القوات الجوية التونسي

Al Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jamahiriyah at'Tunisia
Tunisian Republic Air Force

        Credit:  Roundels of  the world

                                        Last update 02-06-21

    Tunesia started evaluating the Northrop fighter in 1975. A purchase of ten single- and two double-seaters (at a cost of USD 53.6m, including support) to replace twelve North American
    F-86F was considered and a Letter of Offer and Acceptance was received in 1976; Douglas A-4 were also taken into consideration (at a cost of USD 70.7m) as well as Macchi MB.326LT
    were considered (two-
and MB-326KT single-seaters). The Macchis (four and eight aircrafts) were purchased and received in 1977.

    The need to operate a high performance fighter brought in 1981 the reconsideration and selection of the Northrop F-5; the contract for the  purchase of 8  Northrop F-5E and
    4
 Northrop F-5F was signed in Washington  on 27-04-82 by the Tunisian prime minister under the code name "Peace Djem". It had a value of USD 200m including spares and support.

   In-flight deliveries started in November 1984, two double- and one
single-  seaters transiting Prestwick (UK) on 19th/20th, the official date of reception of these first  ones was on
   05-12-84 at Sidi Ahmed AB. They had only one stop at Prestwick on delivery;
deliveries were completed on 05-03-85 when 2 single-seaters transited Prestwick. Aircrafts were routed
   mainly via Keflavik/Alconbury-Nice.

 
frame 1       frame 1
                               Northrop F-5E Y 92515/IL transiting Pestwick on 05-03-85 on delivery      Photo: unknown          Northrop F-5F Y 92506/IO at Pestwick on 19-11-84, US serial is painted under                                                                                                                                                                            the Tunesian one.
Official acceptance by the Air Force of the first 4 Northrop F-5F and 2 F-5E took place at Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed AB on 05-12-84. Air-to-air missiles AIM-9J Sidewinder, as well as possibly AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground
(there is no evidency) were also acquired.

Another four former USAF, 527th Aggressor Squadron, aircraft were purchased in 1988 to augment the strength and replace lost aircrafts; the first two left RAF Kemble (UK) on delivery to Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed AB on
08-06-89, the last two on 23-08-89. 
All aircrafts from the two batches went to equip the 15th Squadron, based at Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed; USAF instructor pilots trained local pilots.

 frame 1                  frame 1
               Line-up of three single and 3 double-seaters; of note different camouflages.                           Northrop F-5E Y 92521 call sign IO taking off at RAF Kemble on delivery 23-08-09 still with USAF insignia.             
                                                                                                        Photo: unknown                                                                                                               Photo: Stuart Lewis Photography 

  frame 1 Badge 15 Squadron    frame 1   Northrop F-5F Y 92504 (no code)/Y 92508 (code ID)on a splendid blue sea
                                                                                
                                    Photo: Tunisian AF

The aircrafts were tasked with ground-attack and air defence duties; they flew training flights over the Mediterranean sea and it is rumoured that there has been an, more or less friendly, encounter with two Italian
Lockheed F-104S/ASA over the sea in January 1984.

Tunisian defence forces have been engaged s
ince in 2011 against transiting Algerian guerillas. Not officially confirmed is the destruction on 20-06-12 near the Chott du Djerid (possibly by one Tiger) of three trucks
trying to smuggle arms between Lybia and Algeria; one Northrop F-5, together with two Bell UH-1, has been detached to the South of the country in order to control further smuggling of arms.
Tigers participated to
the bombing operations at Jebel Samama on 12-08-13.

EXERCISES AND UNIT VISITS
Air Force's F-5s participated between 24th and 26th October 1988 to
"Phibex", an air-combat training exercise in conjunction with the "USS John Fritzgerald Kennedy" based aircrafts.

Dissimilar air-combat training was the goal of exercise
"Dasix" held between the 20th and 24th 1990 in conjunction with McDonnel F-18s Hornets embarked on  USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (belonging to VF-131
Squadron) and four VF-136 Squadron based at Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed.

Exercise named
"Hannibal" saw several exchange visits in Tunesia and Spain:
The first excercise as held in April 1997 in Talavera la Real, Bizerta-Sidi Ahmed AB hosted between September 17th till 21st 1997 three Spanish AF 141st Squadron's GAMD Mirage F.1 for air-to-air combat missions,
while Talavera la Real AB, homebase of the Spanish Air Force advanced flying school equipped with CASA/Northrop SF-5, was visited several times, usually by 1 single-and two-double-seaters: between the 11th and
15th September 2000, the 01st and 04th October 2001 as well as in April 2004 and September 2005.

    frame 1                       frame 1
   Combined exercice of one CASA/Northrop SF-5M and two Northrop F-5E over the Spanish      
Northrop F-5E Y 92509 landing at Talavera la Real AB in October 2001, call-sign II painted under the cockpit.
    coast; of note the "old" camouflage of former USAF aircraft.                  Photo: Spanish AF                                                                                                                                        Photo: L.M. Blok

A domestic exercise took place on the 29th and 30th June 1999 when the Air Force trained with helicopters (Gazelle) and fighters (Northrop F-5, Macchi MB.326) in day and night fighting against Army targets in an
area approximately 35 km south of Gabes.

