Last update 09-05-2013
history of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter in Greek
service begins after the 1960 USA elections, when, instead
of the 96 Lockheed F-104G foreseen to be delivered under
the Military Aid Program to equip 5 Hellenic AF Squadrons,
the US governement decided, due to financial reasons, to
supply its NATO partner with only 36 F-104G for two Squa-
drons and to equip three Squadrons, later augmented to
four, with the less expensive Freedom Fighter, as first
European nation. Plans were established to procure 55
Northrop F-5A, 16 Northrop RF-5A, 9 Northrop F-5B and
to concentrate all day fighter aircrafts within the 111th
Figther Wing at Nea Anchialos AB with the 337th, 341st,
343rd Squadrons, plus a separate reconnaissance, 349th
Squadron at Larissa.
of a first nucleus pilots started at Williams AFB at
the end of 1964 with the 4441st Combat Crew Training
Squadron, in charge of converting allied aircrews to the
Deliveries started in May 1965, the aircrafts being initially transferred to Greece on aircraft carriers to Pireaus port and tranferred to Hellenikon Airport (Athens) by road where they were prepared to fly to Nea Anchialos AB. The first Squadron (341st) had its full complement of 16 F-5As and 2 F-5Bs by January 1966. Additional Northrop F-5As and F-5Bs were received to equip a total of two and a half Squadrons by April 1967, when the USA suspended the delivery of further F-5s, following cooling down of relations between the two countries due to a Greek military coup on 21-04-67.
The embargo was lifted by late 1968, enabling to bring three Squadrons to full strength. US Military Aid Program was completed in July 1971, totalling 51 Northrop F-5A, 16 Northrop RF-5A, 9 Northrop F-5Bs, all new. Additionally, one former USAF F-5A was delivered in September 1988.
Photo: Jack Morris
Northrop RF-5A 97168 in silver colours at Wright Patterson AFB on 17-10-70 before delivery.
The fleet received few modification in its service life: the aircrafts started to be camouflaged in the Europe 1 scheme end of the 60's; during the mid-70s the original Northrop ejection seat was replaced by a Martin Baker Mk10LF, the same as those installed on the former Jordanian aircrafts. Most notable modification was the removal of cameras from RF-5As, only 5 receiving the "normal" fighter nose.One of two known Hellenic AF operations abroad was the posting of a technical mission to Lybia after the withdrawal of US personnel in 1970; 17 officers were detached to Okba Ben Nafi AB (former USAF Wheelus AFB) to maintain the local Northrop F-5s. Some sources mention that 2 F-5As were received in exchange for the help, but there is no trace of their use in Greece.
The other operation had been a detachment of Douglas C-47s to Korea during the war.
Relations with Turkey changed abruptly after a new military coup on 25-11-73 followed by the Cyprus crise in July 1974, when 10 Northrop F-5As transferred to on 18-07-74 to Heraklion AB played a defensive role. For the full details of the crise (Greek point of view) see http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_296.shtml and http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_298.shtml.
New, Military Aid Program aircrafts were followed by an important number of used ones, bought from various countries. Iran transferred 12 Northrop F-5A in 1975; Jordan delivered aircrafts in two batches: 12 Northrop F-5A and 8 F-5B, plus 1 F-5A for spares recovery only, on 14-11-83 via Larnaca (Cyprus), followed by 13 F-5A in 1989; Norway supplied 9 Northrop F-5A starting May 1986.
According to an official US list funding was provided for the Security Assistance Program FY 1976 (or previously) 12 F-5A, 3 F-5B.
Former Royal Jordanian AF Northrop F-5B 604, still in desert camouflage, seen June 1998. Was it
already wihdrawn from use? See modified nationality markings.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Finally, to balance the delivery of similar aircrafts to Turkey and to complicate the work of maintenance crews, 10 Canadair NF-5A and 1 Canadair NF-5B were supplied by the Netherlands in 1991. The Canadair's had a short service life in the Hellenic AF due to missing commonality with the other aircrafts. Their withdrawal started already in 1997.
Canadair NF-5A 3005 with Dutch F-16 camouflage seen before departure for delivery on
11-04-91 at Eindhoven. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Known details about these
transfers are shown in our
RF-5A, F-5B, NF-5A, NF-5B lists.
