Ejercito del Aire / Spanish Air Force

   Credit:  Roundels of the world

                                                Last update 20-04-2019

                                 F-5 bases on mainland and islands



The first operational flights were, during the crucial period 1974-75, along the demarcation line with British Gibraltar (Linea de la Cinception) by the Moron AB based Northrop fighters, together with North
American F-86F.
This was followed in November 1975 by an
escort of the Mystere 20, piloted by the future King Juan Carlos, towards the Spanish Sahara enclave Ifni in an hightly secret mission. The escort was taken care for the
first half by Moron AB based aircrafts
, followed for the remaining way by those based at Gando

Ala 21 has been the only unit called on war duties: on August 1974 and September 1975 during the first part of the Spanish Sahara colony crise, when up to 18 of its aircrafts were transferred to Gando AB
(Canary Islands) and flew out from there and El Aaiun (Spanish Sahara) more than 500 armed reconnaissance, show-down and air escort flights in the desert and along the African coasts, supported by a mobile
radar on the mainland, based at El Aaiun. Flares launching CASA-127 (Do-27) of Escuadrilla 408 illuminated the targets during night operations.
Its replacemnt unit in 1978, Ala Mixta 46/Escuadron 464 equipped with Mirage F.1, was not engaged in any active operation and was limited to
air defence, reconnaissance missions.

Some of the known
ones are listed below, first operated within the Ala 21 supervision, later, upon disbandment of this Ala, within the Ala 23 supervision:

Domestic Exercises - Ala 21
A shooting action, this time not in anger, took place on 16-05-77 when 4 CASA/Northrop SF-5A and 1 SRF-5A of the Ala participated to the  "Primavera 77-1" exercise, simulating several attacks of an (fictitious)
air base
at the las Bardenas shooting range together with all the range of Spanish fighters and aircrafts and helcopters.

Operation "Faron 78" took place between the 19th and the 29th October 1978 on the Mediterranean sea between Cartagena and the island of Mayorca with the participation of 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A, attacking
ships in a convoy.

Another exercise, "Orellana 78", took place in November of the same year: invasion through the Pyrenees mountains was countered by defensive forces. Ala 21 operating from Moron AB participated to the exercise
with 5 
CASA/Northrop SF-5A/SRF-5A and S
F-5B between the 21st and 24th, together with 5 CASA HA.200 Saeta, operating armed reconnaissance and attack missions.

           Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                 CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-070/211-70 with underbelly SUU-20 rocket and practice bomb dispenser.

1979 saw the participation of 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A and 1 SRF-5A (together with 4 CASA HA.200 Saeta) to the exercise "Operacion Velero 79", involving photographic reconnaissance on targets and simulated
ground-attacks on June 25th and 26th.

"Otono 83" exercise on 29-11-83 was the attack to a simulated air-base on the Bardenas range by Casa/Northrop SF-5A/SRF-5A of the Ala 21, SF-5B of the Escuela de Reactores and GAMD Mirage IIIE,
McDonnel F-4C, Mirage F.1 of the various Alas. The
Casa/Northrop SRF-5A undertook reconnaissance missions, SF-5B illuminating the target and SF-5A attacking targets on the base with rockets, bombs and napalm.

Exercise "Velero 84" took place between the 8th and the 12th April 1984 with the participation of two ground attack Ala 21 Casa/Northrop SF-5A detached to Talavera AB.

It participated to "Sinkex" (attack on a ship with live armament) exercise with 3 CASA/Northrop F-5B operated as laser illuminators for McDonnel EF-18 on the 12-12-91; this was repeated to the benefit of
McDonnel EF-18 and Mirage F.1 during the 1992 edition on September 17th.

International exercises - Ala 21
International exercise with European and US Air Forces started when Spain officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation  (NATO) in May 1982, contemporaneuosly collaboration started with friendly North African

Between 11th and 22nd March 1985 the Ala partecipated to the French air defence exercise, together with Spanish GAD Mirage IIIEE, McDonnel F-4C, Mirage F.1 and other aircrafts (about 400) from France, Canada,
the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the USAF

"Dragon Hammer 89"
Goal of the exercise was to test collaboration between various NATO Forces.
CASA/Northrop SF-5A participated between 20th April and 02nd of May 1989 (together with soldiers, aircrafts and ships from Italy, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdon, USA) to this NATO Air Force/Army/Navy
. Their duty was to attack Navy units in the Mediterranean Sea.

