Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page - Home
Republic of Iran Air Force /نيروي هوايي جمهوري اسلامي ايران
Credit: Roundels of the world
Islamic Republic has been lately more open to supply information and in showing aircrafts, but
sometimes mixing realty with propaganda. Good
photos of F-5s have surfaced thanks to local information agencies
and aviation enthusiasts. To calculate the local (Iranian) calender deduct 621 to the Gregorian (Western) calender.
Last update 10-02-20
- Teheran/Mehrabad = 1st "Shahid Lashkari" Tactical Air Base
datas given in this section are unofficial, details written in blue without underline are not confirmed. Only confirmation is to
where aircrafts are based
- Tabriz/Fakkouri = 2nd "Shahid Fakoori" Tactical Air Base
- Dezful/Vahdati = 4th "Shahid Nojeh" Tactical Air Base
- Hamedan/Shakroki = 3rd "Hamedan Nojeh" Tactical Air Base
- Akha Jari/Omidieh =
5th Tactical Air Base
= 8th "Shahid Babel" Tactical Air Base
- Chah Bahar
= 10th "Shahid Dol Hamed" Tactical Air Base
= 14th "Shahid Nasser Babib" Forward Air Station
as some F-5s have the number of the Air Base where they are based painted on the tail.
Transitional Period 1979-1980
of the Air Force equipment was grounded due to the unrests in
the latter half of 1978 and for most of 1979; a high number of
personnel had left the country and many others were no more
technicians had been withdrawn,
while the new government assumed an anti-Western stance. The new Air
Force nevertheless inherited the equipment and structure of the former
Provisional Govenment was established afteer the departhure of the Shah
of Iran on 16-01-79 but it lived shortly.
The Islamic Republic of
Iran was officially declared on 01-04-79, after the overthrow
the Imperial Iranian government, almost the whole Air Force had been virtually grounded by late 1978 due to the unrests, situation improving by mid-1979.
of membership to the CENTO defence pact had already been announced in
February 1979 as well as the cancellation of USD 7 billion worth of
purchase, amongst which 160 F-16s foreseen as
05-12-79 all licences for export of military aircraft parts to Iran
were officially suspended in USA by the Office of Munitions control.
Prior to this the same office refused to grant or extend licenses for
export of mili-
tary equipemnt to Iran. A USA last moment offer, in order to keep friendly relations, ofmilitary supplies was turned down by Iran.It included spare
parts for McDonnell F-4, Northrop F-5 and Lockheed C-130 transports
plus Army items. Official relations were
officially broken by USA on 07-04-80.
It is claimed that the departing
American advisors wiped out the computer-based spare parts inventory
control system, causing a logistical headache, which took Iran years to
sort out. All these evenments brought as
a consequence a severe spare and
maintenance problem for the F-5 fleet.
The war with Iraq 1980-1988
war brought a sharp change to this situation. By end of 1979 it was
reported that the Air Force had 8 Squadrons of Northrop F-5/F-5F, 1
Squadron of Northrop RF-5A and 4 Squadrons of McDonnell F-4D/F-4E
all the units were short of high level, technical personnel and
pilots, due to purges and executions.
The war with Iraq was lumbering. Starting
from beginning of 1980 friction along the 800 miles long Iraqi/Iranian
border took place, initially limited to
small arms and artillery shells and
flights along the borders.
According to US sources in 1980 five
Iraqi interceptor squadrons had limited all-weather capability,
equipped with MiG-21s, ground support was given by 12 Squadrons (4
equipped by MiG-23, 3 with Sukhoi Su-7,
4 with Sukhoi Su-20 and 1 with Hawker Hunters, plus two bomber Squadrons.
The skermishes evolved into full war on 22-09-80 when
Iraqi MiG-21s and MiG-23s attacked 10 Iranian air bases in an
attempt to destroy the Air Force on the ground. This failed, mainly
most of the aircrafts
were in specially strengthened hangars and within
a few hours Iranian fighters attacked two Iraqi Air Bases. A total of approximately 140 F-5E and 20 Northrop F-5F were available.
