The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page  -  Home

  


 
 Πολεμική Αεροπορία /Polemiki AeroporiaHellenic Air Force

 

    Credit: Roundels of the World

                                        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
  road
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.

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 establshed.


                         
 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.                                                                                                                 

WAR OPERATION
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 http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_296.shtml and http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_298.shtml.

ADDITIONAL PROCUREMENT
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                                          Northrop 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


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.

TRAINING
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-5As with training AIM-9 Sidewinders and next generation General Dynamcs F-16A and F-16B.
                       

                                                                         

                                                                                                              Underwing view of four Northrop F-5A
                                                                                    
RETIREMENT


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, on 03-04-97                      Northrop RF-5A "Kronos" with special colours after withdrawal from use
                                                                                 Photo: Don Hewins/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.