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中華民國空軍   /  Chung-Hua Min Guo Kong Jun  Republic of China Air Force  /  Taiwan

Data written in blue are subject to confirmation.

                                        Last update 25-10-2022


 Several reorganisation of the Air Force command structure took place during the service life of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger

 This review shows only unit's designation under which the F-5 was operational. Later designations are not taken in consideration.

 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 Fighter
 Wing). The Squadrons kept their original numbers.
On 29-10-02 a 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), placed between the Wing and the Squadrons;
Air Force reorganisations led to the introduction of Tactical  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;
the Northrop F-5 equipped Squadrons of the 737th TFW/7th TFW kept their old Squadron
 designation as they are training units.

In July 2005 the second analyse of the command structure was completed. It saw Wings reformed without the intermediate Groups. All the Groups and Squadrons under Air Force command
were merged to bases; Taoyuan Headquarter was the first to be abolished.

It seems three number Wing designation was kept (as confirmed by photo of 455 TFW F-16 on 11-08-18), again changed to single number wings (seen on F-16 serial 6630, 4 TFW, 28-09-22)
but Squadrons were re-designated as Groups, seen on pictures of F-16Vs of 21st and 22nd TF Groups). Information about these designations/dates affecting Tigers are not known!

 443rd/ 1st Tactical Fighter Wing       1st Fighter Group                                  Squadrons badges
          Wing                          Group - old                 on aircrafts                           1st Group/Squadron    3rd Group/Squadron     9th Group/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. First Republic of China AF Squadron to convert on the Northrop F-5A/F-5B (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), 9th Squadron (from North American F-86F) and the 1st Squadron was completed
on 24-03-68
                       Northrop F-5A 1226 691284
1st Wing, 9th Squadron, October 1971          Photos: unknown       Northrop F-5A 1211 10523, 1st Squadron in alarm sunshed with AIM-9B Sidewinder

                                                               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

.                                                                                    Photo:  R. of China AF
                                                                Northrop F-5A 1st Squadron, Target Tug, excercising with another Northrop F-5A. 3rd Squadron

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

                       Right and lefthand side of camouflaged Northrop F-45A serial 1201/13326                                                                            Photos: via Daniel Yeh

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 with a total of 48 Tigers.
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.


Early camouflage and white serial (74-00959) of the second Northrop F-5E Tiger received                            Northrop F-5F 5403/ 30129 with the badge of the 1st Tactical Fighter Group seen during an open day
Photo: Republic of China AF                                                                                           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 04th Tactical Composite Wing

4th Tactical Fighter Wing  - 04th Fighter Group         

Squadrons badges

                                        Group old                               21st Squadron   22nd Squadron/Group    23rd Squadron/Group

                                               Photo: R. China AF
                                            Rare air-to-air view of AGM-65 Maverick armed Northrop F-5E, taken before March 2014
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 (as the third wing) to the Northrop F-5E on 20-02-78, completed on 16-09-78. 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 aircraft escort.

    Northrop F-5F 5397 30123 with 22nd Squadron badge and Sidewinder armament seen in winter light                       Northrop F-5F 5389 30115 with 23rd Squadron badge on -10-85
                                                                             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast                                          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, (it had flown
114'489 hours on the Tiger) 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. On the time of complete
re-equipment it had flown 23'025 sorties and 114'489 with Tigers.

The official name of the Wing was 455th in 2017, seen on an
General Dynamics F-16A

401st Tactical Composite Wing                                Squadrons badges 

5th Tactical Fighter Wing  5th Fighter Group


Group/wing new              Group old                    17th Squadron/Group "Thor"    26th Squadron/Group "Witch"     27th Squadron/Group "Black Dragon" (roman/arabic)

Established at Jianqiao, Hangzhou (Chinese mainland) in 1936 as 5th Fighter Group moved to Taiwan Island in 1948, from where it participated crise in 1958 to the second battle for the Tawain Straits against People's
Republic of China MiG-15s
and MiG-17s with North American F-86F. At the time it was based at Taoyuan (co-located to civilian Chiang Kai Shek International Airport), denominated 5th Tactical Fighter Wing.

