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                                        Last update 18-07-2019

Due to continous tension with the People's Republic of Korea (technically still at war) little official information about its aircrafts/units; much information given here is subject to confirmation, particularly details written in blue.

All first line units are under the command of the Air Force Operations Command at Osan AB (near Seoul).

An internal paperof the US Commander in Chief Pacific dated 1964 there is mention of a sixth F-5 Squadron; only five units have been cofirmed/identified.



10th Fighter Wing

  The first Northrop 16 F-5As and 4 F-5B entered
  officially service at Suwon with the 105th Fighter
on 30-04-65,
 nine single-seaters over-
  flew Suwon during the ceremony; it had
  operational status on 01-09-65.

 The 105th Fighter Squadron reached on 03-06-72
 a world record: 30'000 flght hours without accident.

  The second unit to reequip was the 102nd Fighter
  Squadron, also based at Suwon AB, with 14 F-5A;
  by mid January 1966 both units were operational;
  one USAF instructor was attached to the Wing.

  The Squadrons were originally based at Kimpo AB,
  equipped with North American F-86F.
  Handing over ceremony on 30-04-65  Photo: R.O.K AF

  Photo: unknown
Early photo of Sidewinder armed F-5A-15 38436 10th Fighter Wing; Squadron attachment was shown with two
darts painted on tail, green or red. Unfortunately no details are known which colour belonged to which Squadron.

11th Fighter Wing


 The 110th Fighter Squadron at Daegu AB followed as third Squadron on 01-05-1966, again replacing N. American F-86F based at Kimpo AB.  
 The Squadron was re-equipped with McDonnell F-4Ds, the first four arriving in Korea in August 1969.

Initial rate of operation of the both F-5 equipped Wings was high, around 70%; 13 flying hours per aircraft/month.

1st Fighter Wing
Kwangju AB
Sixteen of the two-seater were Fiscal Year 1974 aircrafts, received under the US programm Peace Needle; they went to the 115th Undergraduate Pilot Training Squadron; the Squadron recorded its 27'000th accident free flying hours on F-5B in over 4 years on 12-12-77. The same unit obtained during 1977 the Top Gunnery trophy; it was at a later stage renamed 115th Flight Training Squadron, based at Yecheon AB. The F-5Bs were replaced by Northrop T-38A starting from May 1999.

It can be cold in Korea! F-5B 42122 at Osan AB 30-01-81                     Photo: Eugene L. Zorn

The 1st Wing, in the form of the 102nd Fighter Squadron and 122nd Fighter Squadron received the remaining Northrop F-5A and F-5B when the newer Northrop F-5E Tiger was introduced (see F-5A Retirement below).
132th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 39th Tactical Reconnaissance Group
The Group was attached in June 1972 to the 10th Fighter Wing at Suwon AB, the 132 TRS flew Northrop RF-5A, the 131st TRS Squadron operated McConnell RF-4Cs.

The Northrop RF-5A reconnaissance Squadron was most probably designated 125th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron before 1978.

Some Northrop F-5A and F-5B were also received as trainers. The reconnaissance version soldiered on till June 2007; no RF-5A has been lost by their retirement.

   Badge 39 Group

                Air-to-air view of former Vietnamese RF-5A-45 97148               Photo: R.O.K AF

Hawker125-800 RA and Hawker125-800 SIG for electronic and SIGINT reconnaissance were ordered in 1995 and delivered beginning of the next century; the Group was transferred to Seongnam AB.


Black Eagles
The acrobatic formation, equipped with F-5As, replaced the Blue Sabre Team's North American F-86F in 1967; it flew in a formation  of six aircrafts, initially as part of the 10th Fighter Wing with special painted aircrafts. They only trained 2-3 months before the only foreseen performance, the Air Force Day at Seoul on October 1st; the same for the years 1968, 1969, after which the shows were supended. The years 1973 till 1978 saw again the appearance of the formation, having obtained some Northrop RF-5As from 1974.
It was disbanded in 1978, when simple overflies of F-5 from the Squadrons were organised till the formation was reformed on 12-12-94 flying Cessna A-37Bs.

