Ejercito del Aire / Fuerza Aerea Espaņola - Spanish Air Force

                                    Last update 30-07-2018

   Credit:  Roundels of the world
                  F-5 bases on mainland and islands


The structure of the Spanish AF was at the beginning of the 70's based on Escuadrones (Squadrons). Those equipped with Spanish built F-5s were:

Escuadron 202     "Gallo se mueve" / Cockerel really moves

 Formed on 11-12-69 under the Mando Aereo Tactico (Tactical Air Command), it was based at Moron de la Frontera AB. it was the first unit to receive the new fighter, mainly double-
seaters  CASA/Northrop SF-5B; the first of these already arrived on  07-01-70, next day by another five. These were later followed by some CASA/Northrop SF-5A. The Squadron inherited the traditions of the  locally based, North American F-86F equipped Escuadron 103 (disbanded on the same day).
 It was an active duty Squadron, initially in charge for pilots training. Disbandment came on 15-04-71, following an Air Force restructuration; its single-seaters and combat duties went to the
 Ala 21, its double-seaters
, starting from 12-11-70,
to the Escuela de Reactores/Ala 73 for training.

                                                                  Early air-to-air picture of
CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-007/202-7 and sistership
                                                                               AE.9-012/202-12 near to their Moron base.             
Photo: Juan Arraez-Cerda

Escuadron 204     "Vade, vide et vice" / Go, look and win

This was the second Squadron
, formed 01-04-70, to receive CASA/Northrop SRF-5A and SF-5B, based at Moron de la Frontera AB with pilots training duty; the only known photo of this unit shows CASA/Northrop SF-5B  204-4 coded aircraft. It is shown during early service years togethere with an uncoded CASA/Northrop SF-5A and an CASA/Northrop SF-5B coded 212-5.
The Escuadron was disestablished on

                                        Photo: unknown
                             One of the rare photo showing an aircraft of Escuadron 204. together with 212-5 and F-5A C9-049

After a short time of the introduction of the fighter, an important restructuration of the Spanish Air Force saw the disestablishment in 1971 of above Squadrons and the establisment following new units:

Escuela de Reactores / Ala 73    (Jet School/Wing 73) 

 The Jet School, based at Talavera AB
was renamed Ala 73 in September 1971. First three, former
 Escuadron 202 aircrafts,
CASA/Northrop SF-5B had already arrived on 12-11-70, followed by six
 others on 16th, 18th and 26th of the month and an additional 19 in December/beginning 1971.

 They replaced Lockheed T-33A and the North American F-86F in the advanced training role;
 course on the new trainer started in
 September 1971.
 Aircraft maintenance was centralised at Ala level for both Escuadrones.

All aircrafts had only the Ala badge painted on tail.

The Ala was, apart from normal training duties and participation to local exercises, active in international collaboration: seven Chilean pilots converted to the trainer in 1975 before this country received their own Northrop F-5E; on 30-10-84 two SF-5B of the school went to Morocco, starting the Spain/Morocco exchange known under the nme "Azlas" exercise, alternating yearly fighter deployment toTalavara la Real AB, Albacete AB (Spain) and Sidi Slimane AB, Meknčs AB (Morocco).
On 04-11-76 the Escuela had reached 25'000 hours flown by the Escuela de Reactores on the 
CASA/Northrop SF-5. In March 1979 the school had flown 34'000 hours on the Northrop aircraft, graduating 229 pilots with an average of 95 flight hours, celebrating the 25th anniversary having 23 double-seaters at its disposal.
The next target, 50'000 flight hours, was reached
on 15-10-82.

 Escuadron 731     "Patas negras" / "Black legs"
 The Squadron, equipped with Lockheed T-33A, inherited the traditions of the Escuadron 202.
 First 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5B arrived at Talavera la Real on 12-11-70; its Lockheed T-33A and
 N. American F-86F were transferred to the sister unit, Escuadron 732.

 On 15-05-80 the Squadron had a complement of 11 
CASA/Northrop SF-5B

                              CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-031/731-31 at Torrejon AB in May 1976.
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Escuadron 732
    "Patas negras" / Black legs
The unit was equipped with Lockheed T-33A and North American F-86F fighters used for operational
when it inherited the traditions of the Escuadron 204 and received CASA/Northrop SF-5B, but
the last Squadron's
Lockheed T-33As were only transferred to other units beginning 1973.

Twelve Northrop aircrafts were at its disposal on 15-05-80.