This exercise was/is devoted to combined training of commands and pilots of the two nations, air combat (both with similar aircrafts and dissimilar ones), ground support and SAR; Northrop F-5s and GAMD Mirage F.1
have been operating on both sides, McDonnel EF-18  fighters on the Spanish and Alpha Jets on the Moroccan side.
The first edition had taken place on October 30th and 31st 1984 with the participation of 2 CASA/Northrop SF-5B deployed to Meknes AB from Ala 73.
Ala 21 participated to the second edition between the 26th and 28th June 1985, while
the 1988 edition took place the 2nd and 3rd November.

Squadron Exchanges - Ala 21
Two CASA/Northrop SRF-5A and two SF-5A went for an Squadron exchange with the Mirage 5BR equipped Belgian AF 42e Escadrille to Bierset AB mid July 1987, exchange repeated in April 1989 by three CASA/
Northrop SF-5A and two SRF-5A


                                                In flight picture of CASA/Northrop SF-5A AE.9-052/21-12 and AE.9-039 still with the old 211-39 code while on
                                                exchange exercise at Bierset AB (Belgium) in April 1989.
             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

In Germany, RAF Laarbruch was visited end of October 1988 by 3 Casa SRF-5A, 1 SF-5B in an Squadron exchange with Tornado FGR1 equipped 2nd Squadron. Another Squadron exchange with the same RAF
unit took place in October 1991.

Two Casa SF-5B visited on 29th June 2004 the Beauvechain AB air show.

All aircrafts and duties were taken over by Ala 23 on disbandment of Ala 21 in October 1992.

Domestic Exercises - Ala 23
Ala 23's CASA/Northrop SF-5s towing targets have been used for regular,
monthly air-to-air shooting exercises to the benefit of all other Spanish fighters from Albacete AB and Gando AB (exercises "DACT").

Live armament exercise "Sinkex" was repeated on 05-04-95 with the participation of the two-seaters as illuminators.

"Tormenta", Spain's main air-to-ground exercise using the las Bardenas range, saw the participation of CASA/Northrop SF-5A and SF-5B/M with bombs and rocket attacks as well as laser illuminations (two-
to the benefit Mirage F.1M, McDonnel EF-18 during several editions.

Herewith a list of known dates when
CASA/Northrop SF-5s participated:
between June 8th and 9th 1993 with 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A (ground-attack) and 2 CASA/Northrop SF-5B (laser illuminators).
Only two-seaters, based at Zaragoza AB, were used from 1994 on:
on May 25th and 26th 1994 with 4 aircrafts; on 05-04-1995; on September 11th 1996; in November 2003; in 2006 between June 11th and
14th; in 2007 with 5 
F-5Ms as laser illuminators for attacking GAMD Mirage F.1 only (McDonnell Douglas EF-18s had been equipped with their own laser designator); in 2008 between 15th and 17th Apri; in 2009 
between 08th and 11th June
with 3 CASA/Northrop F-5M; in 2011 between 06 and 16 April; in 2012 during the last two weeks of March; in 2013 between 25 and February.

  Photo: Nestor la Orden  
                                                                Line-up of bombs laden
CASA/Northrop participating to "Tormenta 07" exercise

exercise was established to train Forward Air Controllers;
two or three CASA/Northrop SF-5B/Ms have attended regularely every year.

"Dacex" 2000 tok place on November 22nd, 23rd and 24th to test the air defence of the Canary Islands; 6 CASA/Northrop F-5s of Ala 23 were present at Gando AB, together with McDonnell Douglas EF-18s,
Mirage F.1s, tankers and transport aircrafts.

This excercise was followed in March 2017 by one taking place at Palma de Mallorca for the defence of the Baleares, inclusive 4 CASA/Northrop F-5B+, 4 GAMD Mirage F.1, 4 McDonnel RF-4C, 10 CASA C-101.

Not really an exercise, but a
dissimilar combat exercise, was the first mission (on 16-07-04
) of an CASA/Northrop SF-5M against a recently delivered Spanish two-seater EF-2000 Typhoon.

      Photo: Spanish AF
                                                                                    Pilots are seen here walking to their trainers.

Still very active is the Ala 23 in its educational role; nine Northrop F-5BM took part to air-to-surface trainining for new pilots flying from Zaragoza AB to the Bardenas shooting range between 03-04-19 and

International Exercises - Ala 23

"Atlas" and "Navimaes" exercises continued periodically, every two years, (with exeptions) alternatively in each country.


