The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page  -  Home

       لقوات الجوية الملكية السعودية
     Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Malakhiah as Sa'udiya
      Royal Saudi Air Force
       Saudi Arabian Roundel - Credit Roundels of the world

Unit                                                                            Last update 31-01-2023

      All Saudi Arabian bases were renamed in 1999 after members of the Saudi Royal Family (earlier they were named after the city where
      they were based plus Air Forces Base) and Wings were introduced.

      Dhahran AB was renamed King Abdul Aziz AB - 11 Wing, Tabuk AB King Faisal AB - Wing 7
      Khamis Mushait AB King Khalid AB - Wing 5 , Taif AB
King Fahad AB - Wing 2

    Air Force Northrop F-5 related bases

In January 1964 there were cosultations between the US and the Saudi governments regarding the possible purchase of a new fighter to arm two/three Squadrons. The US preferred to
offer the Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter over the Lockheed F-104G or F-104H to limit the use of the aircrafts in short range, air-defence and light ground-attack duties. Northrop F-5B
demonstrator serial 63-08442 was evaluated in June 1964 at Wiesbaden, in August 1964 at Dhahran (serial 63-9845).

Contemporanously British Aircraft Corporation conducted demonstration flights in Riyadh of the much more powerful, but highly complex, Lightning F.3 and on 22 December 1965 Saudi
Arabia announced an order to supply for 34 BAC Lightning F. 53 and 6 Lightning T.55, putting an end to US hopes.
A new, ambitious, programm to develop the Air Force was established in the early 70', when a less sophisticated aircraft, mainly for ground attack and as secondary role, was looked
for to train local personnell and reduce the heavy dependence on foreign military support and of contractor technicians.
Saudi aim was to achieve self-sufficency in all facets of
Northrop F-5 operations (training and support), but to leave room for augmentation by outside help.

In USA Northrop Corporation was given permission by the Department of State to demonstrate the weapon system capability of the Northrop F-5 to the Saudi government. This demons-
tration was closely monitored by the local United States Training ission (USMTM) based at Dhahran AFB. This was responsible for assisting the Saudis in determining military requi-
rements and for providing unbiased information on USA that could
satisfy the requirements. Saudi Arabia wished an package where only one contractor was responsible for technical development and control of production plus one responsible for
production and maintenace.

  The Northrop F-5, modified in an pecular to the country form, was selected; purchase went through US Foreign Military Sales channels. Technical support was
  integrated into the US Air Force spares system so that parts and even complete refurbished aircrafts would be obtained from USA. A large, double then required
  by NATO, stock of spare parts was bought and stored at airbases and dispersal fields. All this was included in the Peace Hawk programm, while 4 Lockheed
  KC-130H  based at Jeddah  provided air-to-air refuelling.

                                                       SAUDI/USA PEACE HAWK PROGRAMM I to VI

Introduction of the Northrop F-5 was accomplished in six phases, each named like the programm, followed by a Roman number. It lasted from 1971 till 1986. Air-to-air missiles were
also bought in the form of 1000 AIM-9J and, later, 600 AIM-9P-3 Sidewinders.
Lockheed KC-130H, air-to-air refuelling aircrafts, were received in 1975 to enable rapid deployment to
the very distant bases,
initially four (later four additional ones).
Three USAF commands (and Tactical Air Training Command) were heavily involved in the six programm phases.
Military Airlift Command provided airlift of materials and aircrafts; Air Training Command provided  Mobile Training Teams and Mobile Training Detachments; Tactical Air Command
was responsible for all Saudi pilots/instructor pilots training
and USAF pilots
flight tests at Edwards AFB.

Corruption allegations involved all armament/aircraft sales to Saudi Arabia.

Peace Hawk I
A Letter of Offer and Acceptance for 20 Northrop F-5B two-seat trainers was signed on 23-07-71 for USD 42.3m by the Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense and Aviation, and included
USD 25.2m for the aircrafts, the remainder for bases construction, check-out equipment, spares, mobile training units and various other support equipment. Contractor technical
support was planned for a five-year period at a cost of 1.2 million USD.
At first, three Northrop and one General Electric product service engineers were provided, with reassesment of the requirements for their service to be accomplished after two years.
In-flight delivery (via the Atlantic in USAF markings) of the first two Northrop F-5B was on 07-09-72, followed by two on 10-10-72, completed on 05-02-73 when the last six were
delivered. They replaced
in the Operational Conversion Unit at Dhahran AFB having Lockheed T-33As (No 15 Squadron) and North American F-86Fs (No 7 Squadron), both available to
pilots at the King Faisal Air Academy. The introduction of the new trainer was fulfilled without problems.

