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        Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas - Philippines Air Force

                                        Last update 04-09-2022

          Credit:  Roundels of the world


  Philippine bases are named after a person importance to the Air
   Force. They are listed here with their nearest city and their
   official name:
                         Manila             - Clark AB
                         Manila             - Basa AB
                         Mactan  - Cebu - Ebuan AB
                         Puerto Princesa - Bautista AB
                         Zamboanga      - Andrew AB

Discussions were held in 1964 between the Philippine and the US government to seek a replacement of the elderly North American F-86F and F-86D at the time in use as fighters. The offer for Northrop F-5s to be
received under MAP aroused little interest as the local goverment preferred to receive two Squadrons of Lockheed F-104.
This request was not accepted and two Northrop F-5 Squadrons were initially planned August 27th, 1965 under the Philippine-US military agreement with assignment scheduled as follows: 9 aircrafts from US Fiscal
Year 1964, 10 from FY 1965, 3 from FY 1966, 7 from FY 1967, 14 from FY 1968, for a total of 43 aircrafts.The first seven, Fiscal Year 1964, Northrop F-5A and two Northrop F-5B were handed over in July 1965 at
McClellan AFB (USA), arrival in to the Philippines followed on 25-10-65, but due to a reduction of military aid and changes of priorities only one unit (6th Tactical Fighter Squadron) could finally be re-equipped with
Freedom Fighters, further deliveries following with 9 Fiscal Year single- and 1 two-seater, 3 F-5A from FY 1966. Six instructor pilots and 50 maintenance crew members attained training courses at Williams AFB in 1965.

Aircrafts were delived in all metallic colour, last five digits of serial was painted on tail plus the code FA- and the last three serial digits next to the nationality markings. Some were named and wore the name on the
nose, initially simply written on the metal, later embedded in a nose badge.
By Jamuary 1966 7 Northrop F-5A and 2 Northrop F-5B were on training status.

Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                          Northrop F-5B in the orignal silver colours and FA-589 code, on a rainy day at Basa AB, 1968

Northrop F-5A In-flight view in early Squadron tail, overall metallic colours   Photo: Philippine AF   Full early Squadron markings and named Hedy seen at Clark AFB in 1972, together
                                                                                                                                          with F-5B named Tabas (serial?)
                             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

              Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                   Line-up at Basa AB in 1972 with 6th Squadron tail badge and aircraft name on nose.

Some changes to the colours was made during the years: a very dark blue stripe with a cobra (Squadron name) was worn on the tail during the years 1971-1972 6th Squadron's tail markings were deleted,
replaced by Philippine colours seal, see below.

Northrop F-5B 10589 at Basa AB seen here in December 1980, in 
silver colours, without FA-                         Northrop F-5B 10589 at Basa AB on a foggy day in May 1976
code, seal first version on tail.                         Photos: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast                        This camouflage was experimentated, but not adopted.

                                                                              Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                              Some had special 6th Squadron colours on the tail Northrop F-5A 69148 seen in 09-76,
                                                              named Lightning, in an striking camouflage
scheme, inclusive tanks

On 14-05-76 the Republic of Phillpines requested information regarding the delivery of 11 Northrop F-5E; the USA answered that the Letter of Offer could only be deivered by October 1976, though Philippines asked
for an earlier answer. the deal was not finalised and in late 1977 35 Chance-Vought F-8H Crusader were actually bought, 25 refurbished and 10 for spare parts.

By 1977 the aircraft had lost their FA- code and the "Blue Diamonds" sign was painted on the nose

            Northrop F-5A 10501 seen in April 1979
        Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast                              Line-up of grey Northrop F-5As, seen at Basa AB

These aircrafts suffered with the years from normal losses, aging, poor maintenance and shortage of spare parts due to funds mismanagement by the government and worsening of the country's economical situation.

A limited operational bolster and extension of life was implemented, including a structural and limited avionics, with the help of the USA company Tiger Century Aircraft (when?).

