unknown date.

             Northrop F-5F 5403 30129 with the badge of the 1st Tactical Fighter Group seen during an open day
                                                                                        Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

The Wing operated also as an armament test unit, its F-5Es testing newly bought Mk.84 2'000 lbs bombs on
05-01-78 and test-fired elder,
locally modified, Sidewinders to AIM-9J on 23-02-79 for the first time.

Replacement of Northrop F-5E/F started from 1997 in the form of AIDC F-CK-1 Ching Kuo, one of the three new generation fighters. The 1st Squadron was declared operational on 19-02-98, the 3rd Squadron on 07-01-99, followed by the 9th Squadron on 14-07-00.

455聯隊 - 455th Tactical Fighter Wing

4th Tactical Fighter Group

Components:            21st, 22nd, 23rd "Tsi Chiang", Tactical Fighter Groups (ex Squadrons)


                 455th Wing            4th Group       21st Squadron        22nd Squadron             23rd Squadron

The Chiyai AB based 455th Wing's, 4th Group's 21st, 22nd and 23rd Squadrons were equipped with North American F-100A/C and North American F-100F
when they started conversion to the Northrop F-5E in 1977, completed on 27-01-78. The conversion was with a phased program involving half of the pilots
in a Squadron at one time, as a mean of keeping the units combat ready during the transition period. Wing's duties were mainly fighter-bomber, followed
by air combat and transport airdraft escort.

    Northrop F-5F 5397 30123 with 22nd Squadron badge and Sidewinder armament seen in winter light
                                                                             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Northrop F-5F 5389 30115 with 23rd Squadron badge on -10-85
                                                                      Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

    Northrop F-5E 80872 with 4th Group badge on 15-08-96  
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Northrop F-5F 5397 30109 with 4th Group badge on 15-08-96
                                                                      Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

One of its Squadrons was based each year from April till October at Makung AB, on the Pescador Islands, nearer to the Chinese mainland.

The Wing started as first unit to transition to the General Dynamics F-16A and General Dynamics F-16B in April 1997, when the first two F-16s arrived
at Chiyai AB. The 21st Tactical Fighter Squadron was the first to transition to the F-16 and was commissioned on 04-10-97, followed by the 22nd on
23-07-98 and the 23rd on the 17-12-98.

401st Tactical Composite Wing    -  5th Tactical Fighter Wing 

5th Fighter Group 

Components:        17th "Thor", 26th "Witch", 27th "Black Dragon" Tactical Fighter Groups (ex Squadrons)

                         12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron



        5th Wing/401st Wing   First Northrop RF-5E tail   -   low visibility tail         5th Group  


                            17th Squadron     26th Squadron     27th Squadron

Established at Jianqiao, Hangzhou (Chinese mainland) in 1936 as 5th Fighter Group it moved to Taiwan Island in 1948, from where it participated to the
battle of
the second Tawain Strait crise in 1958 against People's Republic of China MiG-15s and MiG-17s.

The 26th and 27th Squadrons of the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Taoyuan (co-located to civilian Chiang Kai Shek International Airport), equipped
with North American F-86F,
started receiving their Northrop F-5A and Northrop F-5B in 1968, completing conversion in 1970 while the 17th Squadron,
formerly with the 11th Wing flying North American F-100A/C, was re-equipped and declared operational only by 1974.

On 01-01-76 the Wing was redesignated as 528th Tactical Composite Wing and as 401st Tactical Composite Wing in August 1976, having received the
Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron with RF-104G, F-104G, TF-104G (Hsinchu AB based) as additional unit. See below for additional details about this last unit.

Re-equipment, as second Wing, with Northrop F-5E and Northrop F-5F started from 1976, the 17th and 26th Squadrons being declared operational on 27-01-78.

F-5E 5101 40958, the first F-5E received, with 5th Group insignia on 27-09-95 at Taoyuan
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                Northrop F-5E 5288 00309 seen on 12-08-86 armed with napalm bombs and Sidewinders
                                                                                      Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

The 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron with 7 Northrop RF-5E was added to the Wing in 1997 upon arrival of the first Northrop RF-5E,
see below for further details of this unit.

Transition for the Northrop F-5E and F-5F equipped Squadrons to the General Dynamics F-16A and
General Dynamics F-16B began in 1997,
the Wing moving to Hualien AFB in 01-07-98 where the
17th Squadron was the first to receive the new fighter, being commissioned on 18-03-99.

