The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page  -  Home


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

                                         Completely revised 11.11.2019

Information about the Saudi Arabian Air Force are scarce due to the restrictive informaton politics. Details hereunder origin mainly from USA (official and inofficial) sources.                                    

   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
                            
         Badge of Dhahran AB      Badge of Tabuk AB 1990             Badge of Taif AB    Badge of Khamis Mushait AB




 

                                                        Photo: unknown
The past, the present and the future: B.A.E. Lightning F-53, McDonnel F-15C and Northrop F-5E of No 6 Squadron

Hereunder Northrop F-5 equipped are listed, their former equipment or if they were new established units; some information might be incomplete or incorrect due to the secrecy surrouding this country.
Further Squadrons/Wings badges can be found under http://scramble.nl/sa.htm - Order of Battle, though it is not known if they were used on Northrop F-5 Squadrons.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

EXPANSION

No 7 Squadron

      Photo: unknown
                            Northrop F-5B 743 landing at Dhahran, its home base.

Based at Dhahran AB, at the time flying North American F-86F as an Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), was the first to re-equip in 1974 with
Northrop F-5E/F-5F from Peace Hawk II programm, 
keeping the OCU role, but having operational duties in emergency cases; some Northrop F-5Bs
were added when No 15 Squadron was re-equipped 
with Tigers. 
The complement of No 7 Squadron in 1983 was of 38 Northrop F-5B/F-5E/F-5F; it was encharged with main air defense role of the Gulf area oil facilities
having 2 Northrop F-5E on a five minutes alarm readiness until No 13 Squadron pilots were combat ready on their new McDonnell F-15C (operating from
January 1982), though there were also 2 of these new fighters on alert duties.  Squadron's pilots were trained for dissimilar air combat and flew against
McDonnell F-15Cs simulating MiG-21 and MiG-23.
The unit was chosen as an  Operational Conversion Unit when No 15 Squadron was transferred to Khamis Mushait AB; in June 1986 it was operating
15 Northrop F-5E, 8 F-5F, 14 F-5B; 1 Northrop F-5E equipped with reconnaissance nose was transferred to Tabuk AB.
Upon arrival of BAE Tornadoe IDSs (delivery starting from 27-03-86) the Squadron became the Operational Conversion Unit of this aircraft, remaining 
at Dhahran. The Freedom Fighters/Tigers were transferred to other units.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No 15 Squadron
Based also at Dhahran
AB, was equipped with Lockheed T-33A (originally 10), for advanced jet pilot training of graduate pilots, when these were replaced
by
Northrop F-5B from Peace Hawk I programm in 1972-73. It remained an training unit, handling new pilots having received 200 hrs basic training on BAC 167 Strikemaster.

In 1974 the unit started to re-equip with F 5E Tiger and F-5F trainer aircrafts delivered under Peace Hawk II programme; it handled initial type conversion. The Northrop F-5B
trainers were mainly transferred to No 7 Squadron, the Operational Conversion Unit.

The squadron moved from Dhahran AB to Khamis Mushait AB in 1981, was regularly deployed to other bases and used for Dissimilar Aircraft Combat against No 6 Squadron
BAE Lightnings.

By August 1985 some Northrop F-5E from the Squadron replaced EE Lightnings on Quick Reaction Alert at Tabuk AB and . There it took over fighter duties while No 6 Squadron
transitioned to the McDonnell F-15C and F-15D. Advanced stricke attack capability was added when it received AGM-65A abd AGM-65B missiles
.

Twelve of its pilots, together of all Saudi ground personnel, participated to "Red Flag 81" at Nelis AFB using 4 Northrop F-5B, 6 F-5E borrowed from USAFs, 425th
Tactical Training Squadron.

By 1986 its equipment was according US sources 18 Northrop F-5E, 9 F-5Fs, based at Dhahran AB.