"Kaman 99" was organised for the next day as a response to the aggression;
48 F-5Es from Tabriz AB participated, attacking Mosul AB in northern
Iraq and 40 F-5Es heavily damaged Nasiriyah AB in
southern Iraq. One report mention the participation of "only" 40 Northrop F-5E, F-5F from Tabriz AFB and Vahdati AFB.
All available personnel (mainly young, at any level) was
mobilised; the operation's target was to cause as much damage as
possible to the enemy while saving the aircrafts on both parties, as there were no
ones and little spares available. Every damaged F-5 was
repaired as quickly as possible or, if not possible,
stored/cannibalised (to keep others flying) or were repaired after the war in thousands of
RF-5As deployed to three bases undertook reconnaissance flights; by
1979 only approximately seven/nine, four of these were operational. Some were kept for later Iranian use, ex 12th TFS, being stored at
Bomb laden F-5F 3-7172 ready
to go on next
mission with Mk82 bombs equipped with "Snakeye" fins.
were bought through any possible source, arms dealers and from
other F-5 users, but in the
later years the own aircraft industry could supply some locally manufactured
Main duty of F-5E Squadrons was initially to attack advancing
Iraqi armor in Southern and Central flat desert war fronts
with CBU cluster bombs, heat bombs, napalm bombs as well as to attack ground targets like bridges
with 500 lbs bombs;
second duty was interception. These duties remained throughout the war.
Northrop RF-5A 2-7207 belonging to the 11th
Tactical Reconnaissnce Squadron Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5B 3-7012B landing,
pobably at Te heran/Mehrabad. Photo: MEHR
and Iraq generally sought to conserve their aircraft though there were
F-5 combats against Iraqi MiG-21s and MiG-23s with losses on both parts, in addition
to losses due to anti-aircraft fire during ground attack opera-
the number of F-5s available for
combat continually decreased reaching about 65 serviceable by beginning
of 1983 and about 40-45 by October 1985.
Reports also indicate that Ethiopia was the source an unknown number of
aircrafts. This varies according the source between only 11 F-5s of an unknown mix or 8 F-5A, 2 F-5B
and 4 F-5E bought in June 1985 at an initially
extremely high price, USD
reduced to USD 34m; also possible the sale of only 4 Northrop F-5E at a
total cost of USD68m in June 1985 (average was 490 hours flown)
entering service in 1988 after their refur-
bishment was completed. It
seems that the Air Force
would have preferred not to accept the aircrafts at all after seeing
ones. No confirmed details are known,
involved parties prefer to keep silence.
This deal is confirmed with the sighting in April 2009 of 3 Northrop F-5A and of 1 Northrop F-5E in September 2009.
A book containing much information about the air war is "Iranian Tigers at War", by Babak Taghvaee, Helion Co. Ltd ISBN 978-1-910294-13-0.
Losses of Northrop F-5 since 1971 can be found in ejection-history.org.uk site.
Here 31 F-5s are listed as
lost during the war. Unconfirmed reports estimate that a total of approximately 90
aircrafts were lost. Also uncon-
firmed is the information that one F-5E
deserted in 1983 to Turkey and one in 1984 to Saudi Arabia. Both
aircrafts were returned to Iran later. Some aircrafts were recovered by Boeing CH-47C Chinook after having been
damaged by Iraqi anti-aircrafts fire.
of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October 2000
were that 60 Northrop F-E5/F-5F were availablet, but worn-out, obsolete
serious problems due to lack of updates and parts. Many of the
Northrop F-5s were stored in bits and pieces or as incomplete airframes.
Islamic Revolutionary Guards
- Guards Suicide Squadron
is a special Corps formed to defend the Islamic Revolution. Some Guards
were trained to fly and it has been reported that during the conflict
they planned in 1983 suicide missions against the US Fleet in the
The Squadron was scheduled to fly McDonnel
F-4s, but these were too precious to be lost in such missions; they
obtained 3 F-5As, 4 F-5B and 1 F-5E, it seems in poor conditions.
Training on these aircrafts was at Bandar
Abbas AB (Otober 1983). The
attacks never happened and the Squadron was disbanded within a relatively short
time, returning the aircrafts to the Air Force.