                                                                                      Photo: The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast collection.
                                                Northrop F-5B 01352 in USAF delivery markings departing Prestwick on 05-02-73 under an winter sky.
Peace Hawk II
Peace Hawk II phase started on 29-09-71 with the signature of a Letter of Offer comprising 30 Northrop F-5E at the value of USD 106.7 millions, of which USD 56.8 for the aircrafts and
the remaining amount for the purchase of support equipment: spares, contractorial technical support and aircraft delivery by Locheed C-5. Three Northrop product engineers were also fore-
seen and one from General Ellectric for only a period of two years (five in
Peace Hawk I).

Problems occurred due to three configuration changes requested by Saudi Arabia after production had already started. First request was in June 1972, it involved the installation of an
Inertial Navigation System (INS), The second one was asked in October 1972: in-flight refuelling capabilit; and third in February 1973 the installation of a sophisticated Instruments
Landing System
(not foreseen for other countries). It included the change of INS, an in-flight refuelling system, reconnaissance nose with a KS-121A camera, and an updated Instruments
Landing System. All these changed brought the total cost to USD 129.4 millions, particularly as the USAF needed to flight-test the new features; they resulted in first aircraft delivery
slipping from December 1973 to January 1974, but was completed in late 1974 according to plans.

                                                                                                       Photo: Northrop
                                                                Overfuselage view of first Tiger for Saudi Arabia, with reconnaissance nose

First Northrop F-5E built for Saudi Arabia, 00903, in early tests with Northrop RF-5A                 Same aircraft armed with Sidewinder and an air-to-air refuelling drogue
nose without an air-to-air refuelling drogue                                                                         A fake serial?

                                                                                                             All photos: Northrop
                                                                                        Same aircraft on refuelling trials from US Navy C-130 8249

Northrop F-5E 00915 (Peace Hawk II) awaiting delivery ar McClellan AFB in 1974              Northrop F-5E 00914 on pallet, ready to be transferred by air to S Arabia

                                                                                                           Photo: Northrop
                                                                      Northrop F-5E 00914 with USA serial, Saudi nationality markings

by Lockheed C-5 of the second phase fighters was foreseen to start in December 1973 but was actually in February 1974, due to the late modification changes request.
It was completed on schedule in late 1974.

A fly-pass in honour of King Faysal on 03 December 1974 showed 16 Northrop F-5.

Peace Hawk III

On reqest from Saudi Arabia an USAF survey team was sent to the country during September and October 1974; this team performed a survey of Dhahran and Taif AFB, realising the
need for augmented training support.
This was answered by a Saudi request that the USA  was to provide maintenance, training and support; Northrop Corporation was to be the sole contractor. Goals were set regarding
tentative aircraft utinization (20 hours per aircraft per month) and aircraft rates was to be 71% Operationally Ready, 5% not Oprationally - Ready Supply, 21% Not Operationally -
in Maintenace.
On 09-02-72 a contract was signed; it was originally to end on 15-08-76 but was extended to 15-12-76 with the signature of an agreement on 29-07-75, total value USD 265.7.

No aircrafts were foreseen, primary objective remained to assist the RSAF in achieving maximum self-sufficiency in the operation and support of their aircrafts. Northrop was to train
pilots and technical training for assigned RSAF personnel, construct and modify required facilities at Dhahran and Taif Air Bases, conduct English language courses,  required main-
tenance and supply support while training RSAF personnel to assume these duties. An F-5 Pilot Training Team (by Northrop Training Team assisted using a programm developed by
the USAF/Air Training Command), pilots received training in USA, Williams AB, in order to qualify to instruct

in the Peace Hawk progrmm). Two Contractor Technical Training teams (Northrop) were also sent for all Northrop F-5B and F-5E for maintenance training necessities.

Peace Hawk IV
The fourth phase negitations started in October 1973 with a price request for 50 Northrop F-5E; in summer 1974 it was modified to read 40 Northrop F-5E and 20 Northrop F-5F.
Purchase negotiation were only completed and signed on 04-01-75 due to the oil embargo by the Arab states; delivery was foreseen between 1977 and 1980 for the cost of circa
USD 796 millions. 

