The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page - Home
Chung-Hua Kong Jun
China Air Force / Taiwan
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Last update 08-05-2013
1963 the Republic of China (Taiwan) placed an order for 60 F-5A Freedom
fighters, though it was originally envisaged to buy 115 aircrafts;
delivery began in 1965 and was completed in 1968. These aircrafts were
foreseen to replace F-86F, widely used in the battles against
People's Republic of China Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG-15s and
MiG-17s in air-battles over the Taiwan Straits during the year 1958.
first Northrop F-5A and F-5B equipped Squadron was officially accepted
by the AIr Force Commander on 09-12-65 at Tainan AB. The unit was at
the time still in training status with 19 F-5As and 2 F-5B. Later
deliveries enabled to equip the three Squadrons of the 1st Wing at
Tainan AB. AN USAF Mobile Training Team supervised the introduction of
the Freedom Fighters.
Line-up of Northrop F-5As of all
three Squadrons attached to the 1st Wing.
Photo: RoC AF
Under pressure from the
USA government 48 Northrop
F-5As and spare
parts were put at disposal by 10-11-72 for the transfer to the Republic
of Vietnam Air Force under the "Enhance" and "Enhance Plus" programs;
originally the USA requested the transfer of all (94) F-5As received
by the Republic
of China; this was not accepted by the
Republic of China government.
As a compromise, it was agreed to station two Squadrons of USAF McDonnel
F-4C at Ching Chuan Kang AB to fill the
gap till the return of the F-5As, to
Northrop T-38As to keep pilots proficent and to examine the possibility
of a Northrop F-5E co-production scheme.
Twenty Northrop F-5A were to be returned
directly from South Vietnam,
28 additional eventually replaced by Northrop F-5Es; the first USAF
F-4C Squadron was to return to USA upon arrival of the first 20, the
second F-4C Squadron and the T-38As when the remaining 28 F-5As would
be replaced. In addition, 15 new Northrop F-5B were to be directly
purchased in USA under the code name Peace Ox.
Finally it was agreed to
mainly under Foreign Military Funds,
100 Northrop F-5Es in the Republic of China.
According to official US
Program files, Taiwan
has received by 1970 72 Northrop F-5A and 11 F-5B under MAP, supplied
as follows: 1964: 7 F-5A, 2 F-5B; 1965: 10 F-5A; 1966 26 F-5A, 4 F-5B; 1967:
F-5A, 5 F-5B; 1968: 5
F-5A; 1970 2 F-5A.
The exact number of Freedom
Fighters supplied to the Republic of China
AF is not known. Twenty two Fiscal Year 1969 F-5As and 10 Fiscal Year
1974 F-5Bs are missing from the list; they might have
been paid in full by the Republic of China,
not going through the Military Aid Program.
Northrop F-5B 00782 at McClellan
AFB before delivery in July 1975
Photo: D J Fisher
This is one of 10 additional 1974
Fiscal Year F-5B bought directly from the Republic of China.
By mid 1973 47 Vietnamese F-5As
were withdrawn from use
for repairs and treatment of heavy corrosion and stored at Bien Hoa
AFB. As they were in poor conditions, beyond Vietnamese technical
were tranferred to the Republic of China Ping Tung AB (under code
Peace Basket ) for rework, together with 17 General Electric J85-13;
20 of these Freedom Fighters were to be remain in Taiwan to satisfy the
first clause of
US/Republic of China agreement (return of 20 F-5A by July 31, 1974).
first two F-5A were delivered from Vietnam on
November 7, 1973. By the end of April 1974, the first
reconditioned F-5As were ready to be painted.
In the meantime the Republic of
China had requested the
of McDonnel F-4 or additional Northrop F-5E instead of the worn out
Northrop F-5A, but this requested was rejected by the US government.
The second clause of the
agreement, the withdrawal of one Squadron of McDonnell F-4C to
Clark AFB (Philippines), was completed by the end of July 1974.
A Memorandum of Understanding, signed
in on 09-02-73
with the government of the United States, granted fulfilment of another
clause: providing 28 Northrop F-5E, aircraft locally named "Chung
Cheng", the nickname for the late President Chang Kai Shek, as
replacement of the second batch
28 Northrop F-5A by the end of May 1975. The IAI Kfir C2 had been
earlier taken also in consideration, up to the technical evaluation
The Memorandum foresaw
codename Hu An (Peace Tiger),
in Taiwan for approximately 100 F-5E/F. The initial phase was final
assembly and flight test at the
Development Center at Taichung (AIDC), followed by an increasing
amount of assembly and production of elements as soon as know-how and
facilities were available; General Electric J-85-GE21 engines were to
supplied directly by the USAF. A later request for licensed production
engines was turned down.
