Philippine Navy/Marines Individual Weapons
Date Updated: Sunday April 17, 2005


 

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Main F-5 Base |5th Fighter Wing | Fleet Listing

Technical Details

The F-5 can carry up to 6,200lb (2,810kg) of stores on five stations and two wing-tip stations.  This however is a maximum number and is only possible under certain circumstances.   Generally speaking, it is a trade-off between fuel and weapons.  The more fuel, the less weapons but greater range and vice versa.   PAF aircraft generally operate with two 50 gallon wingtip tanks as well as two 150 gallon wing tanks.  It generally has a combat radius of about 150 miles at sea level with a loiter time of around 10 to 15 minutes over the target area.  In practical terms, this means that covering the Spratly Islands puts the F-5s at the very limit of their range and in order to get there, it can barely carry any weapons.  It is a day fighter and is not equipped with any advanced electronics. It needs the guidance of ground based radar to effect any intercepts in all but the best weather.  It’s most telling deficiency however is the AIM9B missile which is an old, rear-aspect missile. 

Service History

The PAF took delivery of 20 brand new A and 3 brand new B versions of the Freedom Fighter from the United States starting in October 1965.  The F-5As and Bs initially supplanted and eventually replaced PAF F-86Fs operated by the 3 Squadrons of the 5th Fighter Wing (6th, 7th and 9th Tactical Fighter Squadrons) headquartered at Basa Air Base in Pampanga (Luzon Island).  In its heyday, when funding was adequate, the PAF used the F-5s in conjunction with the US to provide daytime fighter cover over Luzon and the Visayas.  The Americans, with their more sophisticated aircraft, provided nighttime fighter cover. In the late 80s, as funding grew tighter and with the withdrawal of the US bases, the PAF closed its radar stations and in one stroke rendered the F-5 fleet largely ineffective – with their simple, radar less systems, the F-5s needed ground based radars to effect any intercepts in all but the best weather. 

By the late 80s, the fleet had largely been reduced through attrition and grossly inadequate funding to four aircraft operated by one fighter squadron (6th). The PAF aerobatic team was also disbanded.  In 1989, to top up the fleet and make good on loses, the PAF took delivery of 4 aircraft from Taiwan, including one in exchange for the P-51.  Two more aircraft were received from Taiwan by 1997 and an additional 5 were delivered from South Korea in 1998.  Note that the aircraft from South Korea and Taiwan were used either as attrition replacements or as parts sources to keep the rest of the fleet flying.  Other aircraft were received from Jordan and South Korea.  In an interview made by the PAFCG in 1997, he confirmed that the PAF received F-5s from those countries.  In the case of Taiwan, one working F-5 was obtained in exchange for one of the last remaining PAF P-51Ds displayed at the PAF Museum in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. 

PAF F-5 availability and overall fully mission capable numbers increased slightly with the addition of new aircraft from Taiwan and South Korea.  However, the majority of airframes were by 2000 in need of major structural overhauls including replacement of major structural members.  While still marginally operational, the Mabalacat accident impressed on the PAF that continued operation of existing F-5s without the required overhauls would be increasingly unsafe.  The result of which was the grounding which continues to this day.

 

Inventory

Supportable

Operationally ready

1991 (CY-91)

12

6

4

1992 (CY-92)

12

5

4

1993 (CY-93)

  8

4

2

1994 (1st semester CY-94)

  8

2

2

2000 (CY-00, November)

15

8

5

2002

15

?

0

The PAF has not made any modifications or improvements to the aircraft.  Neither has it replaced it’s primary armament of Aim-9B missiles which were however refurbished in 1999.  The PAF is in a curious situation where it has working AIM9 missiles but no aircraft to take them. 

Over the years, plans have been made to replace the F-5s with different aircraft – Kfirs from Israel, F-5Es from Taiwan or Saudi Arabia, stored Pakistani F-16s and upgraded F-5As from Canada but none of these plans were ever realized. Had newer aircraft been acquired, it was also planned to put the remaining F-5As through a modest upgrade program made up of a limited airframe update and some modern avionics to enable the type to serve as a lead-in fighter trainer.  However, the upgrade plans have been put on hold with the realization that acquiring newer F-5s (F-5Es) from other sources would be a more cost effective and quicker alternative to acquiring better fighters.

Current Status

15 (including 2 B models) are currently on strength.   This includes aircraft delivered from South Korea, Taiwan (one F-5A was delivered to the PAF in exchange for one P-51 Mustang taken from the PAF museum) and the survivors from the original batch supplied by the United States.  F-5s continue to be grounded though a limited number are maintained in flyable condition with engines and systems started up on a regular basis.