Credit:  Roundels of the world
Roundel                                             Last update 21-06-2022

       GRUPO AEREO DE CAZA No. 12  "Superacion"
"Ten. Vincente Landaeta"/El Liberator AB - Barquisimento

Aereo de Caza 35 "Panteras"
scuadron de Caza 36

                                                                                                                                                  Unit badge on aircraft's tail                Variant of badge                  Variant of badge   (which is the oldest one?)

An offer was made at the beginning of 1965 by Hawker Siddeley Group in 1965 for 15 Hawker Hunters at a cost of USD 13.5 millions but not accepted. On 23-05-64 the embassy of Venezuela in USA asked details
about the Northop aircraft; on 05-11-64 the Venezuelan AF Commander in Chief visited Northrop and requested a price proposal for 12 Northrop F-5A and 3 F-5B. On 11-12-64 Northrop answered that the Govern-
ment provided for the release of production allocation and were unable to state the availability of these aircrafts. Costs were estimated at a flyaway cost of ca. USD 11.00m, increased to ca US14.5m to include spares
and ground equipment.

At the end of the 1960's a new interceptor was sought; the Saab 35 Draken, BAC Lightning, Dassautl Mirage III, Canadair CF-5 y el McDonnell F-4 Phantom II. were considered. This last was selected and a request for
32 Phantoms were sent to the USA but this countntry refused delivery stating that all Phantoms were needed for the Vietnam war.

As a second choice the Canadair CF-5was chosen as the Canadians immediate delivery was possible. The Ministry de Defensa sent a "letter of intent" to buy 16 Canadair CF-5A (two with reconnaissance nose) and
CF-5D at the cost of USD 35 millions inlusive equiment and spare parts under the name "Project Canamido". Firm contract was signed on 14-12-71 after which
they were removed from storage at Trenton AB and
Mountainview AB and readied for delivery under the program "Canamigo".

                                                                          An image rarely seen, Canadair CF-5 6719 amids snow in Canada!

The Venezuelan AF sent pilots and ground personnell to Cold Lake AB, base of the 434 Squadron, for training where they followed a course. Additionally, 30 maintenace personnell went to the Aircaft Maintenance
Development Unit at Trenton AB. One Lockheed C-130 departed Trenton on 10-01-72 carrying accessories and spare parts to Venezuela.
Initial 2 Canadair CF-5A and 2 CF-5D were officially handed-over to Venezuela at Trenton AB where they started their delivery flight
in Venezuelan markings on 11-02-72, routing via Myrtle Beach, Homestead AFB,
NAS Roosevelt (Puero Rico) where they remained overnight to fly next day to BA El Libertador. Canadian pilots were in charge of the delivery due to inexperience
on the aircraft by their Venezuelan colleagues. Delivery
of the next eight (nine according some sources) CF-5 started in Trenton on April 12th, 1972 arriving two days later in Venezuela; the final group left on 07-06-72 arriving 11-06-72.

heir air-refuelling system had been removed in Canada before departure. They obtained a nick-name: "Zancudo". Official transfer of the first ones to the Air Force was on 17-02-72.

The aircrafts replaced North American F-86K - Grupo de Caza 35 and the Grupo de Caza 36 North American F-86F based at Base Aerea General Rafael Urdaneta (Maracaibo); official re-equipment ceremony took place
on 17-02-72. On 05-07-72 12 Canadair CF-A/CF-5D, plus 2 reserve, participated to the national military parade, though the pilots had not yet completed their transition to the aircraft.

A Canadian air mission (two persons) helped training on the new aircrafts, completed inl July 1972. All of them received Canadian serials but never saw service with this Air Force; two new Canadair CF-5D were addi-
tionally bought on 27-01-74, arriving on July 1974; during this month the Grupo de Caza 12 was transferred to 
the Base Aerea "Teniente Vincente Landaeta"/El Liberator AB in Barquisimento.

                                                        Photo: unknown

                                                                           Canadair CF-5 serial 6719 seen in its original version.

A contest took place between Northrop and Canadair as this last was not authorised for re-sale of licence-built aircrafts. Northrop sued in 1974 and, finally, Canadair paid USD 9 millions to settle matter.

In 1979 a first upgrade took place to the navigation and communications equipment, some receiving air photography capability, operation of which started on 25-02-81; the designation was changed to VF-5A and
VF-5D (Venezuela instead of Canada).

                                                                                            Canadair CF-5A with early tail markings, changed in 1982-1983

The Escuadron de Caza 35 was re-named on 26-05-86 as Escuadron de Escuela de Combate No 35 with 12 Rockwell T-2s (formerly used by Grupo de Entrenamiento Aéreo de la Escuela de Aviacion Militar) and two
Canaidair VF-5D were assigned to it, reflecting the training duties of the Squadron. The first six pilots trained by the Grupo were promoted in November 1987. The single-seaters were assigned to the Escuadron de
Caza 36.

By 1990 seven Canadairs had been lost; the remaing (approximately ten single and one double-seater) had airframe fatigue problems and there were budgetary problems. All this contributed to the fact that the
fleet was retired and aircrafts put in  storage.

