Last update 02-09-2013BASES PROCUREMENT
single- and two double-seater were handed over to Libya at
Mc Clellan AFB (USA) between May and November 1968; deliveries
should have been as follows: 3 F-5A in July 1968 (not confirmed),
3 F-5As and one F-5B air-delivered to Wheelous AFB near Tripoli
via Malta on 25/26-05-69 (confirmed). The remaining 2 single-
and 1 double-seater took place later in 1969 (not confirmed).
They were based at Wheelus AFB where pilots training by USAF instructors took place.
Northrop F-5A 22551 Benghazi-Benina 15-04-69 Photo: Terry Murphy
Also transiting Malta on 25-05-69 was F-5B-25 21278 Photo:Victor Pisani
CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT
A pan-Arab military coup had ousted the Libyan King on September 1st, 1969 when the Libyan Arab Republic was established; following this the name was changed from Royal Libyan AF to Libyan Arab Republic AF.
new government entered a collision course with the USA and the United
Kingdom, both had bases in the country, and ordered the
closure of these bases by June 1970.
trained in USA were removed from the Air Force as too pro-Western,
resulting in only 10 fighters pilots remaining on duty, while there
were six additional undergoing F-5 transition training at Wheelus AB
(renamed Okba Ben Nafi) beginning 1970.
The US training detachment left when the base was closed; contemporanously the US government put an embargo on 8 additional F-5As, foreseen to be supplied in 1970, and on spare parts. The Northrop in-situ maintenance team was also withdrawn.
Northrop F-5B-25 at WheelusAFB/Okba Ben Nafi in April 1970 with new nationality markings.
Photo: Collection D. Lohuis
The Greek AF took over local maintenance and training.
Pilots were given a 240 hrs course on Lockheed T-33A before conversion to the Northrop fighter in Greece;
17 officer were charged with maintenance in Libya.
Lybia was still interested, but was also ready to return the aircrafts already delivered if the USA wished this and insisted on receiving the remaining 8 aircrafts till at least the end of October 1972; it had paid USD 22m out of USD 40m stipulated on the purchase contract. But all eight remaining aircrafts had been in the meantime supplied to the Republic of Vietnam AF.
It is not known how long the Freedom Fighters were kept flying due to missing embargoed spare parts. Replacement for the Northrop fighter came from France in the form of a large number of Dassault Mirage (110!) in various models; the initial purchase contract was signed in January 1970.
Possible sale of 5 CASA built Northrop F-5B, as advanced trainer for future Mirage pilots, was also taken under consideration by the US government but rejected in December 1971.
Transfer to other countries and withdrawal/losses
Uncofirmed is the transfer of three Libyan Northrop F-5A to Pakistan; US sources mention the transit on 26-12-71 at Teheran IAP piloted by Pakistanis with Pakistani markings transiting from Turkey. This was too late to participate to the war; the aircrafts were returned, possibly, on 20-07-72.
According to Turkish unofficial sources 7 Northrop F-5 (plus engines,
tyres and other parts) were transferred without US authorisation to Turkey in August/September 1975, as
part of an USD 33.6 million military aid package. The USA government protested at this breach of
the 1967 contract of sale.
Later sightings confirmed the use by Turkey of 5 ex Libyan Northrop F-5As and 2 Northrop F-5Bs.
Fate of missing three single-seaters already obtained by Lybia is reported as follows:
one dumped at Okba Ben Nafi AB, now named Mitiga AB (see photo below); this might have been the one damaged ca. July 1969 in a landing accident, possibly never repaired and later used in some form of anti-USA propaganda actions before having been withdrawn to the dump.
Northrop F-5A 22551 on 07-12-06 at Okba Ben Nafi AB/Mitiga AB, note US insigna on air intake.
Photo: Chris Lofting
Arab name for the Royal Air Force
Any additional information/correction is most welcome.