Overhaul of Freedom Fighters airframes, as well as of the General Electric J-85 engines, has been since the foundation in 1975 of Hellenic Aerospace Industries at Athens-Hellenikon airport, this facility being part of the Hellenic Air Force in the earlier years.
At the beginning of the 70' relations with Turkey, its old antagonist, were unusually good enabling Squadrons exchanges and participation of F-5s to NATO to meetings in this country. Best Hit 1970 meeting at Eskisehir-Murted AB was one of these, while the 337th Squadron participated to an exchange visit to Bandirma AB in April 1973, lasting 10 days.
Exchanges as well as participation to NATO excercises was from the
very beginning a high priority for the Air Force Command: some are
Istrana AB (Italy) saw the participation of F-5As of 341 Squadron to the NATO meetings in 1970 and July 1973;
in August 1984 F-5As and 1 F-5B visited Istrana AB (Italy) on an exchange ith the 2nd Stormo Fiat G-91R;
2 Northrop F-5A, 2 RF-5A, 1 F-5B of the 349 Squadron visited Rimini AB (Italy) in May 1991;
Excercise Dynamic Mix in October 1998 saw the participation of 4 Greek F-5A, together with a large number of McDonnell F-4E, RF4-E, LTV A-7E, A-7H, GAMD Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000, C-130, Orions; participation was repeated in May/June 2000.
Northrop F-5A-30 69136 landing at Rimini AB with a full load of tanks on 28-05-91.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
With the progressive disbandment of three Squadrons all operational F-5s were gathered within the only remaining Freedom Fighters unit by 1997, the 343rd Squadron at Mikra; its official role was ground attack, but also played an important role in advanced training of young pilots before being transferred to Mirage 2000 or F-16 units.
Canada tried to sell to Greece 28 CF-5s for USD75m, but without success.
glorious period of 36 years for the Hellenic
Air Force closed on 29-03-01, when the 343rd Squadron was disbanded with
an official ceremony, 3 F-5A
overflying Mikra AB, and
the Freedom Fighter being withdrawn from the Hellenic AF Order of
Battle, though the Air Force had some second thoughts about a possible reactivation. Airframes received maintenance and their systems were protected till 2007, when the definitive withdrawal order was given.
The presence of the F-5 was very significant, because in times of crises, like the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, Greece had a modern fighter in large numbers to defend the nation. Even when more advanced aircraft, like the F-4, entered operational service, the F-5 had still many advantages for its ease of maintenance and in aerial combat because of its small size that made it difficult to spot.
The 113 combat wing, as an end user of NF/F-5A/B and RF-5A, constituted the main deposit. With the exit of the type from active service in March of 2001, 18 F-5A/B and 1 RF-5A were stored within the deposit area of the Wing, the air force having some second thoughts about possible new exploitation. However, nothing finally did happen.
The aicrafts stored at various bases were: 10 F-5As, 2 F-5Bs, 5 NF-5A were seen at Mikra AB already on 20-06-99; 10 F-5A, 6 RF-5A at Larissa and 14 F-5A, 1 RF-5A, 2 F-5B, 5 NF-5A being noted at Mikra on on 11-11-00. Many of these lived a
remaining aircrafts were no longer catered for maintenance and
protection of their systems, standing out and showing obvious signs of
deterioraton. In september 2010, almost all of the F-5 moved
on to the 113 Combat Wing when, until August 1997,
the remanants were saved and obtained a second life
later, preserved at various Air
Bases, museums and as monuments in towns. See our lists for
WINGS, SQUADRONS, GROUPS
Pterix Mahis / Combat Wing
Mira Dioseos Bombardismoy / Fighter-Bomber Squadron
Mira Taktikis Anagnoriseos / Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
Mira Angatiseos Imeras / Day Intercept Squadron
Σμήνους Μετεκπαίδευσης / Sminos Metekpedephsis (SMET) / Operational Converion Unit
Following units received Freedom Fighters, shown in re-equipment sequence with their F-5 operation history:
110th Wing 111th Wing 113th Wing 115th Wing
Nea Anchialos AB Larissa AB Mikra AB Souda AB
The original statutory strength was 16 single and 2 double-seaters but the number varied later very much, due to
attrition (kown losses: 24 F-5A, 3 RF-5A, 4 F-5B till its retirement) and aging of the airframes with consequent withdrawal from use.