Friction between Venezuela and Colombia had almost lead to war in August 1987; this prompted a decision for a second refurbishment called operation "Grifo"; it included modification/addition of navigation/commu-
nication systems, flares, 
an air refuelling system for all aircrafts. The programm started in June 1990 in collaboration with Singapore Aerospace at a cost of USD 30 millions. One Canadair VF-5A (9124) and 1 VF-5B
(5681) were sent by ship to Singapore on 09 March 1991 to be upgrated with HUD, GPS, Litton INS; initially 8 single- and 1 double-seat aircrafts were foreseen in the
contract. Air-to-air refuelling was reinstated in
order to be refuelled by one B.707-320C bought, capability in the meantime lost when these aircrafts withdrawn from use around 2'000.

Engines were sent to the orinal manufacturer Orenda for overhauling. Air-to-air missiles AIM-9B were replaced by more modern AIM-9P3.

Some action to increase the fleet was additionally taken: six Canadair NF-5B and 1 Canadair NF-5A were bought from the Netherlands in 1991air delivered by Lockheed C-130 between May 1992 and January 1993;
they were assembled at the DIPROA maintenace hangar in BA El libertador (Maracay). Tests in the Netherlands were done without wearing a serial.

      Canaidair NF-5A prepared to be loaded at Woendsrecht into a Venezuelan C-130

During the 07-11-92 revolution they had no relevant operation as they were dispersed and not operational awaiting modernisation but 3 still were destroyed at Barquisimeto AB (awaiting modifictation to Grifo standard)
by North American OV-10 Broncos.

The pattern VF-5A an VF-5D were returned from Singapore by Lockheed C-130H in May 1993; now re-named VF-5Au or VF-5Bup (not confirmed), locally re-assembled under the supervision of Singaporean specialists,
further testing; the programm was to enable their operation till ca. 2015.
Modification in Venezuela was started on 07-09-93 with Grupo 12 (80%) and Singaporean (20%) personnell. The first double-seater upgraded directly by the Grupo was delivered to the Air Force in October. Later, in a
second contract (signed 1993), going on till 1996
1 Canadair VF-5D and 6 VF-5A were modified in Venezuela. Initial works were performed at BA Maracay/ El Libertador by the Servicio de Mantenimento de l'Aviacion,
substituted by the Escuadron de Mantenimento 127 based at BA Barquesimento. Additional modification was to enable to carrying AIM9-P3 SIdewinder, instead of the earlier AIM-9B; some 35 engines were revised by the
Canadian company Orenda.
A total of 8 single and 1 double aircrafts
were modified, total cost being USD 60 millions.

The advanced trainers North American T-2D were withdrawn from use in the year 1999 leaving this role to the Northrop VF-5Bs.

A second uprade followed in 2002 at Barquisimeto AB (utilising parts of circa 12 remaining airframes) for the two-seaters in best conditions (1 Canadair CF-5 and 2 Canadair NF-5B) with the help of Elbit Systems; works
for structural reinforcement, general overhaul and avionics started at Barquisimeto AB in 2003.

 frame 1         Photos: unknown     
 Updated Canadair VF-5Au serilal 9456
(of 2) with reconnaissance nose, end of 1990s                                            Canadair VF-5Au serilal 3310 with reconnaissance nose, with 2 standard nose Canadair VF-5Au

                                                                                               Northrop NF-5B 2111 stored at Barquisimeto on December 2000.

Very much a surprise was the announcement in February 2007 that Iran would maintain and modernize 12 Canadair VF-5A and VF-5B for USD 70 millions; an Iranian commission visited Venezuela, further details
are not known. Anyhow, there was no knowed follow-up.

All remaining, upgraded aircrafts (8 Canadair VF-5A, 3 VF-5B, 1 VF-5D) were mainly being used for pilots training of future General Dynamics F-16A and GAD Mirage III/5, remaining based in 2000 at Barquisimeto AB
with Grupo 12. 

By February 2002 the operation of Canadair VF-5A/VF-5B/D was reduced to ten operational airframes because of maintenance problems.

The United States of America posed an embargo on all arms delivery in 2005 due to the left oriented politics of the Venezuelan Government which inpacted delivery of spare parts;  by the end of 2010 the last three
ended flying mainly due to a shortage of spare parts (without any official mention)
, also resulting in the cannibalisation and withdrawal of several aircrafts types. They were stored at Barquisimeto AB.

                                                                                         Photo: Manuel Ernesto Silva

                                                     Two Canadair CF-5As single- and one CF-5 double-seaters at Barquisimeto AB withdrawn from use on 01-07-05.

Reflecting the political situation a change of designation to Fuerza Aere Bolivariana was established by Presidential Decree on 10-12-09.

                                                                          Photo: Sergio J Padron A
                                                                        In-flight photo on 04-06-10 of Canadair CF-5A 3274 and CF-5 5681 after modification.

At the end of 2010 there were 2 Northrop NF-5A/B (of 7 delivered) and 4 Canadair/Northrop VF-5A and VFR-5A (of 16 received) operational.

