Turkish Air Force

                        Credit:  Roundels of the world
Roundel till 1972          Roundel from 1972

                                        Last update 31-10-21

Data written in blue are subject to confirmation

Turkey (member of the NATO and CENTO defence organisations) was the Southern European nation, together with Greece, foreseen to receive through the US Military Assistance Plan Northrop Freedom Fighters by the
mid 1960s to supplant its worn out Canadair F-86E(M) in the air-defence and North American F-100s in the ground attack role, though it would have preferred McDonnell F-4s in order to counter Soviet MiG-21s.
Deliveries were scheduled in 1965, re-equipping 4 Squadrons, one each year.

                
Northrop F-5A 38421/FA-421 undergoing tests before delivery.              Photo: unknown                           Northrop F-5A 21181 in USA before delivery, was later modified to Northrop RF-5A
                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: collection F-5 enthusiastunknown

Initial aircrafts arrived in Turkey on 25-12-65; nineteen Northrop F-5A and two Northrop F-5B had been delivered by mid-January 1966 equipping one Squadron (142 Squadron) in training status, by mid-67 there were
enough aircraft for two Squadrons
 (161 Squadron).


D
eliveries took place mainly by ship, but some were air-delivered: four Northrop F-5A in 21 fliying hours, piloted by two Turkish and two US pilots, starting from McClellan AFB on 23-11-66 and arriving at Bandirma AB on
12-12-66, via Williams, Vance, Norfolk, Loring AFBs in the USA, Goose Bay (Canada), Sondestorm (Greenland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Alconbury (UK), Ramstein (Germany), Naples (Italy) and Cigli (Turkey).

                                                                                       

                                                                                   Deliveries at Istanbul were sometimes in conjunction with Lockheed F-104Gs.

The first two units had by the end of 1970 a primary air defence and secondary close support commitments, having converted from Canadair F-86E(M) (already withdrawn from use in July 1964) at Bandirma AB
and Balikesir AB.
Each Squadron was equipped with 18 aircrafts. Another air-defence commited Squadron was based at Merzifon AB (143 Squadron); it was also formerly equipped with Canadair F-86E(M).

Aircrafts were delivered in metallic colour but were camouflaged in the early 1970's following a NATO decision.
            
               Shiny Northrop F-5A 13337 on arrival at Merzifon AB on 25-12-65 in metallic                       Northrop F-5B 13383/FA-383     Photo: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
               scheme.                                                                                               Photos: Turkish AF
        
Arrival of 20 reconnaissance version Northrop RF-5A in 1969 and 1970 enabled re-equipment of two mixed fighter-bomber/recce Squadrons (192 and 162). Thirteen fighter-bombers were additionally modified for
the reconnaissance role.


Turkey was prepared to supply 6 Freedom Fighters (if the USA agreed) to Pakistan during the Pakistan-India war in December 1971 according to US official sources, but this didn't take place

During the Cyprus crisis (which started on 20-07-74) Freedom Fighters were deployed to Cumaovassi AB and Yenisehir AB but didn't participated to operations; later they suffered under the consequences of the
ubsequent US arms embargo placed on 05-02-75, finally lifted in September 1978. Some available aircrafts had to be cannibalised to keep part of the fleet operational, but spares were also obtained through friendly
nations. Libya, which was also suffering under an US arms embargo and was unable to operate the aircrafts, transferred 6 single- and 2 double-seaters in 1975 as a gesture of help.

                                                                                      

                                                                                                Former Libyan Northrop F-5A 5-199/21199 at Eindhoven on 06-08-86.

Turkey planned to establish an aircraft industry (TUSAS) manufacturing fighters in the mid-70's; several types entered the selection phase, amongst which the Northrop F-5E, but the plan was finally dropped; later,
beginning of 1987, it was decided to built the General  Dynamics F-16.

A 1980 report from the US Senate Foreign Relations Commitee mentioned that the combat inventory of Freedom Fighter was 80 Northrop F-5A, 4 RF-5A, but only half of them were combatworthy.

Additional aircrafts for the operational units arrived in the 1980s. Norway transferred the highest number: 26 Northrop F-5A and 6 Northrop RF-5A (11 F-5A starting July 1983, 11 in 1985, 4 in 1987; 6 RF-5A
in 1987), the Republic of China 6 single- and 3 double-seaters in 1989 and
the USAF four withdrawn from use Northrop F-5B in March 1986.

US Military Assistance Program transfers totalled 75 Northrop F-5A
(arriving in Turkey between December 1965 and January 1968), 20 Northrop RF-5A (delivered March 1969-July 1970), 15 Northrop F-5B. Thirteen
of the Northrop F-5A have been converted to RF-5A
standard.

A new model was added to the Order of Battle between 1989 and 1991: 44 Canadair NF-5A and 16 Canadair NF-5B obtained from the Netherlands. The aircrafts were transferred free of change but 26 of them needed
extensive check as they had been in storage at Gilze Rijen and Woendsrecht for considerable time; finally only 30 single- and 14 were kept in use.
  These equipped the 132 Squadron; the unit being divided in one ope-
rational training flight and one acrobatic flight, the
newly re-established TŘrk Yildizlari (Turkish Stars).
The remaining 16 airframes were used as spares sources, recovered in the Netherlands,
while another 14 Canadair NF-5A, mostly only parts of written-off aircrafts, were transported to Turkey.