These aircrafts were to be fitted with more sophisticated systems, including APQ-159 improved radar, four underwing launchers for the, 1'000 purchased in 1976 AGM-65A Maverick/
laser guided bomb capability (also seen as an anti-ship weapon), APX-101 IFF, ARN-108 ILS/CPO-80 (MOD) Flight Director Computer, ALR-46(V)-2 Radar Warning Receiver, ALE-40
Chaff/Flares, Northrop AVQ-27 manual laser target designator, provision for the ALQ-101/119 ECM pod, Jest Assisted Take-Off (JATO) provision, developments of some was financed
by Saudi Arabia. Two simulators were also included in the programm as well as ten interchangeable reconnaissance nose kits for the single-seaters. Discussion were also held for
the installation of improvements: Laser Guded Bombs, Maverick air-to-ground missiles and an improved radar but they were not finalized.
The contract included two Northrop F-5E built by Singer-Link
Peace Hawk IV icluded retrofit of earlier aircrafts: remaining 29 Northrop F-5Es 12 had been lost earlier). These were to be upgraded to the same systems as the new production ones;
18 Northrop F-5B (2 had been lost earlier) were also upgraded with new radios and TACAN. The retrofit choice was between partial in Saudi Arabia or full either in Saudi Arabia or by
Northrop at Palmdale being transferred by Lockheed C-5 to/from USA.
This last option was chosen, modification began in July 1977 and was completed by December 1978. Flight testing with an USAF Northop F-5E was scheduled in June 1976 but was
postponed in order to be able to modify the USAF aircraft with all new options. Production delivery started in September 1976, two single-seater aircrafts had been completed by this
month, used for production verification the same month together wih two Northrop F-5F (respectaby delivered in December 1976 and January 1977). Testing was scheduled to last till
December 1977 while retrofit of all Peace Havk Saudi aircrafts was scheduled to begin in July 1977 and be completed in July 1978.

                                                                                                        Photo: Franz Wegmann
                                             Last aircraft of the second phase programm being reworked on the line at the Palmdale plant - June 20th, 1978
Peace Hawk V
A long-lead contract study by the USAF was started in February 1975 in order to have further general improvements. This programm was finalized on 31-01-76 and signed on 22-02-76,
valued at USD 1'574 millions;itwas a government-to-government contract not-to-exceed USD 1,58 millions for a period extended from 14-02-76 till 15-02-79. It related to maintenance
services needed to support the general Northrop F-5systems,daily flying and training schedules. Aircraft utilisation rate was given pro aircraft 20 hours per month, a rate of 71 percent
operationally ready, not operable due to maintenance of no-more than 24 percent.
Accent was again placed on the global goal to train for self-sufficency on all Northrop F-5 bases: Dhahran, Taif, Khamis Mushait.

The study ended in October 1975 and was submitted to the Saudis, which approved it on 28-10-75. It included an newa-a radar APQ159 and automatic test equipment.
Contract was signed on 22-02-76, covering the upgrading of the Saudi Air Bases system and including operating depot supply activity at Dhahran, building of three new bases during a
period between 13-02-76 till15 June 1979. These bases (amog which Khamis Mushait) were built to support the F-5s, but, equipped with the latest test equipment, the facilities would
support also McDonnel F-15 at a later stage. By February 1977 half of the foreseen technical faciliities were in a progress status, the others were to be started in 1978. Principal
difficulties were: obtaining visas for third countries national power people, building permits andsecurity passes, while training programs were also behind schedule due to human

                                                                         Photo: Collection F-5 Enthusiast
Peace Hawk VI
Negotiation for the last phase of the programm started in March 1976 with the request of four Northrop F-5Fs, probably to replace lost ones. The contract was only signed on 30 January
as the cost of approximately USD 23,3 millions. Aircrafts were more expensive than those of earlier phases, but they were similar to those of Peace Hawk IV. Foreseen delivery by
Lockheed C-5A was in the second quarter of 1978. The last 2 two-seaters were seen at McClellan AFB in April 1978 on the delivery phase. Sale of
5 Northrop F-5E as widely mentioned,
known US serials are only for 30
Peace Hawk II phase aircrafts.

By 1986 there were 22 Northrop F-5E/F-5F at Khamis Mushayt AB, 36 Northrop F-5E/F-5F and 8 Northrop RF-5E at Taif AB. The purchase of a total of 2500 AGM-65A and AGM-65B missile
gave them an attack capability.


The acquisition in March 1982 of 10 Northrop RF-5E, supplementing the camera nose equipped Northrop F-5E, was needed for a dedicated reconnaissance capability. It was not part of the
Peace Hawk programm.