After the conflict (from 1988)
of Sidewinder armed F-5E flying over a majestic desert landscape
Photo: MEHR Agency
3-7172 50689 4th Tactical AB
Photo: S. Shahram
A Logistic Support Centre of the Islamic Republic was established at London to by-bass the USA embargo and buy arms and spare parts for all Iranian armed
forces branches; Great Britain had never forbidden negotia-
tions, sale or
shipment parts to Iran, even if sale-export of military equipment
to Iran/Iraq was outlawed. This was correct in 1987, but shipment of spare parts for the Northrop F-5 was confiscated
in January 1984.
of the remaining fighter force was grounded due to lack of spare parts,
being damaged or being only limited mission capable. Reconstruction of all damaged airframes, some of them
under cannibalisation, started
to augment the approximately 60 remaining
Mikoyan MiG-29s and Shenyang F-7/FT-7 were bought from Russia and China to re-equip some
experts accompanied the Chengdu F-7, tried to learan about USA made
equipment (Northrop F-5s
locally used) but were mainly interested in
the Grumman F-14 and particularly in the AIM-54A air-to-missiles trying
to gather as much information as possible. They had to leave Iran.
A new maintenance system allowing to bulid spare parts for the Freedom Fighter was put in service in early 2018, complete maintenance and overhaul of the Northriop F-5 series has been taking place at Tabriz AB, now
named Shaheed Fakouri AB.
Tactical AB landing at
Teheran-Mehrabad; well visible in
All Northrop F-5 versions in Iranian use are shown in this photo taken at Dezful-Vahdati AB in March 2010
background the snow covered Albourz
Photo: Danial Behman
Two Northrop F-5B and two RF-5A were placed in storage approximately
2006 and usad for spare parts source, but were sent to Mehrabad F-5
repair center in 2009 and redelivered to the Air Force in December 2010
after overhaul and several modifications.
losses are also known:
Two Northrop F-5B, part of the "Simorgh" aerobatic team were lost early
'90s; one aircraft (type?) from Vahdati AB on 10-05-07. A
collision with fatal consequence happened on 22-09-09 between 1
and 1 Northrop F-5F of the 21st Tactical Fighter
Squadron; another 21st TFS Northrop F-5E was lost on 09-09-11 during
exercise in Northwestern Iran (Tabriz). One Northrop F-5F crashed in an attempt to
land at Dezful AB on 26-08-18, pilot killed, 1 survived.
PARADES, EXERCISES, MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS
aerial parades above Teheran's sky and particularly Mehrabad AB take place on
the Army Day
(18th Apr) and on 22nd September (Anniversary of the start of the Iraq war), while
exercises are mainly held in
September/October. Air shows and open days take also place,
especially at Vahdati AB. Photography is at these events allowed, giving much information.
yearly parades are very importat to the regime to show to the
population and to show abroad the Iranian military power. Aircrafts
participating are mainly based at Teheran-Mehrabad (1st TFB).
The 2007 National Army Day parade took place on 22-04-07 with the participation of 3 Saegeh.
The 2008 National Army Day (April
17th) was the biggest ever; a total of 23 Northrop F-5E and F-5F participated to a
flypast: 1 F-5A, 15 F-5E, 7 F-5F, in addition to 10 locally
versions (see Iran Upgrades page).
Some are shown
Line-up of Northrop
F-5E and F-5F at
Tehran-Mehrabad on 17-04-2008 to participate to the air-parade
The parade on 22-09-09 brought six Northrop F-5E, 9 F-5F from Tabriz AB (2nd TAB) and Dezful (4th TAB) plus 2 Northrop F-5B from Izfahan (8th TAB) and 4 Saegeh over Teheran's sky.
Saeqeh, three Northrop F-5F from the 21st Tac tical Fighter Squadron,
one Northrop F-5F of the 42nd TFS were to participate to the 2012
edition on April 17th but only the last mentioned aircraft could
pate due to poor weather at Tabriz AB, while on 17-04-11 25
Northrop F-5E, 4 Simmorgh, 4 Azarkash and 4 Saergeh participated to it.
Saeqeh and three Northrop F-5F participated to the parade on 18-04-14 while 2 Saergeh I (of six built) were present in November 2018 at the Kish Island airshow. together with 1 Saergeh II two-seater.
