Fighter Weapons School (FWS) "Top Gun"

Top Gun became in 1972 a full fledge independent programm, in 1976 received 10 Northrop F-5E and 3 F-5F from the USAF.

By the end of 1986 there were 11 Northrop F-5E and 3 F-5F At NAS Miramar. It exchanged its Tigers for General Dynamics F-16N Viper in June 1987. All of the Vipers were retired in January 1995 due to maintenability and budget cuts; the unit moved on to NAS Fallon.

    Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusast
Early Northrop F-5E 159878 code 01 seen at Davis Monthan AFB 12-04-75 in SEA camouflage.

                         Photo: John P.Stewart
                          Northrop F-5E 159879 code 02 seen at NAS Miramar on 12-04-75
                Of note: both aircrafts had no unit markings, badges or Red Star painted

     Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                     Northrop F-5F 160964 code 546 at NAS Miramar on 24-09-77

    Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E codes 543 and 542, of note different camouflage and blue shades.

                        Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                      Experimental splint camouflage on Northrop F-5E 544 at NAS Miramar

    Photo: unknown
Northrop F-5E code 00 blue tiger colour seen on landing with big, red star on tail.

Nine years later, during the fourth quarter of 2014, there were at NAS Fallon 3 Northrop F-5F and 41 former Swiss Northrop F-5N; in October 2015 thirtyone Northrop F-5N.

At present it is flying a mix of McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A, A/F-18B, Grumman F-14A and Sikorsky SH-60F helicpters.


   Fighter Squadron Composite 13 (VFC-13) "Fighting Saints"
VFC-13 transferred from NAS Miramar to NAS Fallon in April 1996 contemporarely transitioning from 12 McDonnel F/A-18 to Northrop F-5s as last unit to receive Tigers; unit strength was 16 Northrop F-5E and 3 F-5F ex VF-43, VF-45 and VFA-127 and ex USAF.

    Photo: unknown
Former USAF Northrop F-5E 7300865 code red 01 of VFC-13 seen in 1997.

                             Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                            Northrop F-5E 741547 code 10 red at Fallon in February 1977

        Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
     Northrop F-5E 160795, code 23
of VFC-13 in an extravagant "zebra" colour seen in 2002.

It  is now still utilising Tigers providing dissimilar training to regular units of the Navy, USAF and Canadian AF in the Nevada desert. Unit establishment varies; in 2003 was 20 Northrop F-5E and 3 F-5F. His personnell is mainly part-time.
Maintenace support was by McDonnell Douglas and in 2018 by Pacific Architects and Engineers.

A Detachment of the Unit was formed in October 2005/January 2006 at NAS Key West (called VFC Key West) with 12 Northrop F-5E, later renamed  VFC-111 as a Squadron (see below).

Prior to the Swiss purchase (see below) VFC-13 had 12 Northrop F-5s.

Re-equipment with "new" Northrop F-5N started  on 26-03-04. Two-seaters, still designated Northrop F-5F with "old" fuselage and "new" Swiss wings, were part of the unit.

Northrop F-5N 761536 seen at NAS Fallon on 29-02-16 in a spectacular camouflage.

                             Photo: Eric Hess USNavyUnits.html
                         Air-to-air view of Northrop F-5F 761580 on December 2012

The unit is part of the US Navy Reserve and reports to the commander, Tactical Support Wing. It supplies aircrafts for the Dissimilar Air Combat Training - Top Gun programme held at NAS Fallon, main bases for the embarked pilots of the US Navy.

    Fighter Squadron 43 (VF-43) "Challengers""

Formation of the unit dates back to 1972. On 04-01-77 NAS Oceana was the home-base of 2 Northrop F-5E together with 4 Northrop T-38A and several Douglas A-4 types. They were augmented to 4 Tigers by 10-01-77, strength kept till 04-01-85.

Twelve Israeli IAI F-21A Kfir replaced the Northrop fighter by 10-01-85 at least till 04-01-88. The loaned Kfirs were definitely retired in 1989 and returned to Israel due to high costs, replaced by 18 Northrop F-5E/F-5F, flown together to Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Tail code was AD.

Famous is the participation of 4 Northrop F-5E, 2 F-5F at the film "Top Gun" in August 1985 (renamed MiG-28); many scenes were shot at NAS Fallon. The camouflage was painted all-over in a washable black colour (except tail-pipe), gaining the original colours once the film was completed. The in-flight sequences were filmed over the Pacific by a Learjet 25 used as camera ship, 60 miles southwest of San Diego.
Serials of the aircafts used would be welcome.

    Photo: unknown
Trio of black Northrop F-5E used during "Top Gun" film shooting
over the Nevada desert seen
here together to their fiercest opponent: the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

                            Photo: unknown
                                  Close view of a single-seater used in the film, serial not known

                        Photo: unknown
                                Northrop F-5F from the film "Top Gun", serial not known.