                   

      Canadair NF-5A 3054 seen transiting Cameri AB (Italy) in June 1989 on delivery.                                               Canadair NF-5B 4025 also transiting Cameri AB (Italy) in June 1989.
                                                                                                     Photos: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Perennial tension with Greece brought almost war in January 1996 due to the Imia Island crises. Freedom Fighters were foreseen for air-defence, but fortunately not needed.

Unconfirmed information was given in 1995 that the two Squadrons att Merzifon AB were to continue flying the Freedom Fighters in their fighter-bomber role until the F-16C/D Block 50 arrived, foreseen in 1988;
filo 152 was to be the first to covert to the new fighter, followed by Filo 151. In 1986 the 5th AJU received 20 former Norwegian additional Northrop F-5A and F-5B as well as in 1988 6 former China Republic
(Taiwan) Northrop F-5A.


Introduction of digital instrumentation equipped fighters rended the
advanced training aircrafts obsolete; the Turkish undersecretariat for defence industries issued in May 1993 a Request For Proposal to convert
40 single- and 20 double-seaters
to lead-in trainers for General Dynamics F-16C, F-16D. The program run quickly into troubles due to funding problems and was put on ice.
An attempt to revive it was started in 1995 by the US investment company Triton by funding and managing the programme involving 70 aircrafts to be brought at lead-in trainer level for the Lockheed-Martin F-16;
34 were to be kept by the Turkish AF and 36 sold to other Air Forces in order to pay for the whole upgrade. This ambitious plan was abandoned early in 1996 due to doubtful resale chances.
An offer by the Canadian government/Bristol Aerospace of already modified Canadair CF-5s was not accepted as it gave no involvement to the Turkish aviation companies.

A
Request for Proposal was again issued in November 1996, involving 48 of the best available airframes (20 Northrop F-5A, 8 Northrop F-5B, 14 Canadair NF-5A, 6 Canadair NF-5B). Avionics upgrade was to be
developed by bidders
, prototype development was to be done in Turkey at the Air Forces' 1st Air Supply and Maintenance Center at Eškisehir; co-ordinate structural and avionics modifications was to be conducted
by Turkish Aerospace Industries.


A consortium lead by Israel Aerospace Industries/Lahav division, Elbit Systems and Singapore Technologies Aerospace was chosen for the avionics modification in preference to  Rockwell International/Bristol
Aerospace, GEC-Marconi/Sogerma. The upgrade included the installation of Fly-by-wire systems, an HUD, Multi Function Displays, RWR and an GPS. It was divided in two phases: 1) airframe structural life extension
2) an avionics improvement, both phases to be implemented by the 1st
Air Supply and Maintenance Center at Eškisehir AB. A contract for the value of USD 70m was signed on 24-09-98, kits were to be supplied by
the consortium, which was also to superwise the work.


Northrop Grumman was also involved supplying 34 upper cockpit, nine lower cockpit and 20 dorsal longerons beginning in May 2000 with an USD 1.8m contract signed in September 1999.

                                                               

                                                                                              Canadair F-5B-2000 prototype in primer.

The first flight of a post-upgrade F-5-2000 was on 17-04-01, modernisation was completed by November 2006. The first four avionics prototypes were modified by Israel Aircraft Industries at Eškisehir, the following
44 completely
at Eškisehir. Works icluded the fitting of Martin Baker Mk 10L ejection seats.
Additional uprgrading started in 2003 involving an improved communication suite for better contact with forward air controllers and unmanned aerial vehicles.

      
              
In-flight picture of TAI/Canadair NF-5A-2000 3021 showing its new under-nose and tail antennas.           Unknown Canadair NF-5B-2000 overflying a mountainous area.    Photo: Ízmen Soner
                                                                                                                 Photo: Turkish AF

The fighters were foreseen to be retired from service at the endof July 2017 and 133 Filo (Squadron) disbanded, recently having a complement of circa 24 aircrafts. Earlier, In the latest two months of use approximately
half of them were flown to
Eskisehir AB to be cannibalisedfor spare parts in order to keep aircrafts belonging to the acrobatic team "Turkish Stars" flying.The personnel and remaining 11 aircrafts were still operational
beginning 2014 but were also sent to Eskisehir Ab and the ones with sufficent fatigue life use as replacement ro the acrobatic unit.
By 2017 a photo shows at least ten Freedom Fighters in a graveyard, all possible spare
parts removed.

                                          

Aircrafts withdrawn from usegate guardians

Several Northrop built aircrafts withdrawn from use have been used for spare parts retrieval, others were placed as gate guardians at various bases or can be found at museums.


                                                                           
              Photo: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                               Northrop RF-5A withdrawn from use and stored awaiting their fate in May 1999


                          
Northrop F-5A 14460 seen at Yesilkoy in September 1993; of note the white serial.                                     Northrop F-5A 97121 with fictitious code: 9 is the Main Jet Basis Number, 192 is the
                                                                                                                                                           Northrop F-5 Squadron number based at Balikesir.    Photos: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                                                                           
      Photo: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                                                                   Northrop RF-5A 3-208/21208 at Eškisehir AB February 2007

The end of the advanced training role for the Canadair built aircrafts came in 2007 with the decision to update Turkish Northrop T-38As (redesignated T-38M); these  were to be equipped with the new generation
avionics HHG Training, a 
simulated air-to-air and air-to-ground training device enabling to replace the Canadair fighters, cutting training time and costs. The first of 55 TAI/Northrop T-38M was received 20-04-12,
delivery to be completed by 2014.

                                                                           
           Photo: archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                                   Well worn, preserved, TAI/Northrop F-5B-2000 21279 seen at Konya AB 21-06-13.