The first three Northrop RF-5E transited Prestwick airport (United Kingdom) on delivery on 13-01-85, the last on 22-03-85. At least four, unusually, wore a very dark black colour, the
others a normal desert camouflage.

Taif AB housed iin 1986 eight Northrop RF-5E reconnaissance aircrafts.

 Northrop RF-5E 40195 painted in black transiting Alconbury AFB on delivery.                         Northrop RF-5E 40196 in desert camouflage at Edwards AFB in 1985. In the
                                                                                   Photo: unknown                         background  the third prototype of the ill-fated Northrop F-20
                                                                                                                                                                                Photo: The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast collection
Sevice enter/use
The first class of F-5 pilots was graduated in summer 1973, when 16 Saudi-piloted Northrop F-5B participated to a flypast at Dhahran AB. Another flypast, by 16 Northrop F-5s of the
Operational Conversion Unit,
took place in front of King Faisal on 03-12-74 at Dhahran AFB , together with 16 E.E. Lightnings.

Preliminary operational status was reached by the first two combat Squadrons by late 1975.
By 1977 there were 35 Tigers based at Dhahran (some mention 20) together with 20 Lightnings, 24 AB.205 helicopters for Search And Rescue plus 35 Northrop F-5s based at Khamis
Mushait AB.

Northrop F-5E replaced the BAC Lightning F. 53 in the attack and reconnaisance role, and, by 1978, they were RSAF's chief multirole fighter, including for the protection of sea lanes.
BAC Lightnings were formally retired from Saudi service at the end of 1985;
there were in 1986 22 Northrop F-5E/F-5F at Khamis Mushayt AB, 36 Northrop F-5E/F-5F and 8 Northrop
RF-5E at Taif AB.
The purchase of a total of 2500 AGM-65A and AGM-65B missile gave an attack capability to these aircrafts. A Taif AB an USAF detachment assisted the local Saudi McDonnell F-15,
Northrop F-5E/F and RF-5E units.

Air-to-air refuelling was extensively trained with Lockheed KC-130H as tankers.

By 1986 new pilots were trained in the USA after completing 12 hours and 42 weeks respectively on the Cessna 172 and BAC-167 Strikemaster at the Air Force Academy. Only circa 50
pilots advanced to flights on the Tiger and unsufficent technical personnel. Only Tiger units could function without enlisting foreign specialists. At  Dhahran AB 2 McDonnel F-15 and
2 Northrop F-5E stood on a five minutes alert around the clock.

Saudi Arabia did not participated wit its armed forces to the First Gulf War (1990) as it claimed to be neutral, though a considerable part of US forces was stationed on its territory.
Northrop F-5Es flew close support and aerial interdictions against Iraqi units in Kuwait; one aircraft was lost on ground fire on 13-02-91, its pilot killed.

Operation since mid 1990s

In mid-1990s, the Kingdom began entering into agreements directly with the third-party service providers to obtain maintenance and support for the F-5 fleet. This was earlier done
through Peace Hawk organisations,

    On 10-03-94 an agreement was signed with Lear Siegler to provide technically qualified contractor manning to augment, assist, train and advise RSAF personnel
    in overhaul/repair of aircrafts, ground equipment and navigation aids for F-5 operation;  on 16-03-95 as well as for support services, on 10-10-95 for spares; on
    15-04-96 again for support services; on 20-06-97 for technical data and assistance.

    Under these contracts, F-5 parts and components needing repair were shipped from Saudi Arabia to Lear in San Antonio. Additonally Lear sent personnel to Saudi
    Arabia. These integrated with RSAF personnel providing training and support in post-ejection survival, photo reconnaissance, flight operations and in fighter
    weapons and tactics.

    From 1994, poor leadership of the Air Force, the mishandling of overall training, underfunding and mismanaged Saudition, brought the Air Force to the point of
     near-crisis. Lack of readiness, poor aircrew and maintenance to aircraft ratios (heavily depending on foreign labour and knowledge) forced the near-grounding
of the Northrop F-5s. The
total in-country operation and maintenance was secured by a local company, All Mozoon Group (in partnership with Lear Siegler), with the  acquisition of all
new and rebuilt parts.
Remaining nine Northrop RF-5E were upgraded with the installation of Global Positioning System navigation in a $7.4m deal with Northrop Grumman in 1997. Twenty-seven Northrop
RF-5E mission-planning systems were purchased from Lockheed-Sanders Corporation (now BAE Systems) in 1995; structure was strengthened to prolongue operational life.

