United States Air Force

   Credit:  Roundels of the world

Dissimilar Air Combat Training

Early evaluation of the Northrop F-5A by the Tactical Air Command had revealed considerable capability to engage the Mikoyan-Gurevitch  MiG-21 up to Mach 1.2; "Featherduster 1 Part 2"  test flights took place between 29-06-65 and 02-07-65 involving 2 Northrop F-5A of the 4441 CCTS and the prototype F-5N (with uprated J-85-15 motors) against USAF/Air National Guard North American F-86Hs. A total of 62 sorties were flown (the Freedom Fighter participated to 35 engagements as defender, 47 as attacker), leaving an impressive feeling of agility.
"Featherduster 1 Part 2" took place at low altitude between 16-08-65 and 22-09-65 in order to develop combat capabilities as low level, including air-to-air missiles AIM-7B and AIMB-9B; the Northrop F-5 flew only 1-versus-x due to availabity of aircrafts. Unfortunately these trials did not animate the USAF to procure the aircraft for its first line.

A study, called Red Baron, concluded that misssing DACT and knowledge about soviet tactics was responsible for the lower performances in air-to-air combat.The training was initially exercised (since October 1972)  in order to improve the absolutely unsatisfactory kill-to-loss ratio prevailing at the time in Vietnam, using Northrop T-38As within the USAF.
The more powerful Northriop F-5E Tiger was later accepted by the same command as a Dissimilar Training Combat aircraft.

The first of several Northrop F-5E, now available for USAF use due to the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam was delivered on 29-10-75, upgrading the capability to simulate the main possible opponent, the Mikoyan-Gurevitsch MiG-21. The composition of the Squadrons were unique, having their own Ground Controlled Interception radar operators and an intelligence section in order to simulate Soviet interception practices. These practices were possible thanks to captured manuals, interviews with defectors and latest air-combat experiences.

A decision to upgrade the Aggressors unit to the General Dynamics F-16 was taken March 1988 as the nineteen Tactical Air Command Northrop F-5E Tigers were no more able to simulate the latest Soviet fighters (Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG-23). Nine at Nellis AFB were foreseen to be retained by TAC and later to be transferred to the "Pace Bonito" programm; ten were to be sent to AMRRC Davis-Monthan AFB between April 4th and 8th, 1988. Three of these had been grounded due to longerons crack, funds to repair these were not available.
All Aggressor Squadron Northrop F-5Es were deactivated between February and September 1988

Six aggressor aircrafts  and seven/eight pilots went typicallys to the host base all over USA, flying two or three sorties, while aroud twenty pilots of the hosting Squadron flew against them.

 Known exercises included Red Flag, Maple Flag, AIM, ACE evaluation at (xxxx); during the exercises six aggressor
 aircrafts and seven/eight pilots went typically sent to the host base all over USA two or three times each, flying two
 or three sorties, while aroud twenty pilots of the hosting Squadron flew against them.

 Best known is Red Flag exercise hosted at Nellis AFBs/
USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center; this was managed by the
 4440th Tactical Fighter Training Group (Red Flag) till 01-03-80, being followed by the 414th Combat Training Squadron
 of the 57th Wing.
Starting in November 1975 they participated to the exercise giving a realist air-to-air combat training.
 Presence of the Northrop F-5E enabled comparison combats against Mikoyan-Gurevitch Mig-21 and MiG-23 (eg 1987).

Known exercises the Tigers partecipation was at Red Flag, Maple Flag. Additional participation was to the Air Combat and Intercept Missile Evaluations between 1976-78 at Nellis AFB and Maple Flag exercises in Canada starting in November 1975, when both the 64th and 65th Squadrons provided dissimilar training.

The majority came in several different colours, originally didn't carry any tail code but had the Tactical Air Command emblem on tail; the last two or three
digits (in case of duplication) of the serial was painted in red colour (highlited in yellow) or dark blue (highlited in white) or light blue (highlited in
or black (highlited in yellow) on the front fuselage. The colours were designed to mimic Easter European aircrafts. Initially a certain number of
aircrafts were painted
in the same camouflage,  changed during the life of each aircraft several times, following overhaul and repainting. No exact rules
were followed.
The Nellis AFB 57th Wing black/yellow check tail stripe and the TAC emblem were painted later on the tail, the stripe being removed when the aircrafts were painted in an overall grey (ca 1987).
National insigna was originally big sized on the back part of the fuselage; later was in smaller, toned or stencilled form mid fuselage.