Pair of unknown Northrop F-5F on underwing display, of note tail Eagle
painting on the nearest
"Tondar 4" (Thunder 5)
manoevers in Fakkeh regon (Khuzestan Provine) were held between 01
and 04 July 2004 with participation of Northrop F-5 aircrafts.
The first "Milad-e-Noure-Velayat" exercise took place at the end of June 2007 in Southern Iran; one Northrop F-5F was lost during it.
The 2008 "Fedaiaan-e-Harim 4", Defenders of Velayat Sanctuary 4,
exercise started on 20-12-08; it saw the participation of Northrop F-5s
and Saeqeh in addition to McDonnell F-4s, Mirage F.1 and Sukhoi Su-24.
Several Northrop F-5E, F-5F, Azkharash and at least 2 Saegeh
participated to the "Milad-e-Noure-Velayat"
exercise, held over the Persian Gulf between June 22nd and 24th 2009,
together with McDonnel F-4 Phantoms
and Sukhoi Su-24s; one of the
participating Northrop F-5F from 43rs TF Squadron crashed during the
A gunnery competition was held in August 2009 to which Northrop F-5E and F-5F participated.
Impressive line-up of 32 Northrop F-5E, no where/when details are known
A massive exercise was held in October 2010 in Western and Central Iran called "Modafeen Harim Velayat".
The "Milad-e-Noure-Velayat 2"
2010 edition was between August 4th and 7th from Tabriz AB; Northrop
F-5s, 3 Azkharashs were present together with McDonnel F-4 Phantoms, Chengdu F-7s and
They practiced aerial gunnery, hitting air-to-ground targets and perform overnight operations.
F-5s, Azarakhsh and Saeqeh participated between September 7th and
15th, 2011 to the main phase of the "Fadayeen-e Harim-e Vellayat 3" (Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries) exercise
in the Tabriz area
(Northwestern iran) together with McDonnel
F-4s, Sukhoi Su-24s and Mig-29s; reconnaissance, attack missions, night
raids on fixed and mobile target. A Sidewinder fired by a Northrop F-5
during the exercise was
destroyed by a MiG-29 launched R-73 air-to-air
missile. Northrop F-5E 3-7306 with SU-22 rockets launcher armed was seen during exercise, One Northrop F-5E from 21st TFS was lost during the exercise, on
The fourth edition of Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 3 exercise took place between 12-11-12 and 18-11-12 with the participation of Northrop F-5 and McDonnell F-4, Grumman F-14 and Sukhoi Su-24 Eastern and
Southern Air Bases.
of Velayat Sanctuaries 4" exercise, December 21st and 22nd 2013, was
concentrated on the defence of Bandar Abbas port in Southern Iran;
Northrop F-5s and Saeqeh together with Sukhoi Su-24,
McDonnell F-4s and Mirage F.1 paricipated to it
Northrop F-5E 3-7335 50689 2th Tactical AB with 2 exercise bombs seen on take-off during
"Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 3" in
2011. Photo: IRNA
bombs armed second and fifth 4prototypes
Fifth prototype 3-7370 seen during "Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 3" exercise
Milad-e-Noor-e-Velayatmanoeuver June 22-24 2009 in Southern Iran.
Rockets armed Northrop
"Fada'ian-e-Harime Velayt 5" (Devotees of the Country's Territory-5) was an held in the Izfahan province took place two phases, between between May 2nd and 14th and in July 2015 .
This saw the operation of
new ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) tactics
flown by McConnell F-4Es and Sukhoi Su-24MKs with their locally
upgraded AN/ALQ101 pods. Participants were Northrop F-E and F-5F from
21st and 23rd Sqn,
(based at Tabriz) as well as the 41st Sqn
(based at Dezful). A third phase was restricted to
two days (September 5th and 6th) with the participation of 3 Northrop
F-5E (21st Sqn), 2 Saegeh I, 1 Saegeh II
(23rd Sqn) based, both
at 2nd TFB Fakkuri, and the 41 TFS (based at the 4th TFB Vahdati) with
1 Northrop F-5E and 4 Northrop F-5F. They concentrated on strike
sorties at higher altitudes than normal, protec-
ted by the ECM aircrafts.
All these were temporarely based at TFB8 at Babalee (Khatami) together with Chengdu F-7, MiG-29A, Mig-29UB and Sukhoi Su-24MKs.