Additional aircrafts, to keep a limited strike capability, were procured from the Republic of China and the Republic of Korea Air Forces; unfortunately it is not clear when/how many have been actually received.
Following have been sighted:
Republic of China beginning in 1989 one single- and one double-seaters when a test pilot checked locally the aircrafts out and one pilot was trained by the 16th Republic of China Group on the double seater, followed
in 1993 by 1 Northrop F-5A, this last as an exchange against a North American F-51D exposed at the Air Force museum at Manila;

three single-seaters received from Korea in September 1995r, followed  by another five in October 1998;
in August 1997 two former Jordanian/US civilian Northrop F-5As, on the US civil aviation register for a short time. Four former Republic of China, seen at Mojave airport 1988/early 1989, have also been mentioned
but there have never been reports to be in the Philippines.

            5th Tactical Fighter Wing - 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Cobras"

                                                       Patch 5th Wing     Tail badge 1975, red/blue tank   Badge 6th Squadron


The 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron was part of the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Basa AB, equipped with North American F-86F when it received its first Northrop F-5A in 1965. Its main duties were daytime air
  defence cover, 
armed with AIM-9B Sidewinders, over the islands of Luzon and Visayas (all weather interception being till June 1968 assured by Philippine North American F-86D, later delegated to USAF units equipped
with appropriate aircrafts) and ground attack
Northrop F-5A 10504 in the alert hangar at Basa AB in August 1975 armed with AIM-9B                   Blue Diamond serial 10507, code "1", seen 1973 in formation with Squadron Commander
Sidewinder. Of note tail with blue stripe and big 6 (Squadron number).                                            Northrop F-5A, tail painted serial 69148, named Lightning.
Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast

    Part of the unit was the Blue Diamonds acrobatic team. It was part of the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron with 9 North American F-86F till 1966. The team was reassigned to the 6th Squadron
    with the arrival of the Freedom Fighters; it flew its first exhibition on 02-05-68 with six aircrafts.
    The year 1968 brought also the first (and only) transfer abroad: an acrobatic demonstration took place in the Republic of China (Taiwan).

    During the years the number of aircraft varied: in 1971 till 1973 five aircrafts. The year  1974 saw the reduction to 4 due to the world's fuel crisis; on 04-07-75 a single aircraft show took place,
    in 1976 the team performed with two aircrafts, 1977 with four Freedom Fighters while in 1978 was formed by 8 pilots.

Photo of good old times! First aircraft should be Northrop F-5A serial 13324/FA-324.                  
Above: nose inscription   First variant (worn-out)                         Final variant
Of notr red (instead of white) Blue Diamondsnose inscription, possibly at Basa AB.

Exhibitions were resumed in 1986 with 6 Northrop F-5A, to stop the same year and being resumed in 1995/19967/1998 and, definitely, ending with one exhibition at the 52nd PAF Anniversary Celebration in 1999.
Aircrafts were already at the time too fragile to allow acrobatic manoeuvers.

Regular patrol flights were undertaken in 1968 from Mactan AB to Sabah, cannons fully armed and three external tank due to distance.

Aircrafts of the 6th TFS participated betwen 1971 and 1973, together with North American T-28D and F-86F, to the fighting against various insurgents in Luzon island and the Visayas islands, mainly muslim, among
which the important battle for Sibalu Hill (Jolo) in November 1972.
Northrop F-5A and F-5B from Mactan AB (together with North American F-86F and Lockheed T-33A) flew between 1st an 09-12-74 again against insurgents gunnery straffing, bombing missions destroying several
boats, ammunition and fuel dumps in the area of Zamboanga del Sur. This was made difficult by their fuel consumption at a distance of more than 700 miles (back and forth) plus loiter time and complicated by
possible battle damage.

The mid '70s also brought several changes:

Armistices were declared and broken several times in the following years, resulting in a continous guerrilla war, mainly fought by COIN aircrafts. These fightings are still going on today.
SEATO Organisation (including United States of America, France, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand,Thailand, Pakistan) was disbanded on 20-02-76 (after 22 years), curtailing the source of much Philippino equipment,
including aircrafts; the final joined excercise was held in the Philippines  in February 1976.