In August 1990, during the invasion of Kuwait, it deployed aircrafts to Tabuk AB, nearest Air Base to the operation area; the unit  was one of the Tiger equipped unit based at Khamis Mushait A following invasion of  Kuwait, No 17 at Tabuk (with Northrop F-5E/RF-5E)

                           
Photo: unknown
                                    Northrop F-5E 1523 "B" armed with 4 AGM-65 Maverick in front of an hardened shelter.


         







        Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast 












   
           GPU Mk 82 bombs armed Northrop F-5E taking off from Dhahran AB in June 1978.

No 15 Squadron was inactivated in 2005 as part of the Northrop F-5 phase down.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
No 2 Squadron
Was the last Lightning F.53 and Lightning T.55 equipped unit based at Tabuk AB till mid January 1986 (last flight 22-01-86),  after which it moved to Taif AB receiving Northrop F-5E from Peace Hawk IV
programm for the strike role based at Khamis Mushait.

The Squadron was operational beginning 1979, probably disbanded in order form to enable set-up of new Squadrons when sufficent McDonnel F-15s (delivered between 1981 and 1984) were avaibable. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
No 3 Squadron

A new unit formed around 1975 at Taif/Prince Fahd AB with Northrop F-5E  aircrafts from Peace Hawk II programm; it was the initial type conversion unit. Later it received at least 3 Northrop F-5F two-seaters.

By 1986 its equipment was according US sources 22 Northrop F-5E/F-5Fs its pilot being trained especially to conduct aireal reconnaissance.

In August 1990, during the war with Iraq, was one of the Tiger equipped unit based at Taif AB.

The Squadron was operational beginning 1979, probably disbanded in order form to enable set-up of new Squadrons when sufficent BAE Tornados and McDonnel F-15s were avaibable. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
No 10 Squadron

The Squadron replaced 1986 English Electric Lightnings at Tabuk AFB to ensure the air defence of the North-Western area.

Was relocated
(when?) to Taif AB upon receipt of Northrop F-5Es from the Peace Hawk IV programm between 1976 and 1978. It provided fighter alert aircrafts for
the Mecca/Jeddah area and provided tactical strike training.

By 1986 its equipment was according US sources 22 Northrop F-5E/F-5Fs, based at Taif AB. In August 1990, during the war with Iraq, was one of the Tiger equipped unit based at Taif AB.

In August 1998 at least 5 reconnaissance RF-5E were with the unit.

The Squadron was probably disbanded in order form to enable set-up of new Squadrons when sufficent BAE Tornados and McDonnel F-15s were avaibable and later re-formed and
later re-equipped with BAE Tornados (see below).
 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No 17 Squadron

Was formed mid 1985 at the new built Tabuk/King Faisal AB; it received aircrafts ordered under Peace Hawk IV programm, replacing No 2 Squadron BAE Lightnings in the fighter-bomber
role.
Transfer between 1976 and 1978 to Taif AB took place: ten
reconnaissance Northrop RF-5Es were added between January and December 1986 and was still using some Northrop F-5B by
January 1991.
In August 1990, during the war with Iraq, was one of the Tiger equipped unit based at Tabuk AB, the nearest to Iraq.

Its reconnaissance aircrafts played a critical role in providing surveillance of the unstable Yemeni border in the South of the country.

The Squadron was disbanded (probably on receipt of enough BAE Tornado/McDonnel F-15 for other units) but reactivated for a short time in 2010 with about 12 aircrafts of the three variants.
It is believed that the unit was definitely disbanded by 2013 or earlier
; some reconnaissance capable Tornados from other Squadrons replaced the remaining Northrop RF-5E in this role.

Operations

An important advisory mission in developing an effective combat capability was played by the Unites States Military Training Mission with detachments at the main bases; it provided for example No 7 Squadron at Dhahran assistance on Northrop F-5 training with instructor pilots. USAF aggressors pilots have visited Saudi Arabia before 1983 to train local pilots on Soviet aerial tactics used by several bording countries. It had a detachment at Taif to assist locally based F-5E/F-5F and RF-5E Squadrons.

