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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
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.
Northrop F-5A-30 69136 landing at Rimini AB
with a full load of tanks on 28-05-91.
Former Royal Jordanian AF Northrop
F-5B 604, still
in desert camouflage, seen June 1998.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Was it already wihdrawn from use? See
markings. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
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.
Photo: 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
Rocket launcer armed, Aegean blue worn out painting, Northrop F-5B 89092 in May 1995
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, though 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. 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.
aicrafts stored at various bases were: 10 F-5As, 2 F-5Bs, 5
NF-5A were 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. Many of
these lived a
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, until August 1997,
the remanants were saved and obtained a second life
later, preserved at various Air
Bases, museums and as monuments in towns. See our lists for
Northrop F-5-30 69228
preserved in Volos, near Nea Anchialos AF, in April
Northrop RF-5A "Kronos" with special colours after withdrawal from use
Photo: 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.
WINGS, SQUADRONS, GROUPS
/ Combat Wing
Mira Dioseos Bombardismoy / Fighter-Bomber
Mira Taktikis Anagnoriseos
Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
Mira Angatiseos Imeras /
Μετεκπαίδευσης / Sminos
Metekpedephsis (SMET) / Operational Converion Unit
Freedom Fighters, shown in re-equipment sequence with their F-5
Nea Anchialos AB
original statutory strength was 16 single and 2 double-seaters but the
number varied later very much, due to attrition (kown losses: 24 F-5A,
3 RF-5A, 4 F-5B till its retirement) and aging of the airframes
with consequent withdrawal from use
341st Squadron "Assos / Ace"
341st Day Intercept
Squadron, 111 Combat Wing at Nea Anchialos, was equipped
with Canadair F-86E Mk2 when it officially received its 16
Northrop F-5A and 2 Northrop F-5B on June 17th 1965, transitiong as first unit on the Nothrop fighter. It
was declared operational at the end of the same year (the first NATO Northrop F-5 equipped) having day interception as
primary and close support as secondary role. Its
roles changed to close support/day interception in June 1971 and back to day interception/close support in 1975; additionally
in worked as an Operational Conversion Unit (SMET) for young pilots.
F-5A-30 69142 341st Squadron at Istrana AB (Italy) in June 1970.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
F-5A-15 38405 at Istrana
AB in June 1970. In the background F-5A-30 69135
Northrop F-5A-40 89054 341st Squadron seen at
Istrana in July 1973.
in metallic colours of the "New Hellenicin Flame" acrobatic
Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
The Squadron was disbanded in August
1993, its aircrafts were transferred to the 343rd Squadron; it was
reactivated on 30-03-98 with the arrival of new General Dynamics
F-16C/D Block 50.
343rd Squadron "Asteri / Star"
343rd All Weather
gave up its North American F-86D beginning March 1966 to re-equip with
Freedom Fighters, to be
reclassified as an Day
Squadron with secondary role of air-to-ground strike. It
equipped by spring 1967, having
close-support as secondary duty.
Following restructuring of the Hellenic AF it was transferred in
July 1974 to the 113 Combat Wing at Mikra AB until June 1985, when it returned to the
Nea Anchialos based 111th
Combat Wing, moving definitely back to Mikra AB in July 1987.
The year 1993 saw the arrival of 10 Canadair NF-5A and
1 Canadair NF-5B formerly in use by the 349th Squadron and the concentration of all variants
(F-5A, RF-5A, F-5B) in this unit,
withdrawal of the Canadairs starting
already in 1997.
Northrop Fighter, though its main role was close-support, was armed
with AIM-9P3, Sidewinders to provide an improved interception
capability, after an incident at the end of 1997,
F-16s chased a transport aircraft with the Greek Defence Minister on board. They were
driven away by an F-5 patrol from Mikra AB.
Squadron was on constant alert for daylight interception of foreign
aircrafts, particularly Turkish, introducing into Greek, or disputed,
air-space; Turkish F-10G, F-104S, F-4E, RF-4E,
F-16D fighters and S-2E Trackers and some helicopters were intercepted
in addition to US Navy and Marines F-14, P-3 Orions and CH-53
helicopters during its stay at Mikra AB.
Beautiful line-up of AIMP-9P3 Sidewinders armed Northrop F-5As, ready
to depart. Northrop F-5A-25 10480 in F-16 colours seen in April 1996.
Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Northrop F-5B-10 6413377 at Grazzanise AB (Italy) 17-06-97;
camouflage Europe 2. In back- F-5B 13378 at Mikra in 1993 in F-16 camouflage
ground F-5s in various camouflages.