By 1977 there were 9 active single-, 2 double-seaters plus 2 others F-5A withdrawn from use. Most were deployed to Mactan to fight insurgents in the Visaya Islands; there were 7 single- and 2 two-seaters in
November 1977.

                                                                                     Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast
                                                                         Northrop F-5B 13380 at Mactan AB in February 1977 equipped with a maximum load of tanks to
                                                                         increase range, in company of several F-5A and North American F-86F.

Another duty was the defence of Philippine interests over the the Spratley Island (called Kalaayan by the Philippines), secured in 1977 and beginning 1978 by some plus North American F-86F, based at Puerto Princesa.

Air combat, particularly using the Colt-Browning M-39 cannons, was
trained intensively using an underbelly target, as shown applied to Northrop F-5A 69150 in December 1980, or an underwing one.

                                                                                    Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast
                                                                                Northrop F-5A 69150 at Basa AB in September 1980 with underbelly target.

Philippine Northrop F-5A participated to the "Cope Thunder" together with USAF aircrafts during various year.
The year 1984 saw the participation from Clark AFB of USAF F-15, F-4E, T-33A, US Navy A-6, Indonesian F-5E plus various transport, AEW aircrafts and helicopters.


Northrop F-5A 10499 posing at Clark AFB on 16-02-84 with 26th TFTAS Northrop F-5E,                               The 6th Fighter Squadron was also present to the "Cope Thunder '85" edition. Above
Lockheed T-33A and McDonnel F-4E 3rd TFS during exercise "Cope Thunder '84".                                         Northrop F-5A 10506 pictured on 11-01-83 during rolling for take-off at Clark AFB
                                                                                                                               Photos : The US National Archives         with AIM-9B Sidewinder and rocket launcher

In a secret letter dated 14-05-76 sent to the US it requested to procure eleven Northrop F-5E under MAP. This was not supported by the local embassy but it had no follow-up.
Instead twenty four Chance Vought F-8H had taken air-defence role over from 1978 but in 1988 they had to be retired due to corrosion, high operating costs and lack of spare parts, leaving again the Freedom
Fighter as the only fighter available.

Unusal was the participation of four Freedom Fighters to the film "Apocalypse now" in 1979, simulating a napalm bombs attack in South Vietnam. They actually dropped cansters that looked like napalm canisters;
special effects set a huge fire of 1'200 gallons of gasoline. Later, in 2000, the Freedom Fighters participated to a film called "Thirteen days", referring to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crise. The Freedom Fghters were
painted in USAF coours and operated from Clark AFB (Philippines).

                                                                                        A scene from the film Thirteen Day Northrop F-5As in US Air Force markings

Overthrow of the Marcos government in February 1986 brought unrest in the country; the 5th Wing didn't participated to operations.

During a military coup on 01-12-89 till 09-12-89 several Northrop F-5A and F-5B and their pilots, temporarely based
at Mactan AB, were captured by insurgents; only four F-5A/F-5B under maintenance at Basa AB
remained at government disposal for the defence of Manila. They were immediately put back into operation to support the lealist forces.

Two single- and one doubleseater established combat air patrols with the order to shoot rebel aircrafts down. Several rebel North American AT-28D were intercepted bu not shot down as the pilots wanted to avoid
shooting on collegues; they were forced to return to their home-base Sangley Point AB
. An F-5s rocket attack against
this base followed to put the T-28Ds out of use but was ineffective as the rebel aircrafts were
purposely missed. A second, cannons/rockets attack, was definitive when 3 Northrop F-5As damaged/destroyed 7 AT-28D and 1 Sikorsky AUH-76 at Sangley Point; unfortunately one Freedom Fighter was lost in a
crash-landing on return to Basa AB. The following day a mission, with unguided rockets, was flown against insurgents at Camp Aguinaldo Marine Camp in Manila. Finally the rebels surrended on 07-12-89.

By the beginning of the '90s only eight single- and two double-seaters were available, few being airworthy.