The first, and only known, exercise abroad was by Northrop F-5Es of No 10 Squadron when they were deployed to Mafraq AB (Jordan) in 06 November 1975 (excercise called Al-Yarmuk), together with Lockheed C-130, Agusta-Bell 205, Agusta-Bell 212. The Squadron participated in a combined air/ground Jordanian/Syrian/Saudi forces excercise, demonstrating the Air Force's ability to deploy large components to Jordanian bases and operate from their home base, relying entirely on Jordanian ground crews. The F-5s gave air support and air defense to their own troops, while cooperating with the Syrian-Soviet operated Ground Control, and coordinating their operations with Syrian MIG 21s and 23s as well as Sukhoi Su-20s.

In 1978 pilots began Dissimiliar Air Combat training against Lightnings; in addition a large inert dart target was carried during some combat training, always to the benefit of Lightning pilots; Tigers fired a Sidewinder  air-to-air missile as a target. Additionally, Northrop F-5s designated targets for simulated laser equpped bombs to the benefit of the bigger fighter.

Four Northrop F-5B were transferred to the Yemen Arab Republic Air Force in 1979, during a conflict between the republic (North) and South Yemen, to help training of local pilots for the recently received Northrop F-5E.

An important event was the participation in November 1980 to the "Red Flag 81-1 " exercise at Nellis AFB (USA) with USAF, 425th TFTS, loaned aircrafts. The crews used 4 Northrop F-5B, 6 F-5E, 2 F-5F painted with Saudi Arabian AF nationality markings, beside USAF ones; 12 pilots flew 135 of the planned 140 sorties, assisted only by own ground personnell.

The year 1981 saw an increasing number of their periodic deployment to Tabuk AB (near to the Jordan/Israeli border) of No 10 and No 3 Squadrons aircrafts.

  • An unfortunate episode in 1982 was the late scramble in 1982 to counter a defecting Iranian McDonnell F-4, too lateto incept the aircraft before entering Saudi Arabian airspace in the Dhararn oil area.

  • Depot-level capibility of the airframe and avionics at Dahran AB plus full operation of the Northrop fighter  hadlargely been taken over by Saudi Arabian personnell by 1983, some other bases having total responsability for the aircrafts. Flights of 12-14 aircrafts were detached to remote bases regularely on exercises.
  •       Photo: unknown
  • Norhrop F-5E 701, probably the first Tigerr frlivered, in company with aMcDonnell F-15C of No 13 Squadron in 1988
    Taif based No 3 and 10 Squadron operated together 35 Northrop F-5E and 9 F-5F during 1983.
    Re-equipment
    Operation "Desert Storm" took place in August 1990 following Iraqi invasion of  Kuwait. At the time there were four Northrop F-5Es equipped Squadrons: No 15 at Khamis Mushayt, No 3 and No 10 at Taif (all with Northrop F-5E/F-5F), No 17 at Tabuk (with Northrop F-5E/RF-5E). This last was the nearest base to Kuwait, its Northrop F-5E/F-5F attacking entrenched Iraqi infantry, RF-5E flying reconnaissance missions along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. Probably some aircrafts from other Squadrons were deployed to Tabuk AB.
    Between 17-01-91 and 28-02-91 Northrop F-5E flew 1'129 and RF-5E 118 sorties; Northrop F-5Fs equipped with laser spotter/tracker and armed with GBUs did some strike missions, "lased" by Saudi Bell 406 Combat Scout helicoptes. Only 1 F-5E was lost to anti-aircraft artillery on 13-02-91.