The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Top view of F-5A 97175 F-16 camouflage
Squadron was disbanded on 29 March 2001, contemporaneously to the
official retirement of
the Freedom Fighter from Greek use. Reformed
at Souda AB (Creta) on 21-07-03 it received the latest Lockheed-
Martin F-16C and F-16D Bock 52+.
337th Squadron "Φάντασμα
/ Fantasma / Ghost"
31-05-67 the 337th All-Weather
Fighter Squadron, equipped with North American F-86D Sabre,
attached to the 112 Combat Wing, ended its operation and started conversion on the F-5 as
An selective embargo on armament delivery, imposed by the US government
due to a military coup in Greece on 21-04-67, blocked re-equipment. Two flights were established as a provisional
solution, one fully operational on the
North American F-86D as above, the other training on F-5s at the 111th
the 337th Day Interception Squadron was re-established on 16-11-67, deliveries of
Freedom Fighters starting again in late 1968 when the embargo was cancelled;
be declared operational at the end of June 1969. Its
pilots manned from July 1967 the Greek aerobatic team: the
New Hellenic Flame with 5 Northrop F-5As. Unfortunately, the team
only 2 apperances,
disbanding late 1967.
Northrop F-5A 69135 seen at Istrana AB in June 1970 in "New Hellenic Flames " colours.
The end as an F-5 unit came on 31-03-78, when it was disbanded, to be
reformed on 07-09-78 flying McDonnell F-4Es.
349th Squadron "Kronos / Phoenix" changed to "Cronos / Kronos" after the war with Turkey
Squadron was equipped in November 1970
as 336 Squadron with Republic F-84F fighter-bombers at Larissa AB with the 110th Combat Wing when it
started conversion on 20-12-70 to
the Northrop RF-5A, changing its role to reconnaissance at Nea Anchialos. This was shared
with the 348th Reconnaissance Squadron's Republic RF-84F, but still keeping close support as a
Squadron won the NATO Best Hit Meeting for fighter-bombers at
Larissa on 21-07-72 against US Navy A-7B, USAF F-4E , Turkish AF
F-104G, Italian AF G-91R.
Main role changed in 25-04-75 to
day-interception as the Air Force preferred to use the Republic RF-84F, elderly but having longer range, for
reconnaissance duties. Cameras
from the aircrafts, the reconnaissance nose
kept except for 5 RF-5As which obtained the "normal" fighter nose. The Squadron's
main role switched again to close- support in 1983,
being re-deployed to the 110th Combat
Wing at Larissa in September
The furtherst base reached by Greek F-5s was by 2 Northrop RF-5A
and 2 F-5B of this Squadron, when they rotated with the Spanish Ala 21
to Moron de la Frontera on 29-06-89.
1991 saw the arrival of a new version of the Freedom Fighter: 10
former Dutch, Canadair NF-5A and 1 NF-5B. Five single- and 1 double-seaters were delivered on 11-04-91,
followed the day after by single- sseaters. Flown were by Greek and
Dutch pilots. routing via Eindhoven AB/Cameri AB/Sigonella AB/Larissa AB.
before disbandement (02-04-93 - 14-04-93) the unit had a Squadron
Exhange with the Italian 14th Gruppo CBR (on Fiat G-91Y) at Treviso. Disbandment
RF-5A-50 01620 349 Squadron at Larissa on 20-07-72, Best Hit Weapons
Northrop RF-5A-45 97164, with RF nose but without
cameras, seen on
03-06-91 Photo: Sergio Bottaro
F-5A 38412 in 1979 in latest Aegean colours and air-to-air AIM-9
NF-5A Aegean blue camouflage, serial
3047 with blue excercise Sidewinder seen in-flight
Bothphotos: Hellenic AF
NF-5A 3062, painted in Aegean Blue colours; before delivery to
Greece it was in special
redcolours with inscription "Redskins go
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
1996 air-defence is the primary role of the unit, while two flights
each had a secondary role of ground attack and tactical reconnaissance; most aircrafts carry twO AIM-9P Sidewinders for self-defence.
130th Combat Group "Readiness"
Combat Groups are Air Bases from where aircrafts operated on temporary assignment from their home Combat Wings. frame. Formerly
Lemnos Air Detachment it was
renamed 130th Combat Group sub- ordinated to the 111th
Combat Wing in September 1974; 6 F-5s were detached to the Group in March 1975; the Group was active on the
Freedom Fighter until at least until 1985; it reported directly to the Tactical Air Force Headquarter as of
01-01-77, an independent unit under the Tactical Air Force Headquarters.
Possibly transitioned to the McDonnell F-4E in 1985 and again to the Northrop F-5 in 1987, probably before 1996 on loaned LTV A-7 Corsair.