Picture of camouflaged Northrop F-5A 10506 and metal 13324 with big Squadron                                    
Northrop F-5A 10507 together with a slightly different coloured example - Puerto Princesa AB March 1992
number on tail, Lightning name, white nose.                                        Photo: unknown                                                                                                          Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast

                                                                                       Photo: Peter Steinemann
                                                                             Camouflaged Northrop F-5A 10507 and 10499 in 1994, toned down nationality insignia

Following eruption of the approximately 20 kms distant Mount Pinatubo in June/July 1991 Basa AB was damaged considerably by ash. It seems that some F-5s were destroyed when an hangar collapsed; the others
were transferred to Clark AFB, former USAF base, where they remained.

Defence funds became very scarce when US Military Assistance Program payments were withdrawn following the transfer of Clark AFB from USA to Philippine possession on 26-11-91 and of Subic Naval Base on 26-11-92;
the radar network had to be closed leaving the Philippines without coverage and the Freedom Fighters were left without guidance.

Puerto Princesa AB housed again in March 1992 some of the remaining airworthy aircrafts, due to tension with China over the Spratley Islands. Some of these had obtained in the meantime a new camouflage, (at least
1 Northrop F-5A)
others were gray painted (same as former Korean AF ones).


Northrop F-5A 10504 in last, worn out, gray colours - Puerto Princesa AB March 1992                             Receintly gray painted Northrop F-5B 13380 - Puerto Princesa AB March 1992
                                                                                                  Photos: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast

In 1994/1995 the Philippines came again in clinch with China People's Republic regarding the control of islands and reefs in the Spratly archipelago and Mischief Reefs, about 400 km west of the Philippine island of
Palawan. The only 5 airworthy Northrop F-5s were transferred immediately to
the nearest airport, Puerto Princesa, but returned to their home base when tension decreased. Their fighting potential was very limited
because of the short endurance of the fighters and the airframes fatigue did not allow sharp combat.

Very few remained operational: three single- one double-seater in 1991 and 1992, two in 1993 and 1994, five in November 2000, mostly affected by airleron cracks; air-to-air missiles AIM-9B Sidewinder were
anyhow refurbished in 1999.

                                                               Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast
                                               Camouflaged Northrop F-5A 69124 (without rudder) with toned down seal and an unknown, possibly 13380, F-5B
                                                  with coloured seal, in May 1998. Both have the "Blue Diamonds" badge with number 1 painted on the nose.

Some relief for the ground-attack role was the modification of some of 24 Siai S.211 trainers received in the early '90s; parts of the Northrop F-5s were used to improve their light attack configuration: optical sighting
system, UHF radios, Head Up Displays and 20mm cannons from retired airframes were incorporated in the former trainers.

At least 3 Northrop F-5As participated to the all-out war against muslim kidnappers in Sulu islands during May 2000. They were not suited for this kind of war and were just used for a show of force by the Philippine
president; the same aircrafts flew over the Manila presidential palace to oust the president on 20-01-01.

                                                                            Photo: unknown
                                                                         Northrop F-5A and B on readiness at Mactan AB in May 2000

Almost contemporanously, one Northrop F-5A and one F-5B, together with an Siai SF.211, participated as interdiction aircrafts to the Special Troops Exercise "Teak Piston 01-2" in January 2001 together with 2 special
operation USAF C-130 and 3 Sikorsky MH-53.

A new Air Defence Alert Center was completed by September 2001 at Clark AB, enabling partial control of Philippine territory and a scramble of the Northrop F-5As on alarm. Unfortunately this was very short lived.

Excercise "Balikatan 02-2002" was held by at least two Northrops F-5A, with US Navy McDonald F-18 for two weeks.

A tentative to buy Northrop F-5E/F-5F Tiger (Project Peace Magohany) took place in 04-05-76 with the request to use USD 4.7m Fiscal Year 76 Foreign Military Sales credit for an initial payment of 11 Northrop F5E, but
by 03-01-77 (the expiry date) the US Letter of Offer had not been signed, due to the desire to evaluate Chance Vought F-8H, Douglas A-4C and other fighters; 25 active and 10 Chance Vought F-8H for spare only were
bought in 1977.