Last aircrafts to fly were 3 two-seaters at the end of 2010. A replacement solution was found when the first lot of 6 Hongdu K-8W (out of 18) armed intermediate trainers replaced the Canadairs (this time equipping
the 12o Grupo Aereo de Caza and the 15o Grupo de Operaciones Especiales): first official delivery of the Chinese trainer was on 13-03-10, delivery completed by September 2010.

One silver Canadair NF-5A is preserved at the Barquisimeto gate, a camouflaged one is preserved in Barquisimeto town but was damaged/destroyed by vandals, another camouflaged one is at the Museo Nacional de
Aeronautica in Maracay since at least October 2014.

                                                                      Photo: unknown
                                                                                              Museum VF-5A aircraft with its successor - CATIC K-8

On 25-02-81 Freedom Fighters operated as Target Tug in favour of Mirage III and 5, CF-5 from Grupo 12 and (starting from 1985) General Dynamics F-16A from Grupo No 16.


           Canadair CF-5A serial 9124 seen at Margarita Island airport during April 1990                                    Canadair CF-5V 3318 at the same date/airport used as Target Tug

                                                                               Line-up of 3 Canadair CF-5A at Margarita Island airport during April 1990

"Operacion Dardo" began at the beginning of the 1980 after a delegation had come back from Canada as an yearly exercise at the BA Luisa Caceres de Arismende, forty miles from the Margarita Island. It cosisted of live
air-to-air shooting to a target flown by Canadair CF-5s against same aircrafts, later against GAMD Mirage III/50s and General Dynamics F-16s. Canadair CF-5A 4005 seen above is shown as a Target Tug with the target
A/A37U-15 External Tow Target System. The exercise was shown to high officers for the first time on 25-02-81.

Collaboration with the USAF was initiated in 1987 with an exchange programm with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard flying  LTV A-7D with air-to-air exercises with Canadairs, among which shooting against air-targets.

Fire baptism took place in November 1992 when the Air Force was among the key instigators of the coup d'etat. Some Canadair CF-5 were stored at Barquisimento AB and two were at Singapore for upgrade, when one
single-seater was scrambled to defend Barquisimeto AB against the rebels. Five (some sources say eight) Canadair CF-5s were destroyed on the ground at the Air Base when the coup was won by loyalist troops. One of
these was repaired
to be supplied to the Museo Aeronautico de Aviacion in BA Maracay.

single- and 1 double-seater participated to the "Air défilé, 75 years Venezuelan Air Force" on 10-12-93 at El Liberatdor AB (Palo Negro), together with all aircraftes types in use at the moment.

"Exercise Miranda I-98" French-Venezuelan exercise took place between 08th and 12th Februar 1998. The Canadair CF-5s belonging to the Grupo Aereo No.12 participated together with General Dynamics F-16A/F-16B of
the GAe No16 and the Mirage 50EV 
of the GAe No11 together with 4 French Mirage 2000D (EC2/3), 1 Boeing KC-135F and 1 Lockheed C-130H. The exercise was held at the El Libertador AB against targets at the polygon
situated on the La Orrchila Island .
The Canadairs used "dumb" bombs

Operation "Cruzex 2006" held out of Anàpolis AB (Brasilia) was ther name of an international exercise where the Venezuelan took part from the 21-08-06 till 01-09-06, sending 3 2 Canadair VF-5A, 3 GAMD Mirage 50EV/DV,
3 General Dynamics F-16A/B. Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, France were additional participants. They operated in the
in the ground attack, COIN and CSAR roles.

                                                                                    Photo: Via FAV-Club
                                                                       Air-to-air refuelling next to Natal (Brazil) of an unknown, upgraded Canadair CF-5A

One year later, in March 2007, one Canadair VF-5A and 1 VF-5D represented Grupo 12 at the excercise "Operacion Resistencia 01-07". Trained were day and night operations from an emergency road air base
(la Marquesena).

An important exercise for the Aviacion Nacional Bolivariana (exercise Guacaipuro 01-09) took place at the Poligon de El Paso between 13th and 24th July 2009 from T.te Vicente Landaeta Gil AB; it included Grupos 11,
12, 13 with 7 Sukhoi Su-30, General Dynamics F-16As and the Canadair VF-5s in attack and reconnaissance

A further exercise took place between the 31-05 and 10-06-10, called "Operacion Paraguana 2-2010 ". Three Canadair VF-5 and six CATIC K-8W operated from BA Tactica Fernandez Boliva (Peninsula Paraguana) to
train pilots in basic fighter manoevers and formation of instructors on the new Chinese trainer.

The single-seaters retained their original colours: single-seaters delivered in Canadian camouflage, the double-seaters in metallic colours, later both changed to South East Asia colours in XXX?.

                                                                            Metallic aircraft is serial 5681

Only operational aircraft with special painted tail known is Canadair VF-5A 6018, seen for the first time on March 1st, 2005  at BA El Libertador; no details are known for the second monument-tail (see below)
It seems that 3 to 4 aircrafts were stored.

Original plans were to realize three special painted tails on operational aircrafts; this is not confirmed it did ever happened.