Last update 21-01-2021


Northrop F-5A Operations

                  Photo:Rep. of Korea AF
             Air-to-air view of 4, 10th Wing, AIM-9B Sidewinder armed Northrop FA-5A fighters

Due to the complex ria coastline, it is a good geographic requirement for a spy to infiltrate the sea by submersible/semi-submersible. In the 6's and 70's, there were cases where North Korean spy ships infiltrated using this geographic requirement were sorted out and sunk by F-5 fighters belonging to the 1st Army.

Northern Korean spy ships infiltrated South Korean spaceduring the 1960's and 1970'due to the complex geographic coastline and were sunk by local Freedom Fighters.
A Northrop F-5As from the 10 Fighter Wing sank in 1967 an armed North Korean spy ship that infiltrated
the Deokjeokdo Island on the west coast of Korea in 1967.

   Photo: R.O.Korea AF
An known F-5A operatios is 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.

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.

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

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 ignored the Northrop F-5A but retreated when they were met by the F-4Ds with their AIM-7E Sparrows missiles.


Northrop F-5E Operations
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.

One 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 disputed Tokdo Islets (with Japan) , keeping the aircraft away from the islands.

On 22/23-12-20 Korean (as well as Japanese)
fighters, type unknown, were scrambled to check-out 19 Russian and Chinese military aircrafts penetrating the Air Defence Identification Zone. They (at least 4 Xian H-6K, 2 Tupolev Tu-95) operated in a joint excercise, violating acccording to a local source Korean airspace, quickly denied by China and Russia.

          R o Korea AF

                Sidwinder armed KAI/northrop KF-5E, serial 10580 on patrol

Domestic and joint Korean/USA excercises

Due to continuos tension with the Northern part of the peninsula (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) utmost importance is given to large scale domestic and joint Korean/USA Air Force, Army, Navy excercises. These are held several times a year. 

Domestic excercises

The most important, two-weeks long exercise "Soaring Eagle" was held for the first time in 2008 with air-to-air and air-to-ground operations across the country, twice a year. It was repeated from Cheongju AFB in February 2015, lasting two-weeks. Aircrafts particitpating were KAI FA-50 light attack aircrafts, Northopr F-5E, General Dynamic KF-16, McDonnell F-4E and McDonnel F-15K.

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

During February 2016 the excercise included 50 Korean fighters of all types. It  lasted 3 days involving 102 pilots and 950 Air Force personnell. The 29th Tactical Development and Training Group participated to it. The excercise was devoted mainly to Air Defence.

A joint maritime Navy/Air Force excercise was hold in May 2016. It included Navy destroyer, Lockheed P-3 Orion, Lynx helicoters. Additionally Northrop F-5, KAI KA-1 and KF-50 strike fighters were active in a fictitious answer to North Korean maritime and air provocation in the East sea.

Joint excercises

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.

Excecise "Vigilant Ace"  started on 04-12-17 (only a week after North Korea had tested its new intercontinental ballistic missile) ending on 09-12-17. It included all Korean fighter types (including the KF-5) plus several USAF ones; most important was the participation of 6 F-22 and 18 F-35s.

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 aircrafts used against USAF F-4s.
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 excercised.

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

"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 and in March 2017now including Korean KAI FA-50, US Navy EA-18 and US Marines AV-8B.

                          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.

LOSSES unknown serials

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

F-5 Freedom Fighter - 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
Other preserved two-seaters are:
89095 at Cheongju; 63449 at Seoul - Aviation University

F-5 Tiger - losses
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.