737th Composite Wing  - 7th Tactical Fighter Group   -  7th Tactical Fighter Wing

Components:         44th, 45th Tactical Fighter Groups/Squadrons

                  737th/7th Wing                       7th Group/7th Wing    7th Wing tail low visibility          44th Squadron               45th Squadron

This relatively new unit was established at Taitung AB in 1970 as "Troop Training Center" using Lockheed T-33A and North American F-86F. Designated
737th Tactical Fighter Wing it was formed by the 7th Group with the 44th, 45th and 46th Fighter Squadrons. The Wing took-over advanced training
duties from the 828th Wing
and transitioned to Northrop F-5A and F-5B Freedom Fighters in July 1977. 
Replacement of these first generation aircrafts started with the arrival of the first 
Northrop F-5Es in January 1981 and Northrop F-5Fs in November 1981.

Northrop F-5E 5339 30109 with 7th Group badge on 18-08-96
                                                                   Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

        Northrop F-5F 5353 61642 with 7th Group badge on 18-08-96      Photo: F-5 Enthusiast archive

The 46th Fighter Squadron was renamed 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 01-01-84 and received special training duties becoming a semi independent
unit. For more details see below.

By 1991 the 44th Squadron took care of the conversion on the Northrop fighter of young pilots coming from the Air Academy having flown till end of the
1980's the Lockheed T-33A, later the AIDC AT-3 trainers, while the 45th Squadron acted as an Operational Conversion Unit teaching interception, air
combat and ground attack manoeuvers. 

The Wing,
in addition to its training role, participated to the defence of the East coast of Taiwan and the safety of maritime traffic with combat patrols
on the Pacific Sea.
At present it is the only remaining Northrop F-5E, F-5F Wing. Squadrons have not been upgraded to Group status, as they have mainly a training role.


                         Northrop F-5F 5383 80881 in first grey camouflage armed with AIM-9P Sidewinders,

               underwing rocket launchers, full colour badge on tail and black serials  - Hsinchu 28-04-08

                                                                                   Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Tactical Training and Development Center - 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron


                         Center              46th Squadron

The 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron is part of the Tactical Training and Development Center, established in 1976 as "Tactical Training Center", in order 

to improve the effectiveness of air combat training. In 1980 the Squadron was equipped with Northrop F-5A , F-5B converting in 1984 to the

Northrop F-5E an F-5F; it was subordinated to the 7th Tactical Fighter Group at Taitungreporting directly to the 7th Tactical Fighter Group from 01-01-84.

On July 1, 1988 an ACMI Section was established within the Center with an Air Combat Maneuvring Range on the sea, similar to the one at Decimomannu (Italy),

 hosting every year aircrafts from all Tactical Fighter Wings for Dissimilar Combat Training. The 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron is now equipped with

18-24 Northrop F-5E and F-5F simulating tactics used by mainland pilots, learned through various channels, amongst which PLAAF defectors. Its aircrafts

wear green/brown camouflage or are grey/metal painted, their tactical code being painted in red on the nose section, in order to resemble PLAAF tactical aircrafts.

Bythe end of 2014the Squadron had lost it role as aggressor but remans a training unit.


 Northrop F-5F 5374 80881 in SEA camouflage and unusual black serial on 18-08-96

                                                                      Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Young/trainee pilots come from the Academy having flown AT-3; they fly around 80 hours with the Wing in around 10 months. They learn basic fight maneuvers, basic weapons delivery, air interception, air defence, air-to-air gunnery on a Dart target, instrument flying, tactical formation, surface attack tactics and night navigation.

An  quick-reaction element is kept for local defence.


828th Tactical Fighter Wing - 8th Tactical Fighter Wing  -  

8th Tactical Fighter Group

      F-5A 1235 69201 8th Tactical Fighter Wing - January 1986                Photo: Peter Steinemann

Components:                       14th, 15th, 16th Tactical Fighter  Squadrons
                                           4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron


            828th/8th Wing         8th Group             14 Squadron       15th Squadron         16th Squadron a      16th Squadron b

The 14th Squadrons, under the 828th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hualien, obtained its combat readiness on Northrop F-5A and F-5B on July 1st, 1982.
The 15th Squadron followed on 01-01-83 and the 16th Squadron on 01-07-83.
The 16th Squadron  operated the last three Northrop F-5B when they

Modifications to the command structure saw the establishment of the 8th Group as a subordinate command to the Wing on 01-07-86. Conversion

to the Northrop F-5E and F-5F, as final Tiger equipped unit, started on the same day, but the F-5As were kept flying till beginning of the 1990's,

and the last three F-5Bs were retired on 30-06-95 by the 16th Squadron.

The Wing was disbanded in 1992 and the East Command took charge of the 8th Group. See below for details.


East Air Command

The East Air Command, formed on 01-07-91 at Hualien AB, took in 1992 control over the 8th Group together with its 14th, 15th, 16th Squadrons armed

with Northrop F-5E and F-5F.

