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Πολεμική Αεροπορία /Polemiki Aeroporia - Hellenic
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Last update 10-09-2021
history of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter in Greek service
after the 1960 USA
elections, when, instead of the 96 Lockheed 104G foreseen to be
delivered under the Military Aid Program to
Hellenic AF Squadrons, the US governement decided, due to
financial reasons, to supply its NATO partner
only 36 F-104G for two
Squadrons and to equip three Squadrons, later augmented tofour, with the less expensive Freedom Fighter , as first European nation.
Plans were established to procure 55 Northrop F-5A, 16 Northrop
RF-5A, 9 Northrop F-5B and to concentrate all day fighter aircrafts within
the 111th Figther Wing
AB with the 337th, 341st, 343rd Squadrons, plus a
separate reconnaissance, 349thSquadron, at Larissa.
of a first nucleus pilots started at Williams AFB at the end of 1964 with the
4441st Combat Crew Training Squadron, in charge of converting allied aircrews
to the Northrop F-5A.
started in May 1965, the aircrafts being initially transferred to
Greece on aircraft carriers to Pireaus port and
Hellenikon Airport (Athens) by
they were prepared to fly to Nea Anchialos AB. The first Squadron (341st) had
its full complement of 16 F-5As and 2 F-5Bs by January 1966.
Northrop F-5As and F-5Bs were received to equip a total of
two and a half Squadrons by April
1967, when the USA suspended the delivery of further F-5s,
cooling down of relations between the two countries due to a Greek
military coup on 21-04-67. Early aircrafts received AIM-9B Sidewinder.
The embargo was lifted by late 1968,
enabling to bring three Squadrons to full strength. US Military Aid Program was
completed in July 1971, totalling 51 Northrop
Northrop RF-5A, 9 Northrop
F-5Bs, all new. Additionally, one former USAF F-5A was delivered in
An acrobatic team was named "New
Hellenic Flames"by the 337th Squadron, operating Northop F-5A Freedom
Fighters; unfortunately the team lasted for a short time: between
08-09-67 and March 1968; this was the third Greek acrobatic team to be
Northrop RF-5A 97168 in silver colours at Wright Patterson AFB on 17-10-70 before delivery.
The last Greek Northrop F-5A, serial (70) 01400, in metal colour seen in USA before delivery
Unloadig cocooned F-104G in Piareus (Athens) port; cocooned
Northrop F-5A in the background
Photo: Hellenic AF
fleet received few modification in its service life: the aircrafts
started to be camouflaged in the Europe 1 scheme end of the 60's;
during the mid-70s
the original Northrop ejection seat was replaced by a Martin
Baker Mk10LF, the same as those installed on the former Jordanian
aircrafts. Most notable modification was the removal of cameras
from RF-5As, only 5 receiving the "normal" fighter nose.
of two known Hellenic AF operations abroad was the posting of a
technical mission to Lybia after the withdrawal of US personnel in
1970; 17 officers were detached to Okba Ben Nafi AB (former USAF
Wheelus AFB) to maintain the local Northrop F-5s. Some sources mention
that 2 F-5As were received in exchange for the help, but there is no
trace of their use in Greece.
operation had been a detachment of Douglas C-47s to Korea during the
with Turkey changed abruptly after a new military coup on 25-11-73
followed by the Cyprus crise in July 1974, when 10 Northrop F-5As transferred to on 18-07-74 to Heraklion AB played a
defensive role. For the full details of the crise (Greek
point of view) see http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_296.shtml
New, Military Aid Program aircrafts were followed by an important
number of used ones, bought from various
countries. Iran transferred 12 Northrop F-5A in 1975;
Jordan delivered aircrafts in two batches: 12 Northrop
8 F-5B, plus 1 F-5A
for spares recovery only, on
14-11-83 via Larnaca (Cyprus), followed by 13 F-5A in 1989; Norway
Northrop F-5A starting May 1986.
to an official US listing Security Assistance Program FY
1976 (or previously) funds were provided for 12 F-5A, 3 F-5B.
Former Jordanian (desert
camouflaged) Northrop F-5A serial 057, 113wing, April 1996
F-5B 604, still
in desert camouflage, June 1998.
Photo: Philippos K. Kambakos
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Sidewinder armed Northrop F-5A 308 seen in 1990
to balance the
delivery of similar aircrafts to Turkey and to
complicate the work of maintenance crews, 10 Canadair NF-5A and 1 Canadair NF-5B were supplied
by the Netherlands in
routing was Eindhoven (Netherlands)-Cameri-Sigonella-(Italy)-Larissa
(Greece). Five single-seaters, one double-seater were delivered on
11-04-91, followed on 12-04-91 by five single-seaters. Delivery pilots
were mixed Dutch and Greeks ones.
NF-5A 3005 with Dutch F-16 camouflage seen before departure for
Also seen on delivery in April 19 at Cameri AB is the only
Canadair NF-5B 4027 supplied.
11-04-91 at Eindhoven.