  Black Eagle Badge 1973

  Black Eagles during 1967
  Photo: R.O.K. AF
F-5A Operations/exercises
Some known F-5A operations are the interception on 11-05-66, some 110 km NE of Ullung Island (off Korea's East coast), of a Soviet AF An-8 which was monitoring  fallout from an Chinese nuclear experiment that had taken place two days earlier.

Photo: R.O.K AF

On January 23rd, 1971 2 Northrop F-5A intercepted an hijacked a Korean AL Fokker F-27 flying towards North Korea, forcing it to crash-land before reaching the border.

During the Yellow Sea incident 26/27-02-75, when North Korean boats approached South Korean (disputed) islands, a counter-inflirtation package of 2 Northrop F-5A, 1 Lockheet AT-33A, 1 C-46 flare ship took-off and conducted an combat air patrol over the disputed area, without need to intervene. During the same days North Korean fighters (thought to be MiG-21s) penetrated the South Korean Air Defence Identication Zone) and South Korean McDonnell F-4D, Northrop F-5As were scrambled. It seems that the North Korean aircrafts retreated when they were met by the F-4Ds with their AIM-7E Sparrows missiles, but ignored the F-5As.

On 14-07-75 Northrop F-5As and US F-4E conducted the first combined emergency landing and take-off exercise on the Seoul-Pusan expressway near Suwon.

F-5A Retirement

                   Camouflaged F-5A-50 01386 seen on 11-08-75 at Osan AB
                                                                                  Photo: The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast archives

All remaining single- and double seaters were kept in use by the 1st Fighter Wing at Kwangju AB when the more modern Northrop F-5/F was delivered to various units. Its  102nd Fighter Squadron (transferred from the 10th Fighter Wing at Suwon AB) and 122nd Fighter Squadron operated as Operational Converion Units till 03-08-05, when they were disbanded, enabling the withdrawal on 03-03-06 of the approximately 40 remaining Northrop F-5A and F-5B; half of them was put on sale for USD 100.00 each (as a strategy to export the new KAI T-50 supersonic trainer), without success; the rest was used for educational and demonstration purposes.

Badge 102 Squadron     Badge 122 Squadron Jaguar

The 122nd Fighter Squadrons was transferred to the 11th Wing at Daegu and received McDonnell F-15Ks from December 2006. What a performance jump! The second F-15K equipped Squadron was the 102nd, also transferred to the 11th Wing at Daegu.

               Photo: R.O.K. AF
            F-5A-15s 01383/10522, 102nd Squadron in new air-defence colours        

Serials not known: Two F-5A collided on 13-12-92; one F-5A and 1 F-5B collided on 19-10-94.

Preserved aircrafts
Several Freedom Fighters and early Tigers have been noted at various locations:
69131 at Seoul; 10552 at Sacheon Airspace museum; 38436 at Osan AB, 38391 at Gunsan;
89046 at Seoul War Memorial Museum; 69146 at Muan; 13309 where?

42117, is at the Boramae Park                                                                Photo: unknown
Others are:
89095 at Cheongju; 63449 at Seoul - Aviation University


              F-5E 50573 with RWR, new air defence camouflage and Sidewinders
        Photo: Alex Fushi

Unfortunately no fully confirmed details about units are known; herewith a list of Wings/Squadrons thought to have been re-equipped or new formed, see end of page for units aircrafts re-equipment:

     1st Fighter Wing - Kwangju AB

115th Fighter Squadron
Early reports mention this as one of the first Tiger equipped Squadrons, see F-5A 115th Flight Training Squadron

123rd Fighter Squadron
Early reports mention this as one of the first Tiger equipped Squadrons, now KAI KF-16 equipped.

206th Fighter Squadron

Equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F. The unit reached in January 1992 70'000 flight hours without accidents on the fighter.
On 21-12-12 it operated under the Southwest Air Defence and Combat Readiness Training Command. It had operational and training duties.
                         8th   Fighter Wing - Wonju AB                   
103rd Fighter Squadron  (ex North American F-86F at Kimpo AB)                207  Fighter Squadron
 - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
203rd Fighter Squadron  was equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
First Tiger Squadron to re-equip changing its role from a fighter to a trainer unit and its home base changed to Kwangju AB in June 2005. It received Korean Aerospace Industries T-50s, first 2 examples being delivered in December 2005. Pilots training on the new aircraft began in February 2007.
207th Fighter Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E, Northrop/KAI KF-5E / KF-5F.                                                           Now transferred to Suwon AFB in May 2014. In October 2017 a ceremony was held to celebrate the inroduction with the Squadron of the new fighter KAI FA-50, first officicial mission was late January 2018.