Squadrons equipment changed when the Republic of China AF leased in 1994 40 former USAF Northop T-38A trainers, due to Tiger shortage. They

were assigned to the 14th and 15th Squadrons and were commissioned on May 4th 1995, while the 16th Squadron kept its F-5E.

The T-38s didn't remain long in the inventory as they were returned to USA in 1998 and the whole Group left Hualien.The 15th and 16th Squadron

went to Taoyuan (see below under Taoyuan Air Base Command), while the 14th Squadron was transferred to the 455th Wing at Chiyai AB on 01-07-98,

to act as an Operational Conversion Unit for the new General Dynamics F-16A an F-16B Block 20.


Taoyuan Air Base Air Command

On July 1,1998 the 8th Group a was relocated to Taoyuan AB. falling under the
  control of the newly establihes Taoyuan Air Command. The 15th Squadron
  Northrop F-5E and F-5F formerly operated by the 5th Group, the 16th
  Squadron kept its Tigers, while the 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron joined
  the Command with its Northrop RF-5Es, see below for further details.

The 8th Tactical Fighter Group operated for a couple of years from Ching Chuan Kang AB before definitely standing down on 01-07-0
5. All of the
Northrop F-5E and F-5F went to the 737th Wing at Taitung while the 401st Wing at Hualien took the Northrop RF-5E over.


Indipendent Squadrons
12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron

 The 12th Squadron, submitted directly to the 401st Composite Wing at Taoyuan AB, could start
 replacing its aged Lockheed RF-104G with the delivery of the initial Northrop RF-5E (of eight),
plus some
 Northrop F-5E for proficiency training,
in August 1997.
 The RF-104G, locally called Stargazer, was officially withdrawn from use on May 22nd, 1998
 leaving the Northrop product as  the only reconnaissance asset.
 Following a reorganisation, the
12th Squadron moved to Hualien AB on 01-07-98 to transition to
 a reconnaissance variant of the General Dynamics F-16A, while the RF-5E aircrafts were handed over to the reformed 4th Squadron remaining at
Taoyuan AB reporting to the 8th Group. See below for additional details.
4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron  "Red Fox"
The 4th Squadron, at the time flying McDonnell RF-101A, was deactiveted in 1974 when
the Voodos were withdrawn from use. They had flown reconnaissance missions deep into
the Chinese mainland.
The unit was re-established on 01-07-98, attached to the Taoyuan Air Base Command,
8th Group, taking over the 7 Singapore Aerospace Industries modified Northrop RF-5E
formerly belonging to the 12th Squadron (transitioning to General Dynamics F-16As
Block 20 modified for reconnaissance)
and a couple of Northrop F-5F trainers.
Two Northrop RF-5E have been lost due to accidents.

Northrop RF-5E 5507 30094 of the 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 8th Group at
Taoyuan on 25-08-00.                                        Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Up to 1999 the Squadron's main job was to carry out missions towards the People's Republic of China, crossing the middle line of the Taiwan Strait often,
if not regularly. Unofficial sources state that from the year 2000 this was seldom
done, if ever, due to political restrictions and that the aircrafts now only
fly up to the middle line of the Straits.
The 4th Squadron was transferred to the 401st Wing at Hualien upon dissolvement of the Taoyuan Air Base Command on 01-07-05, reporting directly to
the Wing's Command.
The Squadron RF-5Es participated in mid-August 2009 with damage assessment reconnaissance photos to ascertain situation of villages wiped out by
ladslides and by overflowing rivers due to the hurricane Morakot.
Thunder Tiger

The "Thunder Tiger" is the aerobatic team of the Republic of China Air Force.

The team was founded in 1953 equipped with Republic F-84G, its aircraft being drawn from the 1st Wing normal equipment.

North Americn F-86F were in use in 1967 when the team changed to the Northrop F-5A, like the Wing, in the meantime renamed 443rd Wing.

Only 4 to 6 aircrafts performed initially, due to the slow pace of pilots transformation.

An accident occured, with the loss of one of its aircrafts, on 31-10-71 at Taipei, when the team was performing with 6 elements, to celebrate

the birthday of Chiang Kai Shek. The aircrafts were painted in white/blue/red colours.

                         Photo: unknown

Northrop F-5Es were at the team's disposal with the re-equipment of the Wing in 1976, performing with 5 aircrafts having red fuel wingtips tank, which it kept till

the end of May 1988, when the Air Force Academy at Kangshan was given responsability to house the team, officially starting from 01-11-88, re-equipping the

Thunder Tiger with AIDC AT-3 training aircraft as in operation with the Academy.



  Tail of an Northrop F-5E showing the badges of all Wings that operated

  Northrop F-5E/F aircrafts exposed at Taitung ca 1982