Roll-out of the first
locally assembled aircraft
took place on 30-10-74, the last of the initial 100 airframes being
completed in November 1977.
Delivery of US built airfames
was on board of Lochkeed C-5A Galaxy in 8-pack, starting in August
Republic of China requested in April 1976 an Letter of Offer to
co-produce an second batch of 42 additional Northrop F-5E and 18 F-5F with an option to
extend local production with an additional 20 single-/two-seaters,
if finance permitted. This was granted; 2 more single-seaters were built, for a total of 44.
01-12-74 a task force called "Sung Shan" was established at Tainan to
prepare conversion of the Wing to the new aircraft model. First unit to
receive the second generation Northrop F-5
aircraft was the 443rd (1st) Tactical Fighter Wing at Tainan in December
1974 enabling the withdrawal to Kadena (Japan) of the second USAF Mc
Donnel F-4 Squadron by April 1975. By mid-April of this year AIDC had delivered 33
F-5Es, increasing production output to 4 per month. First Northrop F-5F was delivered 01-11-78.
Line-up of newly delivered Northrop F-5E with SEA camouflage, also showing early six numbers
tail serial presentation.Remaining
F-5As and F-5Bs Freedom Fighters were relegated by the mid-70s to the
training role with the 828th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hualien AB,
American F-86Fs, until withdrawn from use on 30-06-87, the
F-5Bs remained longer in service,
till mid '90s.
Some single- and two-seaters Freedom
preserved at bases and museums after withdrawal, three F-5As were
supplied in 1993 to
the Philippine AF, one in exchange of a North American F-51D for a
Northrop F-5A 1270 97098 preserved in the
latest camouflage at the AF Academy Kangshan 18-08-00
In the background F-5B
1104 69237 erronously marked as 69257
Repeated requests for Mach 2 fighters, Mc Donnel F-4s, Lockheed-Martin
F-16As, F-16/79s or Mc Donnel F-18s, were constantly refused by the US
governement. Even an attempt to buy the latest generation F-5
was blocked by President Carter's veto in October 1978. The year 1978
saw also the offer by the People's Republic of China of a reward of USD
1.8 million for an F-5A, 2.1 million for a Tiger defecting to the
diplomatic relationship with the People's Republic of Chinas was
established by the USA on Jabuary 1st, 1979 recognising this as the
only governement for the whole of China - including Taiwan. This
recognition had dramatic consequences for the Republic of China
(Taiwan) and its Air Force.
Military aid was suspended but
outstanding orders could be fulfilled, inclusive co-production of the
Northrop F-5E/F, ordes totalling at the time 185 single- and 21
On July 1979
approval was also
by the US Congress
for the sale of
39 single- and 6 two-seater F-5s,
wired for Hughes
pre cision guided missiles, costing
USD 108.8 millions; 29
and 48 modification
kits for the aircrafts (USD 61.8 m),
Mavericks and 100
launchers (USD 25 m) were part of
the deal on offer at the
end of 1978.
A total of
308 aircrafts were produced by AIDC under 6 Peace Tiger programs:
Peace Tiger 1 included 100 F-5E; Peace Tiger 2 44 F-5E; Peace
Tiger 3 20 F-5E, 3 F-5F; Peace Tiger 4 15 F-5E, 15 F-5F; Peace Tiger 5 30 F-5E,
18 F-5F; Peace Tiger 6 30 F-5E and 30 F-5F; the last of these
was rolled out on 09-12-86. Global total was for 242 single- and 66
OPERATIONS / TRAINING
Little is known
about early use of the Northrop
F-5A. Air-superiority above the Taiwanese skies was assured by Lockheed
F-104s Starfighters in the various versions from 1960; Freedom
Fighter were in
charge for air-to-ground support and, as secondary duty, for
no encounters by Freedom fighters with People's Republic of China
fighters are known.
participated, together with Fairchild C-119s, Lockheed T-33As, North
American F-100s and Lockheed F-104s to trials for emergency use of
highways on 19th and 20th October 1978.
Northrop F-5E units
had ground-attack as main duty as
well as air-interception duties. Ground-attack
performed against land and sea targets with Mk.82 500 lbs freefall
7.15 in (19cm) unguided rockets and AIGM-65A guided missiles, 48
single-seaters incorporating a cathode-ray
tube with scan converter which allowed the pilot to view the TV picture
produced by the missile.
