The Malaysian Tigers

by TB Tan, Brian Param and Thomas Ng


  Malaysia National Day 2004 


Following the retirement of the Sabre jets (donated by RAAF), RMAF purchased 14 F-5E and 2 F-5B in mid 70s. The aircraft were delivered

using the Lockheed Galaxy C-5 from USA arrived in Butterworth in August 1975 and were inducted into the newly formed No. 12 Sqn.

4 F-5F were introduced later to enhance its training and conversation role and the existing 2 F5-B were sold to Thailand in September 1982. For reconnaissance duty, 2 RF-5E were added in 1983 while 2 F-5E and a F-5F were procured later as attrition to replacement to those that had been written off or crashed. It has been noticed that the later batch of aircrafts have a larger LERXs with fin antenna and flattened "shark nose" radome.

1/72 Hasegawa F-5B by Thomas Ng

FM2202, No 12 Sqn, Circa 1975, Overall Silver finishing with large National insignia 

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Back in the early 80s, the F5s were assigned to two squadrons, namely

11(Cobra) and 12 squadrons (Scorpion) operated along side with two RAAF Mirage squadrons, the 75 and 3 Squadron in Butterworth. At its peak, there were nearly 50 fighters in Butterworth air base making it one of the deadliest fighter air base in the region. 

1/72 Italari F-5E by Brian Param

M29-12, No 11 Sqn, Circa 1985, Overall Silver finishing with small National insignia

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The primary role of No. 12 operational squadron was in offensive and

defensive counter air offence and being an interceptor of the Malaysian

airspace the F5s retain its capability in delivering air to ground ordnance as well. Meanwhile, No 11 Sqn was assigned as operational conversion unit and functioned as "Training and Reconnaissance" Squadron. 

1/72 Italari/Airfix RF-5E By Brian Param

M29-19, No 12 Sqn, Circa 2004, Wrap around 3 tone Gray camouflage, 

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In enhancing the fighter pilots skill, frequent exercises were held internally among other fighter squadrons such as the No. 6 & 9 A4-PTM Skyhawks based in Kuantan. Delivery of live weapons (air to ground) practice was conducted at the gunnery range at Songsong Island besides the regular air to air maneuvering (dissimilar air combat training - DACT) at Straits of Malacca. The F5 fighters were frequently deployed to East Malaysia in protecting the sovereignty of this country. 

1/72 F-5E By TB Tan

M29-05, No 12 Sqn, Circa 1994, Overall 3 tone Gray camouflage.

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On numerous occasion, No.12 Sqn emerged as champion in the local "Top Gun" exercise or locally known as "Ex Jaguh" before the induction of the MIG-29 and FA-18D Hornets. 

Apart from that, the F5s had also involved in regular external exercises against its Asean counterparts such as Air Thamal, Elang Malindo, etc. Annual exercises under the five power defence arrangement (Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) with Butterworth being the Headquarter) were carried out such Flying Fish, Major and minor Adex, etc. 

1/72 F-5E By Thomas Ng

M29-12, No 11 Sqn, Circa 1994, 3 tone Aggressor Blue camouflage. 

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During its service in the 80ís and early 90's, No.12 Sqn tigers were spotted in original silver and three tone grey camouflage identity while the aggressor blue scheme camouflage were applied to some of the F5s flying with the No.11 Sqn.  

1/72 F-5F By Brian Param

M29-16, No 12 Sqn, Circa 2004, Wrap around 3 tone Gray camouflage. 

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It is around 1995 that TUDM consolidate all the tigers into a single No. 12 Squadron, as at the time of writing, it is understood that some RMAF F5s have been upgraded, notability, an F, primarily for air to ground and advanced training role. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed recently between Airod, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Caledonian Airborne Systems in upgrading the remaining Tigers  

Nevertheless, the upgrades on the structural and avionics would make this tiny lightweight and versatile fighter a potent adversary and should not be written off lightly just yet. 

It is interesting to note that TUDM F-5 took part in several Big Screen movie production such as "Bat 21" and a local Top gun Movie "Wira Angkasa".

Thomas, Brian & TB

Photos and text © by Thomas Ng, Brian Param,TB Tan