Khong Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam - Socialist Republic of Vietnam Air Force
Credit: Roundels of the world
Last update 18-04-2017
Socialist Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) "inherited" 87 Northrop
F-5A Freedom Fighters
and 47 F-5E Tigers after the collaps of the Republic of Vietam (South Vietnam) end April 1975; some
were operational, others not, due to lack of spares or in maintenance. Immediate flyable were
41 Northrop F-5s, especially at Tan Son Nhut AB
sources state that ca 60 Northrop F-5As (at least 2 F-5B, 9 RF-5A) and 27 F-5Es were
abandonedby South Vietnam; it was extremely difficult to be used by the new Air Force because
there were insufficent spare parts and records for the aircrafts; pilots and ground crew were only
fluent in Russian language and procedures. Of help were former South Vietnamese personnel who
joined the North Vietnamese Air Force, though it is not clear if true and how many.
A Northrop F-5A being tugged shortly after the end of the war by a North Vietnamese truck
(see flag); unusual is the tailcode HJC. (meaning unknown).
Photo: Vietnamese News Agency
Northrop F-5E and F-5A seen at Da Nang with their early AIM-9B Sidewinders.
First two digits corresponds to Regiment number, two others aircraft number.
There was no peace for the Vietnamese Northrops, though the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) had collapsed.
Unofficial sources state that was modified to air-to-ground combat, a 935th Regiment's Northrop F-5A/F-5E detachment was transferred from May 1977 to Wattay AB (Vientiane/Laos) to help crushing a Hmong tribe rebellion. It flew air raids against Hmongs settlements using napalm and cluster bombs; later the aircrafts were replaced by MiG-21s.
Photo: Xuan At
Metallic Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter 10271 at Bien Hoa AB early 1980s
Of interest three tanks and nationality markings position on the air inlet, above wings.
between Cambodia and Vietnam were tens, starting late 1976 with
skirmishes at the Southern border; by end of 1978 the Northrop fighters
transferred nearer to the border. At least 2 Northrop F-5As performed
fighter-bombers attacking headquarters, vehicles and weapons deposits.
Known attacks were on 01-01-79 against Kompong Cham by 10 Northrop F-5
releasing 46 250kg bombs, against the Ponchentong by 4 Northrop F-5
releasing 16 Mk.82 bombs and on 05-01-77 against shipping in the Mekong
(together with 1 Fairchild C-119) with the help of Forward Air Control Cessna U-17s;
the unit received on 20-12-79 the title of "Hero of the People's
According to a US source the use during this time was by far more limited and the aircraft saw little use.
The year 1979 saw also the worsening of the Chinese/Vietnamese relationship at a point that an open war took place on February 17th, lasting till March 16th. Use of Northrop fighter started on February 21st, together with MiG-19 and MiG-21s. Ten Northrop F-5A and RF-5A from Bien Hoa AB were deployed to the North and declared operational. Five were seen end of February at the Hanoi airportof Noi Bai.
Photo: Military art magazine
A metallic Northrop RF-5A during the war border protection East (Cina); in the background 2 F-5B
retaining the South Vietnamese camouflage but having Northern serial.
Lack of spare parts compelled the witdrawal of the remaining aircrafts by 1981/2; unconfirmed is that much of the remaing ground equipment and weapons were later sold to Ethiopia and Iran. Transfer of the aircrafts was not possible due to the USA opposition. It seems that three Northrop F-5s were last shown on 30 April 1985 commemorating the 10th year of the fall of Saigon in company of MiG-21s!The Regiment obtained as replacement aircrafts MiG-21 and later quite a different performance fighter: the Sukhoi Su-30Mk2.
Mid December 2011 the local Defence Department reported tha one Northrop F-5E from Ho Chi Minh City was transferred from Taipei after having been updated under an one million "Project Eagle". It consisted of an upgrade with a new computer, navigational system, armament and structioral modifications, paint job, extension engine and service life to keep the jet in flyble condition for the nex 15 year. Nothing of this corresponded to truth.
Russia was interested to compare US against local aircrafts and helicopters technology; one Northrop F-5E, one Cessna A-37B, one Boeing CH-47, 1 Bell UH-1 were transferred by ship beginning 1976 to Russia. The wings of the fighter were "welded" (as too large) by Vietnamese soldiers but could be repaired upon arrival in Russia; unused engines, packed in special sealed containers and filled with inert gas, together with documentation, were opened before delivery and repumped with gas and filled again with inert gas for the transfer.
Testing was performed with great success in air-to-air combat against MiG-21SMs from 1976 at the Central Aero-Dynamics Institute (Tsagi) at Chukovsky, the Chkalov State Flights Tests Center (near Moscow/GLIC in Russian) going on at the Akubinsk polygon (Astrachanya); they endeded early 1977, the Tigers finding its way to the OK Sukhoi for storage. Serial 73-00807 is given, but should be wrong.
second Northrop F-5E with 236.20 flying hours was secretely transferred to Czechoslovia (via Da Nang) in April 1981
Aero L-39 shipping boxes, together with ground equipment and two AIM-9B
Sidewinder, to Prague-Kbely AB to be studied by aerospace specialists.
Shortly later it found its way to Aero at Vodochody, where it was again
dismantled. A few information were of use on the Aero L-39 production;
the aircraft was only allowed in Czechlovakia to rolling, had all markings reoved, it never never received
In 1983 was delivered dismantled to Kbely AB museum where it was stored; it was in the usual US camouflage but markings and serial numbers were deleted. In December 1989 (by the end of the Communist governement) the secret was lifted and the machine handed over to the museum, receiving Vietnamese markings.
Photo: Vojensky Historicky Ustav Praha
Northrop F-5E 00878 with ferry tanks at Kbely AB with Vietnamese markings.
A third Northrop F-5E went by ship to Poland on 09-1977 in great secret, via Gdynia port, to
be studied by the Technical Institute of the Air Force; already in
December 1977 it was shown to high ranking political and military
experts including a rolling on the apron at Warsaw-Bemowo airport. The Tiger was presented to the museum in 14-02-83; very
few technical details were later used on the PZL I-22.
The secret was lifted at the end of 1990 when it was asssembled again (it was earlier disassembled) at Okecie airport.
The Northrop F-5E 00852 at Warsaw-Okecie without any markings.