Twenty nine of the F-5Fs have been fitted with the Northrop
manual laser target designator to provide an atonomous designation
capability for the GBU-12 laser version of the Mk.82 bomb.
In the air-interception task all F-5
combat patrols a day across the Strait
of Taiwan armed with locally modified AIM-9J
winders, flying close to the
coast,in addition to escort
of transport aircrafts flying to Kinmen (Quemoy), the
largest island of
a cluster under ROC control. Fighters
were ready for an 3-minutes scramble, one Squadron
of the 4th TFW being based from April till
the forward base at Makung, on the Pescadores
Routine patrols over the Strait of
maximum of 15 miles to the Chinese mainland, encoun-
tered MiG-19s and MiG-21s flying parallel to the coast.
Up to once or twice a
week, PLAAF aircrafts entered
Republic of China airspace, retreating
appeared. No F-5E Tiger air-combat is known.
reconnaissance Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and
Ilyushin IL-62 trasports, flying every year closer to
to Taiwan, have been escorted along the coasts but
ending with the wound-up of The Soviet Union.
Northrop F-5E of the 5th
Group in formation flight. Photo: Republic of China AF
Ground-attack was also an
important task, training being effectuated against land and sea targets
with bombs, unguided rockets and guided missiles.
Meeting a friend.
Aircrafts from transiting US Navy fleet were
"shadowed" by Republic of China aircrafts. Here
an F-5E from 443th Wing, possibly serial 5371
from the 443rd Wing, flying alongside an US
Navy F-14 from VF-31 probably in the mid-90s.
Photo: VF-31 homepage
keep pilots up to the
highest fighting level an Tactical Training and Development
Manoeuvering Instrumentation (TACTS/AMI) at Taitung AB, similat to the
US Top Gun, was created in 1976. It
was upgraded to Tactical Aircrew Training System/Air Combat
Manoeuvering Instrumentation (TACTS/ACMI) range on July 1st, 1988. In
mid-90s, the ROC AF decided to upgrade again it, expanding the
airspace, as the People's Republic of China introduced avanced fighters
such as the Sukhoi Su-27. Additional improvements took place in July
2002, when the installation of a Cubic Corporation system, based on the
Nellis AFB Air Combat Training System, was completed; this supported
F-5, F-16, Mirage 2000 and IDF pilot training. The system was further
improved with new weapons simulation devices by March 2004.
range has been used by all fighter units, dissimilar training given
initially by the 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron's F-5Es and F-5F, which
gained a high ratio of scores against the latter generation fighters.
Simulated firings of AGM-65C/E Mavercks laser guided missiles from F-5Es have also taken place on the range during 2007 with full success. These missiles might be
local updates of the original AGM-65A television guided missiles.
chapter in the Republic of China F-5 history was
opened on August 8th, 1981: defection towards mainland China. Major
Huang Zhi Cheng, an
instructor pilot, defected on this
day to the People's Republic of China with its Northrop F-5F serial
5361; the aircraft landed at an air-base near
Fouchou City (Fukien region). The defector obtained a reward of
USD 370'000 (sum immediatey returned) and was nominated Deputy
Commander of a pilot training school.
The aircraft has been possibly tested locally.
Going the other way
was a defecting
Shenyang J-5 (Chinese
built MiG-17F) on 14
November, 1983 escor-
ted by 2 Northrop F-5E
to the landing at
Kai Shek International
This was one of several
mailand China, including
Shenjang J-6 (MiG-19)
and J-7 (Mig-21) fighters.
An 46th Squadron F-5F chasing an Chinese People's AF J-6
(MiG-19) while being tested by
an RoC AF pilot.
A second RoC AF F-5 Tiger defection happened on
when the pilot of Northrop F-5E serial 5120 ejected 80 km inside the
Guangdong province, the pilotless aircraft being destroyed and the
on show at the Chinese People's
Revolution Museum at
The Republic of
China AF has no
possibilities to participate to excercises abroad due to the diplomatic
isolation of the country, but another form of sevice abroad, never
officially confirmed, has been rumoured. This service involved pilots
and technicians being engaged in countries
unable, for various reasons, to operate their F-5s.
Following skirmishes between North
and South Yemen in March 1979 the US governement rushed into
Northern Yemen 12 Northrop
F-5Es and Saudi Arabia 2 Northrop F-5Bs. Taiwan media
reported that some
(sources state 12) Taiwan pilots plus ground technicians (mainly
reservists) arrived in North
Yemen as counsellors/pilots as no Yemeni was trained to fly and
Saudi Arabia paying for the operation.