 Photo: Rider!s
Northrop F-5E 50599, 103rd Squadron with Dissimilar Air Combat Training pod

The 103rd Fighter Squadron at Wonju AB received the first of sixty KAI FA-50 on 20-08-13.

                Photo: unknown
Three Northrop F-5E and two F-5F of the Wing at the opening ceremony of the Seoul Airshow 20-10-09

10th Fighter Wing -제10전투비행단 Suwon AB

  101st Fighter Squadron - equipped with Northrop F-5E   
  later Northrop/KAI KF-5E / KF-5F (ex N. American F-86F
  at  Kimpo AB)
  201st Fighter Squadron
- equipped with Northrop F-5E
  later Northrop/KAI KF-5E / KF-5F

Badge 10th Wing 
                                                                                                         Badge 101st Squadron, 201st Squadron
  The 10th Wing has the 38th Fighter Group - Kunsan AB as a subordinate unit.

                                                                                                         Badge 111th Squadron

111th Fighter Squadron was transferred from Kunsan to Suwon AB beginning 80's where its North American F-86F were replaced by F-5Es, returning mid 80's to Kunsan AB. The Tigers were replaced in November 2006, transitioning to the locally built KAI/General Dynamics KF-16C and transferring its Tiger to other units; contemporaneously was transferred to the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan AB.

The final Tiger flight of the Squadron was made on 13-10-06 by 2 F-5E;
three Northrop F-5E with the badge of 10th Wing have bee seen retired at Suwon AB on 14-11-18, while 1 F-5F was seen on 10-03-19
 16th Fighter Wing - Yecheon AB
 Tigers of this Wing have logged 50'000 flying hours free of accidents on
 26-05-81 after 56 
months of F-5E operation (has received F-5Es
 in January 1976). It was the first time of grounding a fighter type
due to
 an accident
.                                                                                   Badge 202nd Squadron

Fighter Squadron  -  was the first unit to be equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F; it was dibanded in March 2014 (last mission by four Northrop F-5s on 28-02-14) and re-equipped from September 2014 with KAI FA-50/T-50.

Two Northrop F-5s have been seen in 2018 withdrawn from use and where/when but with 16th FW badge, unknown when/where, plus 4 only coded D-4, D-5, D-6, D-7, D-8 serials/unit not known.

18th Fighter Wing - Gangneung AB

18 Wing                 112th Squadron        205th Squadron        105th Squadron

105th Fighter Squadron - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
(ex Northrop F-5A/F-5B, 10th Fighter Wing) Early reports mention this unit with 11th Fighter Wing at Daegu AB
Confirmed flying Northrop F-5 by 02-2019

Fighter Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F
(ex North American F-86F at Kimpo AB
Confirmed flying Northrop F-5 by 05-2019, one
aircraft with the badge of 112th Squadron have bee seen retired at Suwon AB on 14-11-18.

205th Fighter Training Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F was established on 20-09-77 as a fighter pilot training unit. The milestone of 120'000 flight hours without a single accident was reached on 13-01-10 by the 205th Squadron, setting a new world record of flight hours without accident for a single Squadron on a single fighter type. It celebrated 130'000 flying hours on 06-08-13, again without losses; it was disbanded on 30-11-15, possibly in order to receive KAI FA-50.
  Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E 01642 205 Squadron landing at Gangneungin February 1976, note RWR, 205th Squadron badge on tail. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

29th Tactical and Training Group - Cheongju AB
  192th Tactical Development and Training Squadron  - equipped with Northrop F-5E / F-5F, KF-5E / KF-5F.
  This Squadron provides Dissimilar Air Combat Training and Fighter Weapons Instructor courses in an Air Combat Training System.

                            F-5E 50521 at Kunsan on 16-02-02                      Photo: Archives The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


The 202nd Fighter Squadron  was disbanded in March 2014 (last mission by four Northrop F-5s on 28-02-14) and re-equipped from September with KAI FA-50/T-50,.