                     Photo: Northrop

    Northrop F-5E, probably the first Tiger delivered, in company of a McDonnell F-15C of No 13 Squadron in 1988

  • Retirement - Units conversion/disactivation
  • Northrop F-5 had lost their operational capability for the defence of North-West Saudi Arabia when No 2 Squadron  at Taif AF was transferred to Tabuk AB in March 2003, contemporaneously converting to former No 6 Squadrons McDonnell Douglas F-15C/F-15Ds.
  • Replacement for the tiny/simple Northrop fighter was finally ordered on 11-09-07 in the form of 72 much advanced Eurofighter Typhoon.
  • First two Eurofighter Typhoon were delivered to Taif AB on 24-06-09 for No 3 Squadron which acts initially as the Operational Conversion Unit with Typhoon T.51; by mid-October 2009 the Squadron had started flying operations with the first four aircrafts delivered. Eight were serialled in No 10 Squadron (reforming late 2013) range but went to No 3 Squadron, as well as all other first 24 aircrafts. At present Taif AB hosts all operational Typhoon FGR.50.

  • BADGES 
  • Units patches based on RAF crest (central logo within a frame identifying the unit number with a mottobelow and a Royal crown above) were used during 1950s and 1960s due to the presence of United Kingdom personnell. This was modified under USAF influence to a circular and shield shaped patches with new logos in mid-70s and early-80s together again in 1980s when new standardised logos were adopted deleting the picture of living creature.

  • Only confirmed badge and Air Base bage is form No 3 Squadron/Taif AB (see below)

  •     Welcome to No 3 Squadron leaflet for newcomers at Taif AB
        showing several Northrop F-5Es, the nearest aircraft still
    has
        is USAF serial.
        Of interest is the US programm Peace II serial (not the Saudi
        one known to be normally weared), the No 3 Squadron badge
        (left), the Taif AB on the higher middle part of the photo and
        the Arabic inscriptions (what do they mean?).

























    Other early badges (RAF style),
                           Later badges (US style) possibly used only on re-equipment
    most probably used by Northrop F-5 units         with Douglas F-15 or BAC Tornado                      

                               

    No 2 Squadron           No 7 Squadron                No 3 Squadron               No 7 Squadron                Taif AB
    Operations and re-equipment till mid 90s

    An important advisory mission in developing an effective combat capability was played by the Unites States Military Training Mission with detachments at the main bases; it provided for example No 7 Squadron at Dhahran assistance on Northrop F-5 training with instructor pilots. USAF aggressors pilots have visited Saudi Arabia before 1983 to train local pilots on Soviet aerial tactics. It has a detachment at Taif to assist locally based F-5E/F-5F and RF-5E Squadrons.

