Credit:  Roundels of the world

                                 Last update 04-01-2019

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

Escuadron Aereo de Caza 35 "Panteras"
Escuadron de Caza 36

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 Government 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.
The sale of these aircrafts was againt the US policy regarding arms to South America and was refused, mentioned that the policy might have been relaxed by 1970.

The Ministry de Defensa sent a "letter of intent" to buy 16 Canadair CF-5A (two with reconnaissance nose) and 2 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 for 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 additionally bought on 27-01-74, arriving on July 1974, in which 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).

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/communication 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 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.

During the 07-11-92 revolution they had no relevant operation as they were dispersed and not operational awaiting modernisation but 3 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, underwent 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 (contracted 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.

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                         Updated Canadair VF-5Au serilal 9456 with reconnaissance nose, end of 1990s

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; details were 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 Acarigua Barquisimeto gate, another camouflaged one is preserved in Barquisimeto town but was damaged/destroyed by vandals, a camouflaged one is at the Museo Nacional de Aeronautica in Maracay since at least October 2014.

Operating as an target-tug unit began on 25-02-81 it saw aircrafts from Grupo No.11 Mirage III and 5, CF-5 from Grupo 12 and, starting from 1985, General Dynamics F-16A from Grupo No 16.

  Photo: unknown
"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 Venezuenal 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: unknown    

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 configuration.

                              Photo: unknown
                           An upgraded Canadair VF-5A fitted with reconnaissance nose and a-a refuelling probe.

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 deilvered in Canadian camouflage, the double-seaters in metallic colours, later both changed to South East Asia colours in XXX.

  One had a special tail colours in yellow, blue, read, white stripes with the inscription "Superacion",
  motto of Grupo 12, seen for the first time of March 1st, 2005 at BA El Libertador on Canadair VF-5A 6018.

  Plans were to realize three special tails on three aircrafts; this is not confirmed it did ever happened.