Seen in 1981: 6 aircrafts in 6 original standard colours named Grape,      

Snake, Old Lizard, Old Ghost, Frog, Sand, Old Blue.         
                                                                                   Photo: US DoD

To the right:
Four aircrafts in four different colours almost at the end of their Dissimilar Combat Training career: Nellis AFB 02-03-89.
                                                                   Photo: unknown
The Nellis AFB black/yellow check tail stripe and the TAC emblem were painted later on the tail, the stripe being removed when the aircrafts were painted in an overall grey (ca 1987).
The 64th Aggressor Squadron tail carried the Nellis AFB black/yellow check stripe; code "WA" on the tail early in 1987, removed ca xxxx.

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57th Tactical Training Wing   57th Fighter Weapons Wing  
The 57th Tactical Training Wing was the parent Wing for two dissimilar training Squadrons, the 64th and 65th Fighter Weapons Squadron at Nellis AFB;
highly experienced pilots used the same techniques during combat exercises as their Soviet counterpart.

The Nellis AFB black/yellow check tail stripe and the TAC emblem were painted later on the tail, code "WA" on the tail early in 1987, removed ca xxxxl. The stripe was removed when the aircrafts started to be painted in an overall grey (ca 1987).

By 30-09-79 there were 77 authorised aircrafts, ASGD 80, POSS 76, RDY 60; by 31-03-80 Tactical Air Command (to which the Wing belonged) had 77 authorised aircrafts, ASGD 84, POSS 81, RDY 56; on 30-11-80 authorised were 78, ASGD 80, POSS 84, RDY 64.

         01567 seen in cloudy weather at Nellis AFB n January 1986                                         01388 seen at Nellis AFB

The Wing was renamed 57th Fighter Weapons Wing on 01-03-80, designation that was kept till the Northrop F-5E were retired.
Its Squadron (as Aggresors) had different coloured nose bore number: red for the 64th, blue for the 65th Squadron, though Wing pilots used aircrafts of both units.

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 64th Fighter Weapons Squadron
 64th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron   
 64th Aggressor Squadron

65th Fighter Weapons Squadron

65th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron
65th Aggressor Squadron
The 64th Fighter Weapos Squadron at Nellis AFB was the first unit in the USAF (apart from a test unit) to use Northrop F-5Es, activated on 15-10-75, receiving its initial aircrafts on 29-10-75;
The first change of designation came on 30-12-81 when it was redesignated
64th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron, followed on 01-04-83 by the designation 64th Aggressor Squadron.
Last two numbers of serial on nose were painted in red.

The 64th Squadron was also the first Dissimilar Air Combat Training unit to officially transition to the General Dynamics F-16C on 01-04-88; it was at the time equipped with 19 Tigers; 9/10 were retained at Nellis AFB for direct transfer to Honduras under Peace Bonito programm.

Dark blue Northrop F-5E with modified tail serial, 41529, at Nellis AFB.     

The 65th Fighter Weapons Squadron was a fighter weapons training unit, equipped with LTV A-7D till June 1975 ;it stood-up on October 1975 with the Northrop F-5E
at Nellis AFB for its new dissimilar combat
 training role; last two numbers of serial on nose were painted in blue.

                                                               Northrop F-5E with modified tail serial, 01564th, at Nellis AF AFB

Line-up of 7 Northrop F-5E at Nellis 20-01-81, each in different camouflage; of note the first with blue last two serial digits on nose.