Change in political
alliance brought the country to
oppose the 1993 Desert Storm war, Yemen secretly planning to let
the Taiwanese pilots bomb Saudi targets! The plan was
Taipei with the result that the pilots were immediately called back.
Patch for the Yemeni contingent
which might have received Republic of
China Air Force help in operating the aircrafts might have been Macedonia when it was offered in
2001 20 Northrop F-5As by Turkey, offer turned down by
MODIFICATIONS / UPGRADES
Noted at Mojave airport between October
1987 and July 1988 were four F-5As that had found their
way back to the USA; their exact use and final destination is
Some sources mention they were converted to drones by
Systems, Inc and returned to the Republic of China,
others mention they were used by a civilian test-pilots school while
there are rumours that they were transferred to the Philippine AF. The
first assumption might
be valid as there is no trace of their use by the civilian test-pilots school at Mojave and
they have never been reported in the Philippines.
Northrop F-5A 69188 coded
"1" at Mojave
Photo: D E Sloviak
Northrop F-5A 97117 code "4" and
01397 code "3" at Mojave in 1988
During the 1980s combat
capacity of some Northrop F-5E and Northrop F-5F was improved with the
addition of Litton ALR-46(V) radar warning receivers, Northrop AVQ-27
radar designators and Tracor ALE-401(V7) chaff/flare dispenser; 500
Maverick TV guided air-to-surface
missiles as well as
laser-guided bombs were also bought to improve the attack capability;
aircraft aerodynamic was refined to some late built aircrafts with
the addition of the Tigershark
aircrafts were designated F-5E module C and F-5F module F.
and avionics/armament upgrades to keep the aircrafts operation
were taken into consideration in 1990 and an initial request for
information was sent to 10 companies, including Bristol Aerospace,
Grumman, Israel Aircraft industries, Singapore Aeroapace and Smiths
Industries but all decisions were postponed and later
cancelled, pending another request for Lockheed-Martin F-16s.
Just limited structural modification/upgrades were
performed in the mid-90s to keep the aircrafts operational.
Sidewinder were used by the Northrop F-5A, while the Northrop
F-5E were mainly equipped with AIM-9P-4
Sidewinders. To diminish the
dependance from USA a development
programm for similar missiles was launched in the mid 80'. The military-run Chung
Shan Institute of
Science and Technology (CSIST)
started to develop a
short range, infra-red guidance missile with similar capabilities to
the AIM-9 Sidewinder, called Tien Chen (Sky Word) TC-1 and an Beyond
Visual Range missile, called Tien Chen (Sky Word) TC-2,
but both of them have not equipped the Northrop fighter, though the
first test firing of the TC-1 was made by an F-5E
in April 1986, with the Beech
target drone successfully destroyed.
Foreseen retirement in May 1998 of
RF-104Gs reconnaissance aircrafts
requirement in 1995 for a new aircraft; the Air Force decided to modify
7 low-hours (number
reduced from the originally 10 planned)
F-5E fighters into RF-5E reconnaissance aircrafts and favoured
Singapore Aerospace for the modification, placing an order for the
value of USD 50 million mentioning that AIDC lacked
sufficient experience. In the
face of overwhelming
however, the Air Force rescinded the deal with Singapore and permitted
local AIDC company to participate in an open
bidding, but finally awarded
the contract to Singapore
Aerospace again. Aircrafts
started in 1996 and delivery of
first modified aircraft, locally renamed Tigergazer, took place in August 1997.
Another attempt to upgrade the Northrop
F-5E fighter failed in the mid-90sas
collaboration with Northrop was unsuccesful; Westinghouse could not release, due to US export
restrictions, the source
for the foreseen
(similar to the one used by the the Lockheed-Martin
F-16), that would have
enabled interface with the
Sky Word TC-2 Beyond Visual Range missile. A
model of the foreseen cockpit
was shown at
the 1997 Taipei Aerospace Show.
this, AIDC worked on its own
upgrade project, the Tiger 2000. In the year 2000
AIDC borrowed a
F-5E configuration C, serial 5308, as prototype from the
military. The prototype was first flown on 24-07-02, but the
entire program was delayed by technical problems in
wiring systems and fixing the plane's engine.
foresaw cockpit improvements
(such as HUD, MFDs,
HOTAS), avionics (such as MIL-STD-1553B, mission computer ungrade,
GPS/INS navigation system, GD-53 radar, IRWR), weapons (Tien Chen
F-5E 2000 prototype serialled 5308/10015 at
Taichung on 12-01-04 Photo:
Unfortunately, the Tiger
2000 project failed due to high costs for a
complete renewal of the plane's avionics and fire-control system,
lack of interest by the Air Force (which might have been interested in
a less expensive upgrade of the radar only) and
the purchase of next
Retired F-5E 2000 prototype 5308/10015 on show at Hsiang Yuan AIDC Park in May 2008.
