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Main F-5 Base |5th
Fighter Wing
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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.