No details are known about the 1993 till 1996 editions; Morocco hosted the 1997 edition, while the 1998 and 1999 editions didn't take place.

Spanish Mirage F.1, McDonnel EF-18 and CASA/NORTHROP SF-5B+ from Talavera la Real AB together with 3 Moroccan Northrop F-5E, Alpha Jets; Mirage F.1 were present at the 2000 edition between the 16th
and 20th Otober.

The 2002 edition took place in Morocco from the 7th till the 12th of April; three CASA/NORTHROP F-5 went to Meknes AB, five GAMD Mirage F.1 to Sidi Slimane AB. They exercised Dissimilar Air Combat, Army
support and Defence Counter Air with 4 local Northrop F-5E and 3 GAMD Mirage F.1.

Between 28th June and 02 July 2004 five Northrop F-5E/F, five Mirage F.1CH/EH, five Alpha Jet were hosted at Talavera la Real AB and Los Llanos AB, which participated to "Atlas 04" with 6 Spanish CASA/
Northrop SF-5M, 4 EF-18 oF Ala 12 and 6 Mirage F.1 of Ala 14.

In 2008 it was again Spain's turn to hoXt at Talavera la Real AB2 Northrop F-5E and 2 Northrop F-5F between May 26th and 30th,
together with 3 Alpha Jet and 3 Mirage F.1 based for the exercise at Albacete AB,
exercising with 4 Spanish CASA/Northrop SF-5M, 4 Mirage F.1 and 4 McDonnel EF-18.

Atlas edition 2012 saw the participation, between June 4th and 8th, of 4 Spanish
CASA/Northrop SF-5M and 4 Moroccan F-5E, flying low level and air combat from Talavera la Real AB together with 4 Moroccan Alpha
Jet and Mirage F.1 belonging to both countries.

This is mainly low-level navigation and air combat exercise.

CASA/Northrop SF-5B of the 231 Squadron participated to the 1992 edition, no further details are known, while the 1993 edition saw the participation of one Moroccan unit and Escuadron 141, both equipped with
Mirage F.1, but no Northrop F-5s.

Exercise 1995 took again place at Talavera la Real AB with Spanish 231 Squadron and Moroccan Northrop F-5s attending. Spanish Mirage F.1, CASA/Northrop SF-5M and McDonnell Douglas EF-18 together with
Moroccan Alpha Jet, Northrop F-5E and Mirage F.1 were present at the yeat 2000 edition between the 16th and the 20th of October.The year 2001 saw the arrival
on September 17th at Talavera la Real AB of
4 Moroccan Northrop F-5E which remained till September 21st.

Meknes AB (Morocco) hosted 3
CASA/Northrop SF-5M between the 7th and 12 April 2012, while 5 Spanish Mirage F.1 were based at Sidi Ahmed AB, all challenged during the exercise by 4 Moroccan Mirage F.1 and
5 Moroccan Northrop F-5E. Composite Air Operations, DACT and Ground Attack missions took placE.

The 2005 edition took place from June 17th till 21st at Talavera la Real AB with the participation of CASA/Northrop SF-5M and 4 Moroccan Northrop F-5E.

Excercise "Navimaes 06" brouth between July 24th and 28th two Moroccan Northrop F-5E and 2 Northrop F-5F to Talavera la Real AB in order to exercise with four CASA/Northrop F-5M and Four McDonnell-
Douglas EF-18.

was denominated exchange excercises with Northrop F-E of the Tunisian AF between Talavera la Real and Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed AB. It was the turn of Tunesian AF F-5s to come to Talavera la Real AB from
the 11th till the 15th Septmber 2000, returning to Talavera la Real AB in October 2001 (at least one single- and two double-seaters) as well as in 2004 and in September 2005.

"Dapex" This is the main Spanish AF air-to-air, air-to-ground SAR, CSAR exercise, the Northrop SF-5 regularly participating to it.
CASA/Northrop SF-5 participated during November 1993 to this year's edition together with Spanish McDonnel RF-4C, Mirage F.1,
McDonnel/Douglas EF-18A and Portuguese Chance Vought A-7, Alpha Jet as well
as French, Mirage F.1 and Jaguar.

The 2004 edition
, to which 6 Northrop F-5B+ participated, was named "Dapex-Volcanex" for the presence of other European countries and took place between 27-09 and 08-10-04.

