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 Πολεμική Αεροπορία /Polemiki AeroporiaHellenic Air Force


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                                        Last update 10-09-2021

BASES                                                               INITIAL PROCUREMENT

   The history of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter in Greek  service begins after the 1960 USA elections, when, instead  of the 96 Lockheed 104G foreseen to be
   delivered under  the Military Aid Program to equip 5 Hellenic AF Squadrons,  the US governement decided, due to financial reasons, to supply its NATO partner with
   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
   at Nea Anchialos AB with the 337th, 341st,  343rd Squadrons, plus a separate reconnaissance, 349thSquadron, at Larissa.
  Training 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.

  Deliveries started in May 1965, the aircrafts being initially transferred to Greece on aircraft carriers to Pireaus port and tranferred to Hellenikon Airport (Athens) by
where 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. Additional
  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,
  following 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
  F-5A, 16 Northrop RF-5A, 9 Northrop F-5Bs, all new. Additionally, one former USAF F-5A was delivered in September 1988.

 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

frame 1
                                                                                          Unloadig cocooned F-104G in Piareus (Athens) port; cocooned Northrop F-5A in the background
                                           Photo: Hellenic AF

The 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.

One 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.
The other operation had been a detachment of Douglas C-47s to Korea during the war.                                                                                                                 

Relations 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 and

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 F-5A and 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 supplied 9 Northrop F-5A starting May 1986.
According 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                            Former Royal Jordanian AF Northrop F-5B 604, still in desert camouflage, seen June 1998.
                                                                                     Photo: Philippos K. Kambakos                                                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Finally, 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 1991. Delivery 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.                                                               .

           Canadair NF-5A 3005 with Dutch F-16 camouflage seen before departure for delivery on                  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 Enthusiast

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 Northrop F-5A, RF-5AF-5B, NF-5A, NF-5B lists.
Overhaul 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.
Squadron 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;
Excercise 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 in May/June 2000.

       Rocket launcer armed, Aegean blue worn out painting, Northrop F-5B 89092 in May 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-5A of the 343 Squadron, here seen with training AIM-9 Sidewinder, were also
                                                                          used as dissimilar aircraft for Greek General Dynamics 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.
A 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 numbers to defend the nation. Even when more advanced aircraft, like the F-4, entered operational service, the F-5 had still many advantages for its ease of maintenance and in aerial combat because of its small size that made it difficult to spot.

The 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. 

In 2007 the 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 further details.

                      Northrop F-5-30 69228 preserved in Volos, near Nea Anchialos AF, in April 1997                         Northrop RF-5A "Kronos" with special colours after withdrawal from use
                                                                                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Only 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.

                   Pterix Mahis                           / Combat Wing
                   Mira Dioseos Bombardismoy       / Fighter-Bomber Squadron
                   Mira Taktikis Anagnoriseos        / Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron

                   Mira Angatiseos Imeras            / Day Intercept Squadron
Σμήνους Μετεκπαίδευσης / Sminos Metekpedephsis (SMET) / Operational Converion Unit
Following units received Freedom Fighters, shown in re-equipment sequence with their F-5 operation history:

                                                110th Wing                     111th Wing                         113th Wing                     115th Wing
                                            Nea Anchialos AB                 Larissa AB                            Mikra AB                         Souda AB -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The 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"
The 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.


                                                                  Northrop F-5A-30 69142 341st Squadron at Istrana AB (Italy) in June 1970.
                                                                                                                            Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

             Northrop 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.
           still in metallic colours of the "New Hellenicin Flame" acrobatic Team.               Photos : 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"

    The 343rd All Weather Intercept Squadron gave up its North American F-86D beginning March 1966 to re-equip with Freedom Fighters, to be reclassified as an Day Intercept
    Squadron with secondary role of air-to-ground strike. It was fully 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
    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.

    The 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,
    when Turkish 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.
    The 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-16C, 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.
                                                                                                                Photo: unknown                                                                                        
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                               frame 1
              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           Photo:  
              ground  F-5s in various camouflages.                   Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

The 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 Block 52+. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

337th Squadron   "Φάντασμα / Fantasma / Ghost"

  On 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
  Day Intercept Squadron
  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
, one fully operational on the North American F-86D     as  above, the other training on F-5s at the 111th Combat Wing.

 Anyhow, 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; the Squadron could
 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 performed
 only 2 apperances, disbanding later.

            Photo: unknown
                                                          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 Cyprus war

    The 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
    secondary role.

    The 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 were  removed
    from the aircrafts, the reconnaissance nose being 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 1987.

    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.

April 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 the double-seater were delivered on 11-04-91, followed the day after by the
remaining single-
seaters. Flown were by Greek and Dutch pilots, routing via Eindhoven AB/Cameri AB/Sigonella AB/Larissa AB.

Shorty 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 followed on 05-09-97.


                      Rarely see Northrop RF-5A with underwing tanks and four pylons                          Northrop RF-5A-50 01620 349 Squadron at Larissa on 20-07-72, Best Hit Weapons Meet.
                                                                                                                                Photos: unknown

                                                                       frame 1
                                                                      Northrop RF-5A-45 97164, with RF nose but without cameras, seen on 03-06-91  Photo: Sergio Bottaro

                       frame 1
      Northrop F-5A 38412 in 1979 in latest Aegean colours and air-to-air AIM-9 Sidewinder.                  Canadair NF-5A Aegean blue camouflage, serial 3047 with blue excercise Sidewinder seen in-flight
                                                                                                                           Both photos: Hellenic AF

                                                                                     frame 1
                                                                                 Canadair NF-5A 3062, painted in Aegean Blue colours; before delivery to Greece it was in special
                                                                                 redcolours with inscription "Redskins go F-16".     Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

By 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 carried 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 designated 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, and probably before 1996 on loaned LTV A-7 Corsair.