    The first, and only known, exercise abroad was by Northrop F-5Es of No 10 Squadron when they were deployed to Mafraq AB (Jordan) in November 1975, together with Lockheed C-130, Agusta-Bell 205, Agusta-Bell 212. The Squadron participated in a combined air/ground Jordanian/Syrian/Saudi forces, demonstrating the Air Force's ability to deploy large components to Jordanian bases and operate from there, relying entirely on Jordanian ground crews. The F-5s gave air support and air defense to their own troops, while cooperating with the Syrian-Soviet operated Ground Control, and coordinating their operations with Syrian MIG 21s and 23s as well as Sukhoi Su-20s.
    In 1978 pilots began Dissimiliar Air Combat training against Lightnings; in addition a large inert dart target was carried during some combat training, always to the benefit of Lightning pilots; Tigers fired a Sidewinder  air-to-air missile as a target. Additionally, Northrop F-5s designated targets for simulated laser equpped bombs to the benefit of the bigger fighter.
    Four Northrop F-5B were transferred to the Yemen Arab Republic Air Force in 1979, during a conflict between the republic (North) and South Yemen, to help training of local pilots for the recently received Northrop F-5E.
    The year 1981 saw an increasing number of their periodic deployment to Tabuk AB (near to the Jordan/Israeli border) of No 10 and No 3 Squadrons aircrafts, normally based in the South/West. An important event was the participation in November 1980 to the "Red Flag 81-1" exercise at Nellis AFB (USA) with USAF, 425th TFTS, loaned aircrafts. The crews used 4 Northrop F-5B, 6 F-5E, 2 F-5F showing with Saudi Arabian AF, beside USAF, markings; 12 pilots flew 135 of the planned 140 sorties, assisted only by own ground personnell.
    An unfortunate episode was the late scramble in 1982 to counter a defecting Iranian McDonnell F-4, too late to intercept the aircraft before entering Saudi Arabian air-space in the Dhahran oil area and landing.
    Depot-level capibility of the airframe and avionics at Dahran AB plus full operation of the Northrop fighter had largely been taken over by Saudi Arabian personnell by 1983, some other bases having total responsability for the aircrafts. Flights of 12-14 aircrafts were detached to remote bases on exercises.
    The complement of No 7 Squadron in 1983 was of 38 Northrop F-5B/F-5E/F-5F; it was encharged with main air defense role of the Gulf area oil facilities having 2 Northrop F-5E on a five minutes alarm readiness until No 13 Squadron pilots were combat ready on their new McDonnell F-15C (operating from January 1982), though there were also 2 of these new fighters on alert duties.  Squadron's pilots were trained for dissimilar air combat and flew against McDonnell F-15Cs simulating MiG-21 and MiG-23.
                    Photo: unknown
     Northrop F-5E 701, probably the first Tiger delivered, in company with an McDonnell F-15C of No 13 Squadron in 1988
    Taif based No 3 and 10 Squadron operated together 35 Northrop F-5E and 9 F-5F during 1983.
    Another change to an Tiger unit came with the order in September 1985 of 48 BAE Tornado IDS heavy fighter-bombers. No 7 Squadron at Dhahran AB was chosen as its Operational Conversion Unit. In June 1986 it was operating 15 Northrop F-5E, 8 F-5F, 14 F-5B. These were transferred to other units upon arrival of the new aircrafts; in July 1986 at least 1 F-5E, 5 F-5F, 13 Northrop F-5B went to Taif AB, 1 F-5E equipped with RF nose went to Tabuk AB.
    Additionally 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.
    Operation "Desert Storm" took place in August 1990 following Iraqi invasion of  Kuwait. At the time there were four Northrop F-5Es equipped Squadrons: No 15 at Khamis Mushayt, No 3 and No 10 at Taif (all with Northrop F-5E/F-5F), No 17 at Tabuk (with Northrop F-5E/RF-5E). This last was the nearest base to Kuwait, its Northrop F-5E/F-5F attacking entrenched Iraqi infantry, RF-5E flying reconnaissance missions along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. It seems that some aircrafts from other Squadrons were deployed to Tabuk AB. Between 17-01-91 and 28-02-91 Northrop F-5E flew 1'129 and RF-5E 118 sorties; Northrop F-5Fs equipped with laser spotter/tracker and armed with GBUs did some strike missions, "lased" by Saudi Bell 406 Combat Scout helicoptes. Only 1 F-5E was lost to anti-aircraft artillery on 13-02-91.

    No 17 Squadron at Tabuk AB with Northrop F-5E/F-5F and RF-5E was transferred to Taif AB (when?). It seems that some Northrop F-5B have also been on its strength by January 1991. Its reconnaissance aircrafts played a critical role in providing surveillance of the unstable Yemeni border. The unit was reactivated for a short time in 2010 with about 12 aircrafts of the three variants.

    Retirement - Units conversion/disactivation
    Northrop F-5 had lost their operational capability for the defence of North-West Saudi Arabia when No 2 Squadron  at Taif AF was transferred to Tabuk AB in March 2003, contemporaneously converting to former No 6 Squadrons McDonnell Douglas F-15C/F-15Ds, these being later replaced by Boeing-McDonnell F-15S.
    Replacement for the tiny/simple Northrop fighter was finally ordered on 11-09-07 in the form of 72 much advanced Eurofighter Typhoon.