People's Republic of China AF signature
in 1991 of an initial contract for
20 Su-27SK single- and 4 Su-27UBK double-seaters, marked the beginning of the end of first line use of
the Northrop F-5E. Next generation fighters for the Republic of China AF were an absolute necessity to face these extremely powerful fighters.
Supply of the Lockheed-Martin F-16 was
at last approved by President George Bush in 1992. The contract foresaw
delivery of 120 F-16A Block 20 single- and 30
F-16B Block 20 two-seaters fighter/fighter-bombers and trainers.
Additionally, a contract for 48 Dassault Mirage 2000-5Ei single- and 12
Dassault Mirage 2000-5Di double-seaters air-defence fighters/trainers
signed on 17-11-1992, deliveries starting in 1999.
The third new generation fighter
the form of the locally developed
AIDC F-CK-1A/B Ching Kuo Indigenous Fighter. Development of this
aircraft started when the US government refused to sell the Northrop
F-20 or Lockheed-Martin F-16. It was developed with help with US
companies and resembles the F-16. A total of 250 were originally to be
built, but only 102
AIDC F-CK-1A single- and 28
AIDC F-CK-1B double-seaters were ordered following approval of the F-16
Deliveries of Lockheed-Martin F-16s started in April 1997 and the first,
formerly F-5E equipped, 21st Squadron was commissioned in October 1997, last former F-5E Squadron being
commissioned in the year 2002; Dassault
Mirage 2000-5s went to
the 499th Tactical Fighter Wing,
Lockheed F-104G aircrafts, last arriving on November 26th, 1998; AIDC F-CK-1A/B Ching Kuo Indigenous
Fighter re-equipped the Northrop F-5E
equipped 443rd (1st) Tactical
Fighter Wing at Tainan beginning from 1997, the full Wing being officially commissioned on the new
aircraft on 07-01-99.
this point, there was no need anymore
for Northrop F-5Es as fighter or fighter-bombers, though there were 166
in service in 2004 according to an official US source; they were
withdrawn from use
and offered to various countries. Mexico, Chile, the Philippines are
thought to have been interested.
But, due to political issues, there was no follow-up.
Unable to dispose the aircrafts
countries, older ones
were used as decoys, instruc-
tional airframes, preserved in
air bases, public parks as well
as put at disposal of museums.
See serial list
for full details.
The remaining active aircrafts
are used for fighter lead-in trai-
ning, or are in storage, forming
a war reserve.
F-5E, possibly serial 5243, as decoy at Ching Chuang Kang AB
in May 2006
5241 61636 preserved at Chiayi AB on 17-08-00
Photo: Archive The Northrop F-5
One Northrop F-5E and one F-5F, to
be delivered beginning 2012, have been exchanged with one Douglas B-26
belonging to the Classic Aircrcraft Museum in USA.
Newer F-5Es and, mainly, F-5Fs (altogether approximately 60) were kept
for advanced training of
before their operational conversion to the later generation General Dynamics
F-16 and GAMD
Mirage 2000s at the respective Operational Conversion Units; older airframes were put at disposal for preservation, other active ones were put in storage, forming an emergency-reserve.
remaining 6 Northrop RF-5Es
(one has been lost) were not withdrawn but supplemented
from 2004 by General Dynamics
F-16As equipped with reconnaissance pods AN/AVDS-5.
reliability of the
Tiger has diminished: seventeen single-/double-seaters have crashed
between 1988 and 2007, killing 19 officers and leaving 4 pilots
There has been a high number of Northrop F-5F losses; in 32 years of
active service as of July 2009, 40 have crashed killing 32 pilots, five
accidents were between 2005 and 2009. Only 33 remained in service.
retreat of the remaining Northrop aircrafts has bee foreseen for the year
2010, the advanced training role being taken-over by the AIDC
F-CK-1A/B Ching Kuo Indigenous Fighter, in its turn replaced by
new General Dynamics F-16s. This target date has not been reached as
the USA government has not approved the acquisition of the new fighter.
At present it is clamed to operate about 60 Tigers (of which 4 of the reconnaissance version) but an US
government intelligence report mentions that only approximately 30 are
possibly operationally capable.
Indonesian AF Chief of Staff mentioned in March 2012 that they are
considering the Republic of China offer for 1 Squadron of Northrop
information given in May 2013 by the defence minister states that 32
aircrafts are in use, mainly for training, and they will be all retired