                                              CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-008/732-8 and AE.9-024/731-24 seen in October 1986.
                                                  Photo: H.J. van Broekhuizen

The three number Squadron code on the aircrafts, followed by the last two of the serial number was slowly modified, starting from 1984, to two numbers of the Ala plus the individual aircraft serial number.

CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-027/73-27 seen in March 1987, a few days before disbandment of the Ala.

                                                                                                            Photo: Kurt Thomsen

Disbandment of the Ala occured
on 18-03-87, when it became Ala 23 de Instruccion y Ataque (Fighter/Strike Training Wing), the Squadrons being renumbered 231 and 232 (see below for details).

Ala 21  (Wing 21)

                 Badges painted on tail:                     Official badges:

                 Metal  /    Camouflaged aircrafts        
1971-1995                       1995-1999

All aircrafts had only Ala badge painted on the tail, except Escuadron 212 before being disbanded.

Established under the Mando Aereo Tactico (Tactical Air Command) on 
15-04-71 at Moron de la Frontera AB it inherited, together with its Escuadrones 211 and 212, the operational duties of former Escuadrones 202 and 204.

AIM-9B Sidewinder were available by 1974 for interception duties and targets tugs TDU-10/B for training duties. By mid 1990s the Ala had 25 Northrop F-5A/RF-5A and 4 Northrop F-5B.

Escuadron 211      "Gallo" (Cock)

 Operated initially all CASA/Northrop 18 SF-5A as fighter-bombers and 3 CASA/Northrop
 SF-5B as continuation trainers
; these were  replaced beginning January 1982 by a mix of
13 CASA/Northrop SF-5A, 7 SRF-5A and 2 SF-5B when the formerly disbanded Escuadron
 212 was re-established. 
By May 1985 its complement was CASA/Northrop SF-5A,
7 SRF-5A 2 SF-5B.

 This equipment remained stable till October 1992 when 18 new CASA C-101 Aviojet trainers
 arrived as a replacement, its Freedom Fighters being transferred to the Ala 23.

  Photo: J.L. Gonzalez-Serrano
Beautiful line-up of CASA/Northrop SF-5 at Torrejon AB on 28-05-77, in foreground SRF-5A CR9-069/211-69.


           The first built CASA/Northrop SF-5B CE.9-001/211-1 seen at Torrejon AB on 28-05-79.
                                                                                      Photo: J.L. Gonzalez-Serrano

Camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-041/211-41 with an unknown pod under the wing.
                                                                   Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


                       CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-070/211-70 with underbelly SUU-20 rocket and
                           practice bomb dispenser
          Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Well worn CASA/Northrop SF-5B CE.9-001/211-01 seen in August 1987.
                                                                 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                                Photo: Ala 21
                                        CASA/Nortrop SRF-5A 211-61 seen overwings

Escuadron 212       "Sison"

It was the Wings reconnaissance unit, receiving all 18 CASA/Northrop SF-5B
continuation trainers.

  First badge painted on tail.

CASA/Northrop SRF-5A CR.9-065/212 65 seen at Moron AB in June 1976 in company with SF-5A 
Note "old" badge.                
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

CASA/Northrop SF-5B CE.9-065/212-3 seen at Moron AB in February 1976,
note code recently modified.
                                                                                Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

The Squadron was disbanded on 04-02-76,
contemporanously to the evacuation of the Spanish Sahara colony, enabling the establishment of the  Escuadron 464 (see below).

 It received a new lease of life being reactivated at Moron on 14-01-82, obtaining 8
 Northrop SF-5A, 
8 SRF-5A, 2  SF-5B formerly operated by the by now disbanded Escuadron 464
 (see below).
By May 1985 its complement was 2 CASA/Northrop SF-5B, 8 SF-5A, 7 SRF-5A.

 Second badge applied upon reforming in 1982.

CASA/Northrop SF-5A AE.9-042/212-42 wearing the second badge of Escuadron 212 seen at Moron AB.
                                                                               Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

              CASA/Northrop SRF-5A AR.9-056/212-56 serving with the "second" Escuadron 212 seen in November 1990.
                                                                                    Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Ala 21 aircrafts also changed the three Escuadron code to the two Ala code in the nose in 1987.