The 26th and 27th Squadrons 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, having received the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron with RF-104G, F-104G, TF-104G (Hsinchu AB based) as additional unit; as 401st
Tactical Composite Wing in August 1976

Re-equipment with Northrop F-5E and Northrop F-5F
(as second unit to be equipped) when the 17th and 26th Squadrons were declared operational on 27-01-78 and redesigned 528th Tactical Composite Wing with the
17th, 26th and 27th Tactical Fighter Squadron; the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron with RF/TF/F-104G (
See below for additional details about this last unit) was part of the Wing. The designation was changed
again in August 1976 to 401st Tactical Composite Wing
           F-5E 5101 40958, the first F-5E received, with 5th Group insignia on 27-09-95 at Taoyuan              Northrop F-5E 5288 00309 seen on 12-08-86 armed with napalm bombs and Sidewinders
                                                                                                               Photos: 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

12th Tactical Reconnaissance Group         12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron/Group variants on tails:



                                                     camouflaged/full colours      camouflaged/partially coloured   camouflaged/full low visibility

The unit was re-established on 01-07-98, attached to the Taoyuan Air Base Command, 8th Group, initially taking over in May 2011 two (of seven) Northrop RF-5E from the the
Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
plua a couple of Northrop F-5F trainers.  Conversion to the new aircraft was completed ion 12-06-13, but two aircrafts by then had in the meantime been lost.

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 only flew up to the middle line of the Straits.

               Photo: cassiopeia's aviation photo/
                                                 Northrop RF-5E 5505 30091 of the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, at Taoyuan on 21-06-16

The Squadron RF-5Es were active in mid-August 2009 provindig damage assessment reconnaissance photos to ascertain situation of villages wiped out by overflowing rivers due to the
hurricane Morakot.

At present the Squadron is based at Hsinchu AFB, near Taitung,  together with reconnaissance General Dynamic RF-16s and the 17th/26th/27th Tactical Fighter Groups operating
General Dynamic F-16 as a fighter.

7th Fighter Training  Wing   -  737th Composite Wing  - 7th Tactical Fighter Group   -  7th Tactical Fighter Wing         Squadrons badges on tail/under cockpit


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

This relatively new unit was established at Taitung/Zhihang AB 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 withthe 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 Fighter 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
                                                                  Northrop F-5F 5353 61642 with 7th Group badge on 18-08-96
                                                                                              Photos: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast   

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.

                                                                        Photo: Youth Daily News
                                                                   Underwing rockets launcher armed Northorp F-5E 5328/30098 and F-5F 5372/80879

At present it is the only remaining Northrop F-5E/F-5F Wing: Squadrons were not 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

    Photo: Hsu-Chun Yuan  

                        Northrop F-5 used as Target Tug at Taichung AB on 27-09-13.                                              Northrop F-5F 5414 with full low visibility camouflage and 1 AIM-9 Sidewinder landing on 07-08-20

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Photo: Zhixiang Technology Co, Ltd

                                                                                                                    Photo: R.o. China AF
                                                                                    Sidewinder armed Northrop F-5F 5374 leaving its hangarette for the next training mission


              Photo taken on 16-11-18, Northrop/AIDC serial 5291 00312, together with Noth Northrop/AIDC F-5F serial 5395 were painted in this splendid tiger look to celebrate 70years 7th Wing existance in 2018.

                                                                    Photo: Hsu Chunyuan                                                                                                         Photo: Republic of China AF


                                                                                                              Tail of North Northrop/AIDC F-5F serial 5403also with special scheme

The first production AIDC AT-5, serial 11003, was delivered to Taitung/Zhihang AB AB on 28 November 2021. Schedule of deelivery to the new replacement trainer, AID AT-5, has been:
2 in 2021, 8 in 2022, 17 in 2023, 18 in 2025 and 3 in 2026.