It was foreseen to replace the remaining Tigers with an armed, single-seater version of the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 trainer, designated FA-50; 22 were ordered. The single-seater was never built, but armament was added to the two-seater version.


Regular exercises called "Team Spirit" have been hold since 1976 and 1993 with the participation of the US Air Force. Korean F-5s have participated to all issues, including one in March 1978 against USAF F-4s.

Another important exercise was the participation at Nellis AFB of 3 Northrop F-5F to the Red Flag exercises between 18-08-79 and  29-09-79 as well as between 05-03-80 and 15-04-80, each time with 3 (plus 1 reserve) new built Northrop F-5F, before these were transferred to Korea.

F-5F 80787 at Nellis AFB on 29-03-80                                                   Photo: Ben Knowles

In August 1984 F-5s and Korean F-4s participated to Team Spirit '84 with USAF F-15s, F-4s, F-16s, while in January 1991 landings on a highway site was exercised.

"Max Thunder" exercise in June 2007 at Kunsan AB saw the participation of 8 Korean General Dynamics/KAI KF-16, 4 McDonnell F-4, 2 F-5E and 20 USAF F-16s, 4 A-10s. The same exercise has been repeated in June 2008, this time including the participation of Korean F-15Ks and USAF F-15E.

                          Photo: Greg L. Davis
              Northrop/KAI KF-5F 10595, 10th Fighter Wing, in a line-up with USAF 8th Fighter Wing F-16s on 28-09-03.

The Air Force has participated in February 2015 to the two-weeks long exercise "Soaring Eagle" from Cheongju, including KAI FA-50 light attack aircrafts, Northopr F-5E, General Dynamic KF-16, McDonnell F-4E and McDonnel F-15K. The exercise was held for the first time in 2008 with air-to-air and air-to-ground operations across the country.

Excercise "Max Thunder" was kept in March 2017 participating Korean McDonnell F-15K, KF-16, KAI FA-50, F-4E, Northrop/KAI KF-5E and USAF F-16, F-15, US Navy EA-18 and US Marines AV-8B.

      Photo: ROKAF
                        All Fighter types in use with the Korean Air Force

On 26-09-17 The Ministry of  National Defence placed an order for an unknown number of KAI FA-50 trainer/light attack aircrafts.

The 103rd Fighter Squadron at Wonju AB received the first of sixty KAI FA-50 on 20-08-13 possibly to replace Northrop F-5F two-seaters. They will enter service in 2019.

Northrop F-5s participated in joint Korean/US excercise "Vigilant ACE" in December 2017 together with KAI KA-1, KAI FA-50, General Dynamic KF-16, McDonnel F-15K and other aircrafts.

Not an exercise but an operation on alarm by KF-5Es of the 201st Fighter Squadron, was the escort to Suwon AB on 21-02-86 of defecting People's Republic of China Shenjang J-6 (MiG-19) serial 3283, a reconnaissance aircraft.
Several interceptions were also made of Soviet reconnaissance aircrafts, amongst which the escort beginning 1989 of a Tu-16 Badger in close vicinity of S. Korea, as well as of several Il-20 Coot-A ELINT during the cold war years.
Another interception happened on 20-02-03: 2 Northrop F-5E were deployed (followed by other 4) to engage a North Korean MiG-19 when it crossed a western maritime boundary; they flew 8 miles into S Korean airspace before heading back.

     Ilyushin Il-20 ELINT aircraft being intercepted by an F-5E           Photo: Republic of Korea AF

The latest known scramble of 4 Korean Northrop F-5s happened on 08-03-05, when an Japanese civil aircraft violated the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone near the (with Japan) disputed Tokdo Islets, keeping the aircraft away from the islets.

Serials not known: one F-5E 09-04-97, 14-09-99, 13-05-03 (16th Wing), 19-09-03 2 F-5E (8th Wing), 11-03-04 2 F-5E (10th Wing), 2 F-5E from Suwon AB collided on 02-11-04, on 13-07-05 1 F-5F (10th Wing) collided with 1 F-4E (17th Wing), 1 F-5E on 04-11-08 from Wonju AB (8th Wing) colliding with another F-5E.