                   CASA/Northrop 18 SF-5A A.9-052/21-12 equipped with one TDU-10B target dart accompanied
                   by two Mirage F.1EE of the 46 Wing Mirage F.1EE on an air-to-air shooting session.
                  Exact date is not known but is between 1987 (when codes were changed to show the Ala number)
                  and October 1992.                                                                            Photo: Tomas Asensio

CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-045/21-07 at Talavera la Real on 08-10-90 equipped with
two camouflaged long range tanks to make good for the short range of the aircraft.   Photo: Lucio Alfieri

                    CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-069/21-51 at Talavera la Real on 08-10-90, also equipped
                       with two camouflaged long range tanks.           
 Photo: Lucio Alfieri

Camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5B A.9-018/21-73 at Talavera la Real
on 08-10-90.    Photo: Lucio Alfieri

Records show that Moron AB reached on March 12th, 1974 25'000 SF-5 flying hours, on 21-06-81 50'000 hours, 75'000 hours on 31-01-85 and by 10-12-88 100'000 hours

Active operations
The Ala was called on a war duty on August 1974 and September 1975 during the first part of the Spanish Sahara colony crise, when some of its aircrafts flew out from Gando AB (Canary Islands) and El Aaiun (Spanish Sahara) on more than 500 armed reconnaissance, show-down and air escort flights in the desert and along the African coasts, supported by a mobile radar on the mainland, based at El Aaiun. Flares launching CASA-127 (Do-27) of Escuadrilla 408 illuminated the targets during night operations.
During November 1975 a Moroccan invasion of El Aaouin airport (Spanish Sahara) was feared. Gando AB based Northrop F-5s were to take care of Moroccan fighters (same type!!!!) while North American T-6s were to be used against helicopters.

Some of the known  exercises and Squadron Exchanges are listed below:

Domestic Exercises
A shooting action, this time not operationally, took place on 16-05-77 when 4 CASA/Northrop SF-5A and 1 SRF-5A of the Ala took part to the  "Primavera 77-1" exercise, simulating several attacks of an (fictitious) air base at the las Bardenas shooting range together with all the range of Spanish fighters and aircrafts and helcopters.

Operation "Faron 78" took place between the 19th and thw 29th October 1978 on the Mediterranean sea between Cartagena and the island of Mayorca with the participation of 3 CASA/Northrop F-5s, attacking ships in a convoy.

Another exercise, "Orellana 78", took place in November of the same year: Ala 21 participated to it with 5 Northrop
RF-5A and F-5B between the 21st and 24th, together with 5 CASA HA.200 Saeta, with armed reconnaissance and attack missions.

1979 saw the participation of 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A and 1 SRF-5A (together with 4
CASA HA.200 Saeta) to the exercise "Operacion Velero 79", involving photographic reconnaissance on targets and simulated ground-attacks on the 25th and 26th June.

"Otono 83" exercise on 29-11-83 was the attack to a simulated air-base on the Bardenas range by Casa/Northrop SF-5A/SRF-5A of the Ala 21, SF-5B of the Escuela de Reactores and GAMD Mirage IIIE, McDonnel F-4C, Mirage F.1 of the various Alas. The
Casa/Northrop SRF-5A undertook reconnaissance missions, SF-5B illuminating the target and SF-5A attacking targets on the base with rockets, bombs and napalm.

Exercise "Velero 84" took place between the 8th and the 12th April 1984 with the participation of two ground attack Ala 21
Casa/Northrop SF-5A detached to Talavera AB.

International exercises
Moroccan/Spanish Squadron exhanges, known under the name "Atlas", started un 1984 when two CASA/Northrop of Ala 73 deployed to Meknes AB on 30th and 31st October.

Between 11th and 22nd March 1985 the Ala partecipated to the "DATEX-85" exercise in France, together with Spanish GAD Mirage IIIEE, McDonnel F-4C, Mirage F.1 and other aircrafts (about 400) from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the USAF

             In flight picture of CASA/Northrop SF-5A AE.9-052/21-12 and AE.9-039 still with the old 211-39 code while on
             exchange exercise at Bierset AB (Belgium) in April 1989.
             Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

CASA/Northrop SF-5A participated between 20th April and 02nd of May 1989 (together with soldiers, aircrafts and ships from Italy, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdon, USA) to the NATO Air Force/Army/Navy "Dragon Hammer 89" exercise. Their duty was to attack Navy units in the Mediterranean Sea.

Squadron exchanges
Two CASA/Northrop SF-5B participated to the Ramstein AFB (Germany) open-day in June 1980.
Two CASA/Northrop SRF-5A and two SF-5A went for an Squadron Exchange with the Mirage 5BR equipped Belgian AF 42e Escadrille to Bierset AB In mid July 1987 and again in April 1989 by three CASA/Northrop SF-5A and two SRF-5A.
In Germany, RAF Laarbruch was visited end of October 1988 by 3 Casa SRF-5A, 1 SF-5B in an Squadron exchange with Tornado FGR1 equipped 2nd Squadron.