According to USA information 98 aircrafts were available in 1995.
The earlier mentioned contracts with Lear-Siegler expired in 1999; aircrafts parts still in storage at San Antonio and Saudi Arabian taxes claims leaded to an US court dispute only
partially solved ther claims 10 years later.

An USA 2003 study mentioned that the Air Force had reached something of a readiness crises; operational capability had dropped badly between 1992 and 2001; Saudi Arabian
Northrop F-5E had lost virtually their operational capability.

The Second Gulf War (beginning 19-03-03 and lasting over one month) saw the participation of the Saudi Air Force with 53 Northrop F-5E/F-5F (106 sorties) and Northrop RF-5E
(20 sorties), all based at Tabuk, thoughthe reconnaissance fighter did not fare well as they were largely useless in seeking out targets and rapidly processing information.

It is not confirmed that approximately a dozen Tigers were reactivated only for a short time in 2010 during the initial stage of the war against Yemeni Houti rebels,
Requests for authorisation for purchase of spares for Northrop F-5 and RF-5 were placed with the US Governement till at least October 2005, but number of Squadrons operating
Tigers were constantly reduced (see
Units/operation page).
The lightweight, short range Northrop F-5 played a major role in the establishment of the new Royal Saudi AF. Stratergy was modified in the mid-eighties: it was changed from a
light/point defence fighter/attack aircraft to a heavy one to defend the vast extension of the country and (mst important) its oil-fields. Financing was helped by income from crude
oil sales.
It found the aircrafts in the form of 46 McDonnell F-15C, 16 F-15Ds for the first role and BAE Tornado IDS for the seconde role. Only one Tiger unit was re-equipped with some
Tornados IDS (No 7 Squadron) foroperational conversion training; others were disbanded to make place to heavy duty fighters when received - McDonnel F-15 between January 1982
and May 1983, BAE Tornado between 1996 and 1998.

Lack of finance (due to the oil crise) and necessity to improve readiness, training, and capability for joint operations were factors that delayed the selection/purchase of a less heavy
aircraft till 2007 when (onSeptember 11th) a contract was signed with the United Kingdom government for the acquisition of 72 Eurofighter Typhoons. First 2 reached Taif AB on
24-06-09. The initial examples were delivered to the earlierdisbanded, earlier Northrop F-5 equipped units, No 10 and No 3 Squadrons.

Preservation and sales efforts
The only known preserved aircraft is at the Air Force Museum Northrop F-5F, on show at his premises in Riyadh, first noted in April 2006.  It is rumoured as a former Jordanian aircraft.

                                                                          Photo: flyart
                                               Northrop F-5E 1504 at the Air Force Museum in Riyadh on 15-11-07
According to unofficial sources an offer for sale of 55 Northrop F-5E/F was issued on 17-08-09, additional to follow later; two simulators for each 15 aircrafts purchased were available
as well as a free training programm for 4 aircrews and 4 groundcrews per 15 aircrafts purchased. No price was given, just the highest bid; no aircraft could be sold.
Another tentative to sell 79 Tigers was started via an US broker (AvBuyer) on 18-12-14, opening date of envelopes offers being the 20th February 2015 without success; a satellite
image shows 78 Northrop F-5E, F-5F and RF-5E stored at Taif - Al Fahd AB along an auxiliary runway.

 Northrop F-5E/ F-5F (
45) and RF-5E (3 black) later on a lateral runway at Taif AB probably 2015; where are the others? Stored on an enormus tarmac at Taif AB 73 Northrop F-5E/RF-5E
 and 3 black Northrop RF-5E
Fortyeight of the strored Northrop F-5 have been offered to Tunisia in the context of security co-operation between the two countries, but not accepted.
No exact information is available regarding various training losses.
Reported losses till 1976 were: two Northrop F-5B and 1 Northrop F-5E; by 2000 approximately 20 of all types.
Some (serials not known) are listed hereunder, others (serials known) in the serials sections:
Northrop F-5B: 21-07-76 at Taif, 13-04-92 at Khamis Mushait
Northrop F-5E: 27-08-78 near Hofuff; 1982, 1984, 1985 at Taif, 16-07-88 near Dhahran
Northrop F-5F: 1977 at Taif, 01-03-88 in Northern Saudi Arabia, based at Taif, 
05-04-04 at Taif