United States Air Force


   Credit:  Roundels of the world Roundel                          USAF Warfare Center shield at the entrance of Nellis AF base

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 was 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.

                                                                               Photo: unknown

                                                                       Former Vietnamese Northrop F-5s awaiting their fate at Guam after disembarkment.
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 (best known), Maple Flag, AIM, ACE evaluation at (xxxx); during the exercises
outside Nellis AFB 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


Best known is Red Flag exercise hosted at Nellis AFBs/USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center; this was managed by the 4440th Tactical Fightr GrouŁ (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 realistic air-to-air combat training.  Presence of the Tigers
enabled to simulate combats against Mikoyan-Gurevitch Mig-21 and MiG-23 (eg 1987).
Additional excercise flown as aggressors was Maple Flag in Canada,
starting in November 1975, when both the 64th and 65th Squadrons provided dissimilar training. AIr Combat and Intercept
Missile Evaluation at Nellis AB took place between 1976 and 1978  Red Flag banner

The aircrafts 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
(highlited in yellow) or dark blue (highlited in white) or light blue (highlited in black) 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 over North Virgina
                                                                                        Photo: 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. By December 1976 operated at least 10 Northrop F-5E.

                                                                                  Photo: USAF
                                                                    Unit representative, serial 01557th with AIM-9J Sidewinder in a snowy landscap

The Wing participated to rhe yearly Red Flag excercise; in 1976 ten RAF Buccaneers and 6 Jaguars participated in the exercise.

The Nellis AFB black/yellow check tail stripe and the TAC emblem were painted early 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).
According to US statistics there were on 30-09-79 with the 57th Squadron: authorised aircrafts  77, ASGD (assigned?): 80, POSS (possibly?) 76, RDY(operational?): 60 - on 31-03-80
had 77 authorised aircrafts, ASGD 84, POSS 81, RDY 56 -  on 30-11-80 authorised: 78,
ASGD (assigned?): 80, POSS (possibly?) 84, RDY: (operational?) 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.                   Photos: unknown

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.

                                                                       frame 1
                                                                    Grey/grey Northrop F-5E with modified tail serial, 41529, at Nellis AFB.

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
role; last two numbers of serial on nose were painted in blue around 1982.

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

                                                                         frame 1
                                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
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 and activated on 01-04-76, after disbandment on 08-02-56 Flying North American F-86 from Ramstein AFB (Germny). 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 reaching full strength of 20 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.

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

By 1976 the unit had established its two-weeks traning rogramm.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), but  lasting 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

    Left: rarely Tiger adorned serial 01543 at airshow in Farnborough 1976

Northrop F-5E as delivered - without Squadron badge, with black/yellow code, Aalborg 31-05-79.       Northrop F-5E 01551, 527 Squadron in garbage colours at RAF Alconbury showing its sleak lines.
         Photo: USAF                                                                                                                          Photo: unknown

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 of 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: 01-20 Octorber 1982, 3 aircrafts to Eskisehir AB 14-19 November 1992 with the
Turkish AF), France, the Netherlands (Soesteberg AB).
Spring 1982 saw also depolyment of 3 pilots (only, no aircrafts) to Switzerland as civilians (Switzerland is a neutral country). The pilots sat on the front
seat of the two-seater Northrop F-5Fwhile an instructor sat on the back-seat. The flights were all two-angainst-two Mirage IIIS. Pilots only went also to Jordan and Norway.

Right: drawing created upon the visit at Turkish AF/Eskisehir AB wth signature of pilots participating to the excercise.

                                                                                Eskisehir AB painting

Decimomannu AFB (Italy) and its Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation range became an almost permanent training base with 6 Northrop F-5E rotating avery two months, 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 examination 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.

  Photo: unknown        Photot: USAF
Metallic colour Northrop F-5E serial 01550 seen before departure in 1977 at Ramstein AFB                                 Grey/dark sand camouflaged Northrop F-5E serial 01545, 01556, 01559 of the
                                                                                                                                                            527th Squadron in 1979.
Of note camouflage different than later picture (see below)

Excercise "Red Star" was hold during two weeks in December 1982 using all available aircrafts at Alcombury AB operating against one European based McDonnell F-15 units. This excercise was held later each year,
progressively increasing to two each year.

                                                                                     Photot: USAF/SSGT Fernando Serna

Northrop F-5E 01569 and 01554 showing their late, very effective, grey camouflage in a cloudy sky. Last mission out of Alconbury was flown on 22-06-88, after which the Squadron was relocated to RAF Bentwaters
nearer to the North Sea training areas and able to simulate the next generation MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker), 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.
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 plastic model was erected at RAF Alconbury with authentic windscreen and authentic canopy.

                                                                                         Photo: Collection Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                                                             One of the Tigers on delivery to the US Navy, with underwing long range tanks, stopping at
                                                             Lossiemouth on 24 July 1988, serial 01556; of note different/grey camouflage of the nearby aircraft.

                                                                                         Photo: US DOD/SSGT David Nolan
                                                         Low visibility serials on Northrop F-5E tails, each  in different camouflage, at RAF Alconbury in 1987

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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,
9 were operational; on 30-11-80 authorised were 9, assigned 10 and only 2 operational.

Northrop F-5E 01561 still in South East Asia colours and sharkmouth, taken at                       View during mid-80s of the different camouflage in a line-up at Clark AFB (Philippines)
Clark AFB 1979                                             Photo: Collection Northrop F-5 Enthusiast                                                                                                Photo: Michael Benolkin

                                                                                           Photo: The US National Archives
                                                                     Northrop F-5E 01475 at Clark AFB on 10-09-84 for excercise Cope Thunder

Tropical surroundings at Clark AFB for Northrop F-5E 50616 on 13-01-88.                             Northrop F-5E 01389 with inscription "26TH AGGRESSOR COMMANDER" in 1983
                                                               Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast                                                                                                 Photo: unknown

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.