The Ala, and its remaining CASA/Northrop SF-5s equipped Escuadron 211, was disbanded in October 1992 its duties and aircrafts being taken over by Ala 23 (see below). Last operational flight out of Moron took place on 05-10-82, while last of seven Freedom Fighters left Moron AB for Talavera AB on 09-10-92. The aircrafts had performed a total of 107'779.64 flight hours out of Moron AFB.

Ala Mixta 46  46th Mixed Wing

The air defence of the Canary Islands (100 km off the coast of Africa and around 1'000 km from
mainland Spain) has traditionally entrusted to the Ala Mixta 46 (Mixed Wing 46).
Escuadron 462, with its low performance Hispano Aviacion HA-200B Saeta and North American
T-6 support aircrafts, were not in a position to grant an efficent 
support, needed after the
withdrawal of Spanish troops from
the Spanish Sahara colony due to the existing Moroccan/
Mauritanian-Polisario tension/war
. A simple, but advanced performance fighter was needed  to
defend the skies of the Islands - the Freedom Fighter was perfectly suited. 

Escuadron 464

This unit was formed in January 1976 with two former Ala 21 CASA/Northrop F-5B and 8 of each
and SRF-5A, replacing the Saetas and T-6s, put at the disposal of the Mando Aereo de
Canarias (Canary Air Command).

The aircrafts were equipped, for the transfer on 04-02-76, with as many underwing tanks as possible,
insufficent to undertake an air combat with Moroccan aircrafts (Northrop F-5s!!), escort was
granted by Sidewinder equipped GAMD Mirage IIIE from Manises AB, as well as Mirage F.1C
from Albacete AB; for Rescue and simple early warning acted Lockheed P-3As. The transfer was
                              luckily without event.

Main base was Gando AB, secondary Lanzarote AB. Its main mission was air defence, secondary missions being
ground and naval attack and tactical reconnaissance.
The average availability was 5 Casa/Northrop F-5A, 5 RF-5A and 2 F-5B; pilots were former 462 and 463 Squadrons ones who received
basic training at the Escuela de Reactores and advanced at the Ala 21. Armament were (apart cannons) the AIM-9B and J air-to-air missiles.

The new unit received a slightly modified emblem and the traditions of
Escuadron 462, disbanded during February 1976.

CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-046/464-46 at Getafe on 28-05-77.    Photo: J. L. Gonzalez-Serrano

                In-flight view of SRF-5A CR.9-068/464-68 during 1988.    
 Photo: Tomas Asensio

SF-5B CE.9-003/464-3 rolling to take-off from Las Palmas-Gando.    
 Photo: Tomas Asensio

Fortunately the fighters had never to intervene in anger. Starting from 1981 some of its pilots were sent to Albacete AB to convert on the GAMD Mirage F.1EE for the resurrection of Escuadron 462. On 08-03-82 Escuadron 464 was disbanded, having flown 13'474:30 hours with only one serious accident and its aircrafts disposed to the Escuadron 212. The last two CASA/Northrop aircrafts (SF-5A A.9-044/464-44 and SRF-5A A.9-066/464-66) had left Gando AB for Moron AB on 04-03-82; the reformed Escuadron 462 took over defence of the Canary Islands with the first 4 GAMD Mirage F.1EE
starting from 08-03-82.

Ala 23 de Instruccion de Caza y Ataque (23rd Fighter/Strike Training Wing) " Pata Negras"

  The Escuela de Reactores/Ala 73 was officially  renamed  "Ala 23 de Caza y       Ataque" on           23-03-87, taking over all advanced training duties and all former
  Ala 21 aircrafts in November 1992.
  The unit came under the command of the Mando de Combate (Combat Command) in 1996.

  Badge painted on camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5B+/SF-5M
Two Escuadrones were again part of the Ala, though only for administrative purposes: 

 Escuadron 231
 Inheriting the traditions of Escuadron 731, clearly visible from its badge.


Escuadron 232
 The second unit, inherited the traditions of Escuadron 732.
 The Squadron was temporarely disbanded while the fleet underwent the modification for the CASA/
 Northrop F-5B+ programme at the end of 1994; it was reactivated in 1995 when enough aircrafts
 became again available.

