CASA SF-5 for Spain

Last revised January 1, 2000

In 1967, Spain's Ejercito del Aire (EdA) selected the Freedom Fighter to start a modernization program. Under the terms of the agreement with Northrop, Construcciones Aeronauticas S. A. (CASA) would carry out license production of the planes in Spain. In order to distinguish them from US-built machines, CASA-built single-seat Freedom Fighters were designated SF-5A, the S standing for "Spain". The two-seat version was SF-5B, with the reconnaissance version being designated SRF-5A. They were designated C.9, CE.9, and CR.9 respectively in EdA service, the C standing for *casa* (fighter) and 9 standing for the ninth fighter type operated since the EdA became an independent service in July 1939.

The order comprised 34 SF-5Bs, and eighteen each of the SF-5A and SRF-5A variants. The first eight machines for the EdA were supplied in various stages of completion by Northrop--the first three were in component form, the next three were airframe shells, and the final pair required only final assembly. The remainder of the order was completed by CASA at Seville and Madrid-Getafe. Seville built the aft fuselages and engine mountings, while Getafe supplied the rest. However, the engines were supplied by General Electric in the USA and the avionics were US-supplied as well. The first Spanish-built example (SF-5B CE.9-001) made its maiden flight on May 22, 1968. The construction program continued until 1971.

The first deliveries to the EdA began in June of 1968. Most of the two-seaters went to 202 and 204 Escuadrones. These squadrons were used to form the training wing at Talavera la Real. In 1976, these squadrons were reorganized as 731 and 732 Escuadrones of Ala (Interceptor Wing) 73. More recently, they were reorganized again as 231 and 232 Escuadrones of Ala 23.

211 and 212 Escuadrones based at Moron were equipped with all three variants. 211 and 212 were grouped under Ala 21. 212 Escuadron disbanded shortly thereafter, and its planes were sent to Gando in the Canary Islands to be reformed as 464 Escuadron under Ala 46. Eventually, 464 disbanded as well, and 212 was reformed alongside 211.

A switch of primary role from fighter to ground attack was accompanied by a change in designation by the EdA, with the three versions becoming A.9, AE.9 and AR.9.

By 1982, operational attrition had claimed one A.9, four AE.9s, and two AR.9s.

Half of the SF-5As were converted to SRF-5 (CR.9) standard by CASA, but retaining the M39 nose cannon.

In 1988, CASA instigated a limited structural and avionics upgrade program for the 25 surviving SF-5As and SF-5Bs. CASA had previously started a limited upgrade, with a minor reinforcement of the wingroot and a limited avionics improvement. This included VIR-31A VOR/ILS, AN/ARC-164 UHF radio, and a new AN/APX-101 IFF. An accident in which an SF-5B lost its wing root led to a realization that a more comprehensive upgrade was needed, and Bristol Aerospace of Canada was given a prime contract. This upgraded included wing modifications, a steel dorsal longeron, a new wing spar, and the incorporation of a new undercarriage. Engines and ejection seats were overhauled, and the avionics improvements from the original CASA upgrade were incorporated. The number of aircraft to be upgraded was reduced to 22 when another two-seater was lost in an accident.

The sole remaining EdA F-5 operator is Ala 23, which has two component squadrons Escuadron 231 and Escuadron 231, which provide fast-jet training and lead-in fighter training for the Hornet. The current strength is 22 SF-5Bs and six SF/SRF-5As. Ala 23 has a secondary close-air support mission, and the two-seaters have a laser designator in the rear cockpit. The single seaters can also act as target tugs for air-to-air gunnery practice. By the end of 1995, all the two seaters had received the CASA/Bristol Aerospace upgrade.

Service of SF-5 with Ejercito del Aire:

  1. Escuadron 202:

    First Spanish SF-5 unit (1970). Based at Moron until 1971 as part of Mando de la Aviacion Tactica, when it moved to Talavera de la Real and was allocated to the Escuela de Reactores (Jet Training School) and redesignated Escuadron 731.

  2. Escuadron 204:

    Second air force SF-5 unit. Moved from Moron to Talavera de la Real in 1971 allocated to the Escuela de Reactores (Jet Training School) and redesignated Escuadron 732.

  3. Escuadron 211:

    Established as one of the ground attack squadrons of Ala 21 based at Moron when Escuadrons 202 and 204 became training units. Disbanded when Ala 21 was disbanded in October of 1992. Most of its aircraft were scrapped, and Esc 211 was re-equipped with Aviojets.

  4. Escuadron 212:

    Established as one of the ground attack squadrons of Ala 21 based at Moron when Escuadrons 202 and 204 became training units. Was the Wing's reconnaissance unit and operated 18 SRF-5As and two SF-5Bs. In 1976, became Esc 464 and moved to the Canary Islands. Reactivated in January 1982 when Esc 464 was disbanded, and returned to Ala 21 at Moron. Ala 21 disbanded in October 1992 and six of its SF-5A/ SRF-5As were transferred to Ala 23. The rest were scrapped.

  5. Escuadron 214:

    Briefly part of Ala 21 and operated Hispano HA-220E Super Saeta and a small number of SF-5Bs. SF-5Bs transferred to the training wing (then Ala 73) and the squadron was disbanded in January 1982.

  6. Escuadron 731:

    Formed in 1972 from former Esc 202. At that time, it had 15 SF-5Bs. Based at Talavera de Real, it operated 18 SF-5As and two SF-5Bs. Flying as part of the Ala 73 training wing it was later redesignated Esc 231 when Ala 23 became the fast jet training unit.

  7. Escuadron 732:

    Formed in 1972 from the former Esc 204. Flying as part of Ala 73 training wing, it was later redesignated Esc 232 when Ala 23 became the fast jet training unit.

  8. Escuadron 464:

    Allocated to the Mando Aereo de Canarias and was based at Gando/Las Palmas with SF-5As and SRF-5A Eestablished with some of the aircraft of Esc 212. Flew all three versions of the SF-5. Disbanded in 1982 and reestablished as Esc 212.

  9. Ala 23

    Last of the EdA F-5 operators, with two component squadrons: Escuadron 231 (formerly Esc 731) and Escuadron 232 (formerly Esc 732). Provides fast jet training for EdA Hornets. Sources:

    1. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

    2. Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century, Michael J. H. Taylor, Mallard Press

    3. Northrop F-5/F-20, Jerry Scutts, Ian Allan Ltd, 1986.

    4. Modern Air Combat, Bill Gunston and Mike Spick, Crescent, 1983.

    5. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

    6. Post-World War II Fighters: 1945-1973, Marcelle Size Knaac, Office of Air Force History, 1986.

    7. F-5: Warplane for the World, Robbie Shaw, Motorbooks, 1990

    8. Fighters of the United States Air Force, Robert F. Dorr and David Donald, Temple Press/Aerospace, 1990

    9. The World's Great Attack Aircraft, Gallery, 1988.

    10. Northrop F-5, Jon Lake and Robert Hewson, World Airpower Journal, Vol 25, 1996.