By 1986 it was clear that the life of the remaining Freedom Fighters was very limited. Several considerations were made to obtain new aircrafts; financial onea proved this impossible..
Preliminary discussions were held
during this year with Korea to obtain 21 Northrop F-5Es and 3 F-5F as these were to be replaced by General Dynamics F-16s; the government expected to raise enough funds from the
sale of
Chance Vought F-8H for the down payment but potential purchasers withdraw their interest and the deal fell through; in 1990 the General Dynamics F-16 was considered, but it was too expensive. A less
expensive solution was sought in 1991 buying IAI Kfir C-7, but its purchase was rejected in order not to increase the other defence expenditures; also rejected was an offer during 1996 of up to 18 IAI Kfir-2000;
MiG-29SE was even shown at Manila-Villamor AB in November 1994, though with little chance of an acquisition;
another purchase attempt was made in April 1997, when discussions were kept with a private company in
order to obtain 13 Canadair CF-5A in return for mining rights, but these didn't reach maturity. Also considered was the purchase of former, stored Kuwaiti A-4KU; former Belgian Mirage 5, surplus French Mirage F.1 and
(it seems) Russian MiG-21.

Alternative solution
to extend the structural life of the available aircrafts for USD 50m, considered in February 1998, was fruitless.
Possible acquisitions of second generation fighters were former New Zealand A-4K/TA-4K, Saudi Arabian F-5E/F, again without follow-up; political consideration stopped in 1999 the acquisition of withdrawn from service
Republic of China (Taiwan) Northrop F-5E and F-5F, even if these were offered at an friendship price, first to be first returned to the USA and later to be sold to the Philippines.

Third generation fighters were also on the shopping list: in USA stored Pakistani General Dynamics F-16s (counter-trade with engine manufacturer Pratt-Whitney company was considered), F-18C/D, Mirage 200-5,

In a final effort to have some sort of air defence/support for the army the option to upgrade its remaining Northrop F-5A/F-5B was studied beginning 2002.
An offer by the Taiwanese Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation  Corp. of up to 26 former Republic of China Northrop F-5E/F-5F was considered as well as looking at retired Saudi and Swiss aircrafts.

The deep Asian financial crisis, at the time at its peak, together with change of priority to domestic insurgent fighting, put an end to all these efforts.

Operational retirement by the Air Defence Wing, both for technical and economical reasons, came after the crash on 02-05-02 of Northrop F-5A serial 21176, killing the pilot. An 2003 agreement with Korea to donate
additional aircrafts as well as plans to upgrade the remaining airframes with radar and advanced avionics was not activated.

Fifteen aircrafts were put in storage: 5 Northrop F-5A at Basa AB, 8 Northrop F-5A and 2 F-5B at Clark AB, these last initially in two hangars, one containing those in better and one in worse shape, later stored in

Official withdrawal of the Northrop F-5A and F-5B came on 01-10-05 when a retirement ceremony was held at Basa AB with a line-up of nine aircrafts, but only three at the time operational.

                                                             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast
                                 Spectacular two-tone gray Northrop F-5A 21191 initially painted for the official retirement ceremony on 30-09-05.
                                 It was actually repainted before the ceremony in "normal" gray colours to better represent the operational aircraft.

                                                                               Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5  Enthusiast

Some of the remaining aircrafts are preserved at various Bases and at the Philippine AF museum (see serials lists), others were still in storage at Clark AB in 2009.

  Photo: Paolo Maceren  
Northrop F-5A 38389 stored at Clark AB, "Blue Diamonds" and Philippine Air Force inscriptions overpainted.        Northrop F-5A 13326 in original metallic colour and Blue Diamonds colours at the
                                                                                                                                                                Manila-Villamor AB museum in June 1993.                                       Photo: Mike Barker

The Philippine Air Force conducted in 2008 a swap with the Royal Thai Air Force of Northrop F-5A, F-5B spare parts and hulks against spare parts for the local North American OV-10C Bronco COIN aircrafts.

Six newly grey painted (without engines) Northrop F-5A were shown at Clark AB on 02nd November 2016, 11 years after the last aircraft was withdrawn from service. In 2015 deliveries had started of
the new fighter/trainer KAI TA-50!