Photos: Archive The Northrop F-5
The Canadair's had a short
service life in the Hellenic AF due to missing commonality with the
Northrop's aircrafts. Their withdrawal started already in 1997.
Known details about these
transfers are shown in our
RF-5A, F-5B, NF-5A, NF-5B lists.
of Freedom Fighters airframes, as well as of the General Electric J-85
engines, has been since the foundation in 1975
of Hellenic Aerospace Industries at Athens-Hellenikon airport, this
facility being part of the Hellenic Air Force in the earlier years.
At the beginning of the 70'
relations with Turkey, its old antagonist,
were unusually good enabling Squadrons exchanges and participation of F-5s to
NATO to meetings in this country. Best Hit 1970
meeting at Eskisehir-Murted AB was one of these, while the 337th
Squadron participated to an exchange visit to Bandirma AB in April
1973, lasting 10 days.
Exchanges as well as participation to NATO excercises was from the
very beginning a high priority for the Air Force Command: some are
listed hereunder: Istrana AB (Italy) saw the partii- icipation of F-5As
of 341 Squadron to the NATO meetings in 1970 and July 1973; in August 1984 F-5As and 1 F-5B
visited Istrana AB (Italy) on an
exchange ith the 2nd Stormo Fiat G-91R;
2 Northrop F-5A, 2 RF-5A, 1 F-5B of the 349 Squadron visited
Rimini AB (Italy) in May 1991;
Dynamic Mix in October 1998 saw the participation of 4 Greek F-5A,
together with a large number of McDonnell F-4E, RF4-E, LTV A-7E, A-7H,
GAMD Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000, C-130, Orions; participation was repeated
launcer armed, Aegean blue worn out painting, Northrop F-5B 89092 in
1995 Northrop F-5A-30 69136 landing at Rimini AB
with a full load of tanks on 28-05-91.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Canadair NF-5As with training AIM-9 Sidewinders and next
generation General Dynamcs F-16A and F-16B.
Underwing view of four Northrop F-5A
With the progressive disbandment
of three Squadrons all operational F-5s were gathered within the only remaining
Freedom Fighters unit by 1997, the 343rd Squadron at Mikra;
its official role was ground attack, but also played
an important role in advanced training of young pilots before being
transferred to Mirage 2000 or F-16 units.
Canada tried to sell to Greece 28 CF-5s for USD75m, but without success.
glorious period of 36 years for the Hellenic
Air Force closed on 29-03-01, when the 343rd Squadron was disbanded with
an official ceremony, 1 F-5A
and 2 Northrop F-5B overflying Mikra AB, and
the Freedom Fighter being withdrawn from the Hellenic AF Order of
Battle; the Air Force had some second thoughts about a possible reactivation. Airframes received maintenance and their systems were protected till 2007, when the definitive withdrawal order was given, though official withdrawal was in 2002. Alltogether the Freedom Fighters had flown 364'647 hours.
The presence of the F-5 was very significant,
because in times of crises, like the
Turkish invasion in Cyprus, Greece had a modern fighter in large
defend the nation. Even when more advanced
aircraft, like the F-4, entered operational service, the F-5 had still
advantages for its ease of maintenance and in aerial combat because of
its small size that
made it difficult to spot.
113 combat wing, as an end user of NF/F-5A/B and RF-5A,
constituted the main deposit. With the final official flight of the
type in active service on 29-03-01 (flown by Northrop F-5A 97174 and two unknown Northrop F-5B), 18 F-5A/B, 1
RF-5A were stored within the deposit area of the Wing, the air force
having some second thoughts about possible new exploitation. However, nothing finally did happen. Mikra AB ceased operations at the same time.
Aircrafts stored at various bases were: 10 F-5As, 2 F-5Bs, 5
NF-5A seen at Mikra AB already on 20-06-99; 10 F-5A, 6
RF-5A at Larissa and 14
F-5A, 1 RF-5A, 2 F-5B, 5 NF-5A being noted at Mikra on on 11-11-00.
remaining aircrafts were no longer catered for maintenance and
protection of their systems, standing out and showing obvious signs of
deterioraton. In september 2010, almost all of the F-5 moved
on to the 113 Combat Wing when, the remanants were saved and obtained later a second life, preserved at various Air
Bases, museums and as monuments in various towns. See our lists for
Northrop F-5-30 69228
preserved in Volos, near Nea Anchialos AF, on 03-04-97
Northrop RF-5A "Kronos" with special colours after withdrawal from use
Photo: Don Hewins/Archive The
Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
one RF-5A and one F-5A obtained
for the retirement ceremonies special colours, respectively serialled
RF-5A 697170 in
so-called "Kronos" colours and F-5A serial 97174 in "Icarus" colours. Others
were painted with spectacular colours after having been in storage for
a long time.
An attempt to buy modern advanced trainers was blocked by the 2008
financial crise; a suggestion to resuscitate and upgrade 6 Northrop
F-5B and 1 Canadair NF-5B stored at Mikra AFB since 2002 was also
rejected due to the costs.