The 2005 edition 27-09-05 till 08-10-05 with 5 CASA/Northrop SF-5BM detached to Santiago de Compostela AB , while DAPEX 2006 was held in November with the participation of at least two, DAPEX 2007 from
the 19th to the 23rd of November

A single
CASA/Northrop F-5M participated to the international "Operational Integration" exercise at Kleine Brogel on 16-07-07, meeting Czech Saab JAS-39C, RAF Typhoon F.2 and Tornado, French AF and Navy
Rafale and German Tornado; Greek McDonnell F-4, General Dynamics F-16, LTV A-7C/TA-7C and Belgian, Danish, Italian F-16s
; it remained on place for the airshow on 17-07-07.

"Sirio" (air defence of the mainland and Spanish islands) took place between 03rd and 7th November 1997; Escuadron 231 operated 6
CASA/Northrop SF-5B+ from Lanzarote AB in conjunction with all types of
Spanish fighters, transports and  tankers together wit French, Italian and Portuguese aircrafts.
Four CASA/Northrop F-5B+ participated to the 2001 edition, together with other Spanish AF and Navy, Portueguese, French and USAF fighters, tankers, AEW aircrafts between the 5th and 10th May.

The unit participated to the 2016 edition of the "Tactical Leadership Programm 2016-3" from 12-09-16 till 21-09-16 with two CASA/Northrop F-5M.

Squadron Exchanges - Ala 23
Squadron exchanges have been very numerous. Hereunder some of them:

CASA/Northrop SF-5B and one CASA/Northrop SRF-5A visited Volkel AB (Netherlands) 12-25th June 1983.

Local CASA/Northrop SRF-5A participated to a Squadron Exchange with the Tornado equipped 32nd Jagdbomber Geschwader (Fighter Bomber Wing) at Lechfeld (Germany) between August 16th and 25th 1988.

Fiat G-91T of the Italian 60th Aerobrigata visited Talavera la Real AB in 1989; from June 23rd til 27th 1997 followed a visit from the 61st Aerobrigata, this time by four Aermacchi MB.339 The yeat 1991 saw an
exchange divided in two parts: four CASA/Northrop SF-5B of Ala 23 went from the 3rd to the 10th of June to RAF Lossiemouth for the first part, meeting the Jaguar equipped RAF 226 Operational Conversion Unit;
this unit came for the second part to Talavera la Real AB from the 19th to the 23rd of August with 5 Jaguars.

Belgian Air Bases were visited in 2004 two times by two upgraded CASA/Northrop SF-5M: Beauvechain AB in June, Kleine Brogel in July.

Fürstenfeldbruck AFB (Germany) was visited from 13 till 21-07-92 by 4 CASA/Northrop SF-5B for an exchange with Jagdbomber Geschwader 49 (Jabo 49).

Beginning 1995 3 CASA/Northrop SRF-5A and 2 SF-5B went to Treviso-S. Angelo AB (Italy), visiting the 2° Stormo.

he Italian AF came several times to Talavera AB for training Squadrons exchanges: Aermacchi MB.339 of the 213 Squadron on 07-14 June 2004; the 20th Squadron with 4 of its Lockheed TF-104G had visited
earlier (20th till 29th June 2001).

            Photo: Spanish AF
                                                                Alpha Jet 705-MF in front of a line-up of CASA/Northrop F-5M+ at Talavera la Real.

 Alpha Jets from Cazaux AB (France) were hosted at Talavera la Real AB several times: three
Belgian ones from 12th   till 17th March 2010, four French ones between June 13th and 17th 2011.

Air Shows

Two CASA/Northrop SF-5B participated to the Ramstein AFB (Germany) open-day in June 1980.

                 Photo: Archive Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                        CASA/Northrop F-5B 211-18/AE9-018  possibly at Ramstein on 13-06-80
The upgraded trainers went also abroad showing the flag at several ones:one SF-5M participated to the "European Trainer Meet" at Beauvechain AB (Belgium) on 29-06-04; another to Dijon AB show on 29-06-08
two aircrafts to Florennes AB (Belgium) airshow on 05-07-08; one came to the Koksijde AB (Belgium) airshow on 04/05-07-09.

                 Photo: Marco Papa
                                                                 CASA/Northrop SF-5M+ shows its possible armament at an open-day at Badajox AB on 11-02-19