341st Squadron "Assos / Ace"
Northrop F-5A-30 69142 341st Squadron at Istrana AB (Italy) in June 1970.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Northrop F-5A-15 38405 at Istrana
AB in June 1970. In the background F-5A-30 69135 still in the
colours of the "New Hellenic Flame" acrobatic team. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Northrop F-5A-40 89054 341st Squadron seen at Istrana in July 1973.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
The Squadron was disbanded in August 1993, its aircrafts were transferred to the 343rd
Squadron; it was reactivated on 30-03-98 with the arrival of new General Dynamics F-16C/D Block 50.
343rd All Weather
gave up its North American F-86D beginning
May 1966 to re-equip with Freedom Fighters, to be reclassified as an Day Intercept
Squadron. It was fully equipped by spring 1967, having close-support as secondary duty.
Following restructuring of the Hellenic AF it was transferred in July 1974 to the 113 Combat
Wing at Mikra AB until June 1985, when it returned to the Nea Anchialos based 111th
Combat Wing, moving definitely back to Mikra AB in July 1987.
The year 1993 saw the arrival of 10 Canadair NF-5A and
1 Canadair NF-5B formerly in use
by the 349th Squadron and the concentration of all variants (F-5A, RF-5A, F-5B, NF-5A,
NF-5B) in this unit, withdrawal of the Canadairs starting already in 1997.
The Northrop Fighter, though its main role was close-support, was armed with AIM-9P3, Sidewinders to provide an improved interception capability, after an incident at the end of 1997, when Turkish F-16s chased a transport aircraft with the Greek Defence Minister on board. They were driven away by an F-5 patrol from Mikra AB.
The Squadron was on constant alert for daylight interception of foreign aircrafts, particularly Turkish, introducing into Greek, or disputed, air-space; Turkish F-10G, F-104S, F-4E, RF-4E, F-16C, F-16D fighters and S-2E Trackers and some helicopters were intercepted in addition to US Navy and Marines F-14, P-3 Orions and CH-53 helicopters during its stay at Mikra AB .
Beautiful line-up of AIMP-9P3 Sidewinders armed Northrop F-5As, ready to depart.
Northrop F-5A-25 10480 in F-16 colours seen in April 1996. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
Northrop F-5B-10 6413377 at Grazzanise AB (Italy) 17-06-97; camouflage Europe 2. In background
F-5s in various camouflages. Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast
F-5B 13378 at Mikra in 1993 in F-16 camouflage Photo: Greekmilitary.net
Top view of F-5A 97175 F-16 camouflage Photo: Greekmilitary.net
The Squadron was disbanded on 29 March 2001, contemporaneously to the official retirement of the Freedom Fighter from Greek use.
at Souda AB (Creta) on 21-07-03 it received the latest Lockheed
Martin F-16C and F-16D Bock 52+.
337th Squadron "Φάντασμα
/ Fantasma / Ghost"
An selective embargo on armament delivery, imposed by the US government
due to a military coup in Greece on 21-04-67, blocked re-equipment. Two flights were established as a provisional solution, one fully operational on the
North American F-86D as above, the other training on F-5s at the 111th
Anyhow, the 337th Day Interception Squadron was re-established on 16-11-67, deliveries of Freedom Fighters starting again in late 1968 when the embargo was cancelled; the Squadron could be declared operational at the end of June 1969. Its pilots manned from July 1967 the Greek aerobatic team: the New Hellenic Flame with 5 Northrop F-5As. Unfortunately, the team performed only 2 apperances, disbanding late 1967.
Northrop F-5A 69135 seen at Istrana AB in June 1970 in "New Hellenic Flames " colours.
349th Squadron "Kronos / Phoenix"The Squadron was equipped in November 1970 with Republic F-84F at Larissa AB with the
Northrop RF-5A-50 01620 349 Squadron at Larissa on 20-07-72, Best Hit Weapons Meet.
Lemnos Air Detachment it was renamed 130th Combat Group sub-
ordinated to the 111th Combat Wing in September 1974; 6 F-5s were detached to the
Group in March 1975.
The Group reported directly to the Tactical Air Force Headquarter as of 01-01-77. It
transitioned later to Mc Donnell F-4E.