Change of designation (to 65th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron) came on 30-12-81, modified on 04-01-83 to 65th Aggressor Squadron that was kept till inactivation on 07-04-89 due to budget constrains.
10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing      RAF Alconbury
      527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron
527th Aggressor Squadron                        

                                                              Russian version  
The 527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron was re-established on 29-09-75 after disbandment on 08-02-56, activated on 01-04-76. It provided DACT to the USAF in Europe. First eight Northrop F-5Es arrived at Alconbury AFB (United Kingdom) on 21-05-76 directly from the Air Logistic Command Center at MCClellan AFB on board of a Lockheed C-5A, followed on 14-06-76 by another eight and the final four on 24-06-76, on board of a similar aircrafts. The fighters were delivered in palletised form and re-assembled at Alconbury. It became officially operational on 01-01-77 after a pre-operational perios of 4.5 mothsfirst flight from its new base was on 01-06-76. Initial pilots complement, twenty pilots, had flown many hours, the least experienced having more than 1'000 flying hours.

Its first DACT course by 6 aircrafts started on 10-10-76 against McDonnell F-4C of the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing based at Torrejon AFB (Spain), it lasted 5 weeks. First non USAF unit, and detachment to a foreign base, followed on 31-10-76 at RAF Leuchars training RAF Phantom FG.1.

The Squadron was committed during war to the defence of the United Kingdom.

                             Photo: USAF
                    Northrop F-5E 01532, black serial 32 and McDonnel RF-4E of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing,
                    also based at RAF Alconbury.

Courses were given locally to most USAF Europe fighter units: in the United Kingdom on two overland training areas plus one supersonic one, over the middle of the North Sea (Air Combat Training Area).

Training "on site" (abroad) started with the first detachment to Zaragoza AFB in November and December 1976 with 6 Northrop F-5E, 7 pilots, 2 GCI operators to exercise against local based McDonnell F-4s flying to Bardenas range for ther weapons training. Flights of four aircrafts were also sent during the following years to Germany, Denmark (Aalborg AB May 1979), Turkey (3 aircrafts to Eskisehir AB 14-19 November 1992 for the first course with the Turkish AF), France and the Netherlands.

Decimomannu AFB (Italy) and its Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation range became an almost permanent training base, starting from 01-10-79, due to its better weather conditions and the Northern European crowded air traffic; Italian, French and German AF fighters also participated to training courses and financially. Seven mobile stations and three ground station plus one simulator enabled the comment of the previous air combat
Complement on 31-03-80 was 18 aircrafts, of which 16 were operatonal.

Change of designation to
527th Aggressor Squadron took place on 15-04-83. By November 1987 it had a strength of 17 aircrafts (flown 316,2 hours), 3/5 had crashed but 2 were replaced.

Last mission out of Alconbury was flown on 22-06-88, after which the Squadron was relocated to 
RAF Bentwaters under the control of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing in order to re-equip on General Dynamics F-16C; the first 2 had already arrived there on 14-06-88. Eight/Seven low hours Tigers were transferred to the US Navy and air delivered in July 1988, the remaining 12 were sent to Kemble AFB depot for longerons repairs before beng transferred to Morocco (5) and Tunisia (4).

A platic model was erected at RAF Alconbury with authentic windscreen and canopy.

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3rd Tactical Fighter Wing - Clark AFB

     26th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron

     26th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron on 30-11-77
     26th Aggressor Squadron from 22-04-83
The unit was formed on 31-08-75; it originally performed fighter aggressor training from Clak AB (Philippines) using Northop T-38As and a few Lockheed T-33As to provide DACT to the fighter belonging to USAF/Pacific Air Force. These were replaced by Northrop F-5E Tiger starting from 1977, keeping 4 Northrop T-38. The last sortie on Northrop T-38A was performed on 25-11-80.
By 31-03-80 there was a complement of 9 authorised Tigers, but 10 were assigned 10 and
9 were operational; on 30-11-80 authorised were 9, assigned 10 and only 2 operational.

            Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E 01561 still in South East Asia colours and sharkmouth, taken at Clark AFB 1979

         Photo: USAF
                            View during mid-80s of the different camouflage in a line-up at Clark AFB (Philippines)

         Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Tropical surroundings at Clark AFB for Northrop F-5E 50616 on 13-01-88.

The unit deployed aircrafts from the Philippines throughout the Pacific countries to exercise with locally based units and annually to Korea to participate to multinational exercse (with Korea) from 1978 until 1988, when the last Tiger sortie took place.