This unit was the third Squadron in 1987 to operate General Dynamics F-16N in conjunction with Northrop F-5E, F-5F and North Amerocan T-2C Buckeye at NAS Fallon on the US West Coast.

                             Photo: unknown
                         Northrop F-5E 160794 code 14 with VF-43 badge next to its short-lived replacement mid '90s.
                         Note small code on nose. What is the meaning of the S on tail?

Deactivation of the Squadron took oficially place on 01-07-94, all its duties taken over by VFC-12 flying McDonnel FA-18 Hornet.

                  Fighter Training Squadron 45 (VA-45, VFC-45) "Black Birds"
         Badge                      Tails - normal/low visibility in 1993

The unit provided pilots training for Dissimilar Air Combat as VA-45 on Douglas A-4 and Convair T-39D during 1980 at NAS Key West. It changed its duties to full-fledge Aggressor unit in 07-02-85, modifying  its designation to VF-45, assigned to Fighter Wing 1. By August 1987 received 6 General Dynamics F-16N and TF-16N in 1988, being supplemented by Northrop F-5E in December 1989.

Tigers were replaced by 6 General Dynamics F-16N in 1988 but retired in December 1994 due to fatigue. By 15-07-95 the Squadron received 7 Northrop F-5E and 2 F-5F from VF-43.

A permanent detachment with Douglas A-4 was established in June 1990 at NAS Cecil Field, detachment later becoming VFC-111 "Sun Downers" at NAS Key West (see below).

During 1996 the Navy decided to consolidate all adversary training into the Naval Air Reserve, following which VFC-45 was deactivated on 31-03-96. The Tigers were transferred to VFC-43 at NAS Fallon, last flight with the Black Birds was on 07-03-96. Tail-code was AD.

                Fighter Training Squadron 111 (VFC-111) "Sun Downers"
Sharkmouts worn by several aircrafts:             


        Original fin right-side (2008)                      Original fin left-side                          Three brown fin (2014)                      Various colours fin (2019)

On 01-11-06 NAS Key West Detachment (formerly part of VFC-13) was redesignated Fighter Training Squdron 111, part of the Carrier Air Wing Reserve (CVWR) 20. It was formerly flying F-14A till March 1995 and still flying from the afore mentioned station17 former Swiss Northrop F-5N and 1 Northrop F-5F were on strength. The aircraft type is still on strength.

The unit completed during the first year 14 Fleet Replacement Squadron fighter detachments over for 3'300 hours in the adversary support role.

                                             Photo: unknown
                Northrop F-5F coded 100 at NAS Fallon on 24-08-07 with full tail colours.

    Photo: F5guy
One of the Northrop F-5Ns (serial 761550, code 121) with special camouflage for the unit commander.

It is
an Active-Reserve Integration unit composed of both Regular and Navy Reserve personnell, aircrafts are maintenaid in 2019 by the civilian companyPAE Applied Technologies paroviding dissimilar air combat training to Navy and Marines units as well as to all the other USA forces (USAF, Air National Guard and Reserve). Its personnell is composed of active duty officers, full time and part support reservists. Key Wst is in proximity of the Gulg of Mexico, with very little air traffic and with an almost the year through sunshine.

 Training Squadron 126 (VFC-126) "Bandits"

Some sources mention that this NAS Miramar based unit received three Northrop F-5E from VF-43 in 1985 to add to the Douglas A-4s. The Northrop fighter was never shown on the badge. It was the first to re-equip with IAI F-21A Kfir and later with General Dynamics F-16N and TF-16N, starting from 1987.


Fighter Training Squadron 127 (VFA-127) "Desert Bojeys"          
Badge variant worn by pilots in 1992

It provided pilots training for Vought A-7 pilots during 1975, receiving later A-4 mainly for instrument training; the Squadron designation was changed from VA-127 to VFA-127 in March 1987 to show its main dissimilar training duties as first active duty adversary Squadron at NAS Fallon on the US West Coast. September 1987 saw the arrival of its first Northrop F-5E and F-5F together with (for a short period) Northrop T-38B, QT-38A. All these were replaced by McDonnell F/A-18A in March 1992. Tail code was NJ.

Relocation from NAS Leemore to NAS Fallon followed on 01-10-87; Tiger establishment during 1988 was eight single-seaters obtained from the Air Force. Tail code was NJ.

                        Photo: unknown
            Northrop F-5E 159981 belonging to VFA127 seen on 30-09-93 at AFB Davis Monthan,
            of note Cuban flag painted on tail.

    Photo: unknown
Black Northrop F-5N serial 160792
seen at NAS Atlanta on 28-07-89 reminds "Top Gun" film, 
though original ones were matt black.

                        Photo: unknown
                           One of the early Northrop F-5E 160793 code 726 in 1991 with small red star on rudder

By December 1995 the Squadron had 13 Northrop F-5E and 1 Northrop F-5F.

De-activation of the unit came with the consolidation into the Naval Air Reserve 
on 23-03-96.