                CASA/Northrop SF-5B AE.9-022/23-12 at September AB during October 1989.
                                                           Photo: Volkert Jan van den Berg/Marinus Dirk Tabak

  All aircrafts were provisionally grounded pending a thorough check in 1989, following the
  loss of 
CASA/Northrop SF-5A 28-04-89, but flying (with restrictions) was allowed after a few
  By mid-1990 the Ala had 19 Northrop F-5B and 3 Dornier Do-27 for liason.

  CASA started an upgrade programm
in June 1992, only for the two-seater, under the desi-
  gnation CASA/Northrop SF-5B+; the first aircraft returned to Ala 23 on 14-12-93, the last
  (AE.9-031) during November 1995.

Badge painted on tail of the upgraded aircrafts.

A considerable boost of the strength happened in November 1992, when all aircrafts of the dissolved Ala 21 were received. At the end of 1993 the double-seater inventory consisted of 22 CASA/Northrop SF-5B+/F-5B; additionally, 3 CASA/Northrop SF-5A, 4 SRF-5A of the 24 originally received between November 1992 and February 1993 were operational. The remaining single-seaters were stored at Talavera AB, being cannibalised for spares.
All single-seaters were grounded, following the loss on 
of CASA/Northrop SRF-5A AR.9-070/23-33, especially painted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Escuela de Reactores.


                  CASA/Northrop SRF-5A AR-9-070/23-33 in flight seen on 31-03-03, shortly before its tragic end.

                                                                          Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

Some operational tasks were illumination of targets with a laser designator pod for laser guided bombs equipped Mirage F1. and F-18 Hornets, as well as ground attack with 2.75in rocket pods, 250, 500, 1000 lbs bombs. Target towing was mainly a task for single-seaters; air defence exercises saw the Ala's aircrafts in the role of aggressors.
Self-defence was granted by AIM-9P3 Sidewinder, later replaced by the improved AIM-9J version.

Modification of the double-seaters was at the time in full swing; six of its instructor pilots were with the Argentine AF, while four Argentinian pilots had already been trained in 1992 as instructors on a two-way exchange programme.

Intense activity at Talvera la Real AB is documented as the Ala had reached 75'000 hours on 09-05-88, 100'000 flying hours on 11-04-96, 125'000 hours on 19-04-01.

                       Camouflaged CASA/Northrop SF-5A A.9-044 / 23-28 at Talavera la Real in May 1996.
                                                                Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast


CASA/Northrop SRF-5A A.9-069 / 23-32 at Talavera la Real
in May 1995 equipped with two long
range underwing tanks and SUU-20 practice bombs/rockets launcher.

Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

               Training Sidewinder AIM-9 armed CASA/Northrop SF-5B+ A.9-017 / 23-10 ready for take-off,
                 May 1996. Note still in metallic colours and no Ala badge on tail.
 Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast

                  Photo: unknown
                    CASA/Northrop F-5B+ AE.9-010/23-04 at Zaragoza AB in 2001 loaded with two 500 lbs bombs.

  Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5

CASA/Northrop F-5B+ AE.9-012/23-06 with two-tone grey camouflage and underbelly SUU-20
rocket and practice bomb dispenser for air-to-ground exercises; May 1995.

The goal of 125'000 flight hours on SF-5 was reached on 19-04-03; by the end of the year 2003 there have been a total of 734 Spanish pupils/instructors plus 24 Argentinian, 6 Chilean, 1 Colombian and 1 Moroccan ones trained on CASA/Northrop F-5. The first complete training course on Northrop F-5M 

Training of Forward Controllers had been also put under the responsability of the Ala 23 as of the year 2002.

A new era started on 01-12-03, when the first avionics upgraded CASA/Northrop F-5M arrived at Talavera la Real AB. The first pilot training course on the upgraded aircraft took place from September 2003 till 11-06-04.
Deliveries followed till the twenty second and final one reached the base in May 2007. This was also the second which had received structural modifications, the first arrrived at Talavera la Real AB only on 23-07-07.

The two Squadrons are only divided for administrative purposes. The 231st Squadron includes the flying course while 232nd Squadron takes care of everything related to the academic subjects.  Flying instruction lasts
normally from September till next May for pilots coming from basic training on the C-101 Aviojet; Air-to-air and Air-to-Ground training is provided. Two Argentinian Instructor Pilots served with the unit in 2017.

The unit participated to 2019 Tactical Leadership Programme at Albacete - los Llanos form 3rd to the 14th June; other Spanish aircrafts involved where McDonnell F-18s from ALA 15 and 46, Eurofighters from Ala 14 as well as other NATO Air Forces from USA, Greece, Italy, Polad and an NATO Boeng E-3A.