"Defenders of Velayat Skies 7" took place in south Iran on December 2016
improving aerial security of the country. There is no official mention
of Northrop F-5 participating
to this excercise, though very probable.
"Devotees of Velayat Airspace 7" excercise started on 31-10-17 and
ended on 01-11-17 at Izfahan AB; Northrop F-5E/F, 6 Grumman F-14A, 12
Chengdu F-7N/TN, MiG-29UB and Su-24MK participated to
it, all in the ground-attack/strike role.
"Modafe'an-e-Harim-e Velayat" was
the 8th edition of air drills in the province of Izfahan on 10th-11th
Januyry 2019 that tested several missiles and bombs used by
"Eqtdar 97"/Velayat Power 2019 is
the name given to a two days long excercise kept from 25-01-19. It
included also use of Saeqeh fighters and lauch of missiles by Northrop
deployed to Shahid Babyyee AB (Izfahan), these being destroyed by Mikoyan-Gurrevitch MiG-29 R-73 air-to-air missiles.
"Death-defying Defenders of Velayat Sanctuaries 7" 20/31 October 2019; all Iranian fighte-bomber Sukhoi Su-24. McDonnenn F-4. Northrop F-5, Shenyang
F-7, Grumman F-14.
Mikoyan- Gurewitch MiG-19
participated to the excercise with air-to-air and ground attack
Bombs drop by a Northrop F-5E Photo: FB/IRIAF page
The 9th edition of thee "Fadayeen-e Harim-e Velayat"
excercise started on 02-11-20 (lasting 4 days) with the participation of Northrop F-5, IAC Saeqeh,
McDonnel F-4 fighters and
drones in several bases (inclusive
Izfahan, Central Iran). This excercise is an Iranian Air Defence
Organisation operation, including radar, surface-to-air missiles sites.
The fist part involved Saeqeh and Northrop F-5s,
parts by Chinese F-7, Grumman F-14 and Sukhoi Su-24
Photo: Iranian News Agency
Line-up of Northrop F-5F, probably at Izfahan AB, of note different serials writing
Late 1990s Northrop F-5s from
141st TFS Northrop F-5 (together with GAMD Mirage F.1) participated to
skirmeshes against Taliban guerrillas.
Unofficial sources informed that Tigers from the 2nd (Tabris) and 4th
TFB (Dezful/Vahdati) performed several interdiction sorties between November 18th and 20th 2014 against Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Iraq,
Beginnig 2016 some Northrop F-5E were based at Mashad Forward Air Station to keep "Zulu Scramble* excercises together with local GAMD Mirage F.1s.
Northrop F-5E performing
an excercise with a two-seater MiG-29.
Underfuselage view (in the background) together with a McDonnell F-4 Photo: Robert Szombati collection
Present and future availability
present the IRIAF employs both two-seat F-5Bs/Simhorgs,
single-seat F-5A and modified RF-5A without cameras for
advanced flight training and fighter weapons training roles for
F-4 Phantom II,
F-14 Tomcat and F-5E/F Tiger II pilots. In contrast to
other US-built aircraft in the IRIAF inventory, numbers of active
Freedom Fighters actually increased after 1979’s Islamic Revolution.
Estimated by August 2019
were 31 Northrop F-5E and F-5F in
25-06-20 3 the two-seater Kowsar (Thunderbolt -officially built from scratch in Iran, see Iran upgrades) were officially deivered to the Air
Force in a ceremony. They formed a new aerobatic team (not named);
the last one was the Golden
Crown aerobatic Team in 1978 during the Imperial era.
One of three
aircrafts delivered officially on
25-06-20, no serial can be seen Photo:
interesting: underfuselage !!
Revealed on 01-02-13 was a project for a future firghter aircraft named Qaher-313 (Conqueror-313 in Farsi),
locally develloped/built by the Aviation Industries Organization; it
has low observable features, carrying
advance medium weapons and
operating from shrt airtrips. Western experts have expressed doubts
about the configuration and the status of the fighter. It seems a radio-controlled scale model more than a modern
fighter. On April 15, 2017 a different aircraft was shown taxiing in a video released by the official state news.