France has a special relation to Tunisia, so their Air Forces; this has lead to common exercises. Tigers have visited Solenzara AB (in Corsica) in November 1998 (two double-seaters, accompanied by one Lockheed C-130)
to exercise with GAMD Mirage 2000C of the Escadre de Chasse 1/12.

This was followed from October 22nd to 26th, 2001 by a second visit involving 2 double- and 1 single-seater, engaged in a local shooting campaign, between the 12th and the 23rd October 2003 by another visit;
GAMD Mirage F.1C and GAMD Mirage 2000 were engaged during this visit.

        frame 1                       frame 1
Two Northrop F-5E and one Northrop F-5F were deployed to Solenzara AB (France) end of October 2007.
        Sidewinder armed Northrop F-5F Y 92504 escorting French AF CASA CN.235 62-IR/158 in Tunesian                                                                          Photo: unkwown                                                                                                    airspace on 21-09-11                                                                                   Photo: French AF

Interception and escort of a simulated hijacked civilian aircraft in conjunction with the Air Forces of Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Portugal, Spain, Libya, Italy and France (not all participating contemporaneously) was
exercised during the last years within the Mediterranean countries "5+5 defence" initiative:
"Renegade" operation took place on November 11th 2009 with a Algerian Lockhhed C-130 simulating the civilian plane,
followed on 13th October 2010 by exercise
"Circaete". This last mentioned edition involved again an Algerian Lockheed C-130; Tunisian contribution was one Sidewinder armed Northrop F-5E and one Northrop F-5F
During the 2011 edition on September 21st one French CASA CN.235 was intercepted by one Northrop F-5F; the 2012 edition took place on 30th October, two Tigers intercepting an Algerian Lockheed C-130, while
the 2014 edition took place on 29-10-14, one Sidewinder armed two-seater escorted an Italian Airbus A.319.

Forty eight Northrop F-5 have been offered by Saudi Arabia in the security co-operation between the two countries. This was not accepted.

The good relations between the two countries enabled an excercise in October 1018 with Saudi Arabian aircrafts (including F-15D) at Bizerta-Sidi Ahmed AB, where the Tigers are based.

                                                                                       frame 1             Photo: Tunisian AF

A very intensive collaboration with the USA saw the delivery of Black Hawk, Bell OH-58D helicopters, Lockheed C-130 transports and the order for T-6 Texan trainer, AT-6C Wolverine light attack aircrafts;
in this context 1 Northrop F-5F and another, unknown model, have excercised with USAF B-52s
on 08-09-20.

                                                                                        frame 1       Photo: Tunesian AF
                                                                                    Clearly discernible is a Boeing B-52 in the background, accompanied by Tunesian Tigers
on 08-09-20

CRASHES
Two or three (according to the diferent sources) single-seaters are known to have crashed on: 09-11-92, 10-04-96, 19-04-96 near Bizerta-Sidi Ahmed AB..

There were 12 aircrafts in service in 2004 according to an official US source; an unofficial document noted that 12 Northrop F-5s were based at Bizerta-Sidi Ahmed in 2007.
One Northrop F-5E crashed on 17-10-18 into the Mediterranean during the multinational excercise of "5+5 Defence" training initiative, the pilot was rescued by a Tunisian helicopter;
another Northrop F-5E crashed in an operational mission in Sourht East Tunesia on 06-10-20

MODERNISATION/REPLACEMENT
The need for a modernisation of the remaining aircrafts was recognised mid 2000s; a delegation was sent to Talavera AB on 2-4 July 2009 to study the upgraded Spanish CASA/Northrop F-5Bs.

Another possibility is their complete replacement; discussions have taken place on 05-12-11 with a French delegation for the possible purchase of 12 former Qatari GAMD Mirage 2000-9 fighters
followed on 16-07-12 with discussions between the Qatari Crown Prince and the Tunisian prime minister for the purchase of 12 GAMD Mirage 2000-5.

A surprise (but not too much) came on 18-09-2013 when the US Congress was notified of a possible Foreign Military Sale of an mainly avionics upgrade for the approximate value of USD 60m. This
includes 12 LN-260 GPS/INS Control Display Unit, repairs, publication and technical 
documentation, personnel training and equipment, and logistical/programm support by US personnel, one mainly in
Tunisia for flight testing.
An addition was a USD 30m contact with Northrop Grumman Systems Co. as FMS for upograding avionics and  maintenance repairs to be performed at St. Augustine (Florida) and in Tunesia. It will be
completed by December 2018.

By July 2017 maintenace of the General Electric J-85 for the fighters were taken care by the Swiss RUAG AG at Emmen and spare parts were delivered by Locheed C-130 to Bizerta-Sidi Ahmed AB.

One withdrawn from use Northrop F-5E is shown mid 2020 by Google Earth at Bizerta AB. Acoording to one report in 2021 only three Tigers are operational.

Further considerations for a replacement meant that several aircrafts have been considered since July 2020: former Kuwaiti FA-18; Saab JAS-39, Aero Vodochy L-39NG, General Dynamics F-16.