Fighter Weapons School (FWS) "Top Gun"

                                                                                                   Last update 03-01-2023

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, 1987 10 Northrop F-5E and 3 F-5F . 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.

     Early Northrop F-5E 159878 code 01 seen at Davis Monthan AFB 12-04-75 in SEA camouflage                Northrop F-5E 159879 code 02 seen at NAS Miramar on 12-04-75
                                                                          Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusast                                                                                                  Photo: John P Stewart

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

   Photos: unknown 
Northrop F-5E codes 543 and 542, of note different camouflage and blue shades.                                                Northrop F-5N code 00 blue tiger colour seen on landing with big, red star on tail.
Possibly photographed before delivery as no unit badge or unit code painted on.

                                                                                           Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
                                                                   Experimental (Ferris scheme) camouflage on Northrop F-5E 159878/544 at NAS Miramar 02-05-75

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 NAS Fallon.

   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.

 Former USAF Northrop F-5E 7300865 code red 01 of VFC-13 seen in 1997.                                                                    Northrop F-5E 741547 code 10 red at Fallon in February 1977
       Photo: unknown                                                                                          Photo: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                                                                         Photo: Flyteam.jp/Scotch
                                                                           Northrop F-5F 160965 code 31 at Fallon NAS on the tarmac on a busy 29-03-07

          Northrop F-5E 160792 code 21 in very special camouflage at Fallon on 13-04-00
                           Northrop F-5E 160795, code 23 of VFC-13 in an extravagant "zebra" colour seen in 2002.
                                                                Photos: collection The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

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.

                                                          Northrop F-5E serial unknown, codex 21 and North Korean tail flag; very effective camouflage over the sea!

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

Re-equipment of the Squadron started on 20-04-22 with delivery of first former USAF General Dynamics F-16CBlock 32, delivery starting 20-04-22; unit losing all its Tigers by end of 2022. Their Northrop F-5Ns
re-equipped the VFC-204 (former VFA-204) at NAS New Orleans.


    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.

      Photos: unknown 
                  Close view of a single-seater used in the film, serial not know                                                                     Northrop F-5F from the film "Top Gun", serial not known. August 1987

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 an F-16, 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.

                                                                                 Northrop F-5E 721387/codex 30 with low-visibilty unit tail badge in 1993

Tigers were replaced by 6 General Dynamics F-16N in 1988 but retired in November 1993/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"

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
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.

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

               Photo: F5guy        
         Northrop F-5Ns (serial 761550, code 121),VFC 111, in February 2017 with special camouflage                         Northrop F-5Ns (serial 761568, codex 122) prepared for the next mission in April 2021
        for the unit commander, resmbling to the Russian PAK-FA.

It is an Active-Reserve Integration unit composed of both Regular and Navy Reserve personnell, aircrafts are maintenaid in 2019 by the civilian company PAE 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 West
is in proximity of the Gulg of Mexico, with very little air traffic and with an almost the year through sunshine.


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

                            Sharkmouts worn by several aircrafts:                     

                                                                                                   Photo: US Navy/ Danette Baso Silvers
                                                                                Northrop F-5N serial 761557 codex 112 on take-off at Key West NAS during 2020

By beginning of 2022 the unit was equipped with 17 single- Northrop F-5N and 1 double-seater Northrop F-5F. It operated In November 2022 against the US National Guard /Ohio 180th Air Wing equipped
with F-16 Fighting Falcon, pointing out collaboration between the US Navy and USAF.

                                                                                                   Photo: US Navy/ SSgt Kregg York
                                                                              Northrop F-5N codex 33 seat at NAS Key West on 02-11-22 serviced by civilians.

One Northrop F-5N crashed on 31-05-2023.

 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. Later it obtained also two-seaters.

                                                                         Photo: Adams Barre
                                                     Northrop F-5F
on 28-04-91 still in USAF colours and big size tail serial, next to a Northrop F-5 with North Korean flag

            Photos: unknown   

   Northrop F-5E 159981 belonging to VFA127 seen on 30-09-93 at AFB Davis Monthan,                                          Black Northrop F-5N serial 160792 seen at NAS Atlanta on 28-07-89 reminds "Top Gun" film,
   of note Cuban flag painted on tail.                                                                                                                     though original ones were matt black.

           A  similar (firebird!) Northrop F-5F BuZ Number 84056, code NJ30 was present at NAS Fallon in September 1995        Detail of tail

                                                                      One of the early Northrop F-5E 160793 code 726 in 1991 with small red star on tail

                                                                        Northrop F-5Es in various camouflages and Iraqi, North Korean (second) flags on tail

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.


             Fighter Training Squadron 204 (VFC-204) "River Rattlers"

Flying till 30-08-22 McDonnel Douglas F-18s VFA 204 is set to receive all former VFC-13 Northrop F-5N/Fs, reforming on 01-09-22 as VFC 204 at NAS New Orleans. Duties are the same: training pilots in air combat.
First Boeing F-18 was already seen stored at AMARG (Davis Monthan AFB) in February 2022. By March 2023 the unit was equipped with 11 Northrop F-5N