Tactical Training and Development Center                               46th Tactical Fighter Squadron

         Full camouflaged tail  / camouflaged, low visibility              Unit badges                                                            Undercockpit badge on  low visibility camouflage

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 and F-5F; it was subordinated to the 7th Tactical Fighter Group at Taitung/Zhihang AB 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 throug various channels, amongst which PLAAF defectors. Its aircrafts wear

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


                                                                                             Silver Northrop F-5E seen near Taitung/Zhihang AB AB in September 2017

        Photo: Hsu Chunyuan  

  Northrop F-5E camouflaged, low visibility serial 5280, armed with two AGM-65 Mavericks on 23-07-12                                       A very clean, camouflaged Northrop F-5E at Tainan AB on 23-07-19

 By end of 2005 the Squadron had lost it role as aggressor, transferred to the F-16 of the 17th Squadron, but remained an advancd  training unit

 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


By  October 2021 at least one (5501) has been seen with badge of the 46th Squadron, possibly the reconnaissance aircrafts, are now used on for training.


828th Tactical Fighter Wing - 8th Tactical Fighter Wing            Squadrons badges

8th Tactical Fighter Group

828th/8th Wing,          on aircraft's tail              8th Group            14th Squadron       15th Squadron            16th Squadron           17th Squadron

The Wing/Group had also the 
4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, see below for badge and details.
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 and on 01-09-82; 15th Squadron followed on 01-01-83 and the
16th Squadron on 01-07-83 equipped with all Northrop F-5Bs. This last operated the last three when they were withdrawn.

This was the last Wing to obtain Northrop F-5E, starting conversion 01-07-86; Modifications to the command structure saw the establishment of the 8th Group as asubordinate command to the Wing on 01-07-87.

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 mid 1990's,and the last three F-5Bs were retired on 30-06-95 by the 16th Squadron.

                                                                                                         Northrop F-5E serial 5275/91718 with underfuselage tank


                                                                                                     Northrop F-5F serial 5387/3013 without stores

                             Photo: HJ Yen
Fully armed Northrop F-5F seen at Hualien AB on 10-08-94                                          Four Mavericks air-to-ground missiles on Northrop F-5E 5279/00299 at Taichung 11-08-02

The Wing stoood down  in on 01-07-92 and the East Command took charge of the 8th Group. See below for details.


Eastern Area Command

The Eastern Area Command, formed on 01-07-91 at Hualien AB, took in 1992 control over the 8th Group together with its Northrop F-5E and F-5F armed

14th, 15th, 16th Squadrons; the 8th Group moved to Hsinchu in 1993.



    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 25th 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 disbanded on 01-11-93 later reformed with 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

        In July 1,1998 the 8th Group was relocated to Taoyuan AB. falling under the control of the newly establihed Taoyuan Air Command.

Base command

In 1998 the remaining Northop T-38 were returned to the USA and the 15th and 16th Squadron obtained again
Northrop F-5E and F-5F,  this time formerly operated by the 5th Group, the General
Gynamic F-16 equipped 16th Fighter Group became the Operatiional Conversion Unit for F-16 pilots, while the 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron joinedt he 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/Zhihang AB while the 401st Wing at Hualien took the Northrop RF-5E over.
Indipendent Squadrons/Groups?

12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron 
  Reconnaissance Lockheed RF-104G was withdrawn form the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 22-05-98, at te time attached to the 401st Composite Wing at Taoyuan AB.
  Re-equipment with the initial 2 Northrop RF-5E (of 7) started in August 1997 (
plus some Northrop F-5E for proficiency training), leaving the Northrop product as  the only
  reconnaissance asset
  The unit was relocated to Hualien AFB on 01-07-98, converting to a reconnaissance variant of the General Dynamics F-16s and Northrop's aircrafts being transferred to the
  reformed 4h Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron  "Red Fox"

  on aircrafts               partial low visibility, on serial 5505   fulll low visibility seen on serial 5001, in 2018
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.

Transferred to the 401st Wing at Hualien it received Northrop RF-5Es, former 12th Squadron. Upon dissolvement of the Taoyuan Air Base Command on 01-07-05, reporting directly to the
Wing's Command. It kept these till May 2011 when they returned to the 12th Group (Squadron?).

     Patches worn by pilots of the 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
seen at Taoyuan, 25-08-00:

                              "Tigergazer since 1998"

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


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


                                    Tail of a Northrop F-5E showing the badges of all Wings that operated Northrop F-5 aircrafts exposed at Taitung/Zhihang AB in 2014

               Photo: Zhiixiang Technology Co