Iranian Tigers At War - Northrop F-5A/B, F-5E/F and sub-variants In combat service since 1960

Review by John Baxter

Part of the Middle East@War Series by Helion & Co, this is Volume 4 – the preceding editions covered the ‘Syrian Conflagration’, the ‘Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1948 War’ and the ‘Israeli Air Force Operations in the 1956 Suez War’. The author of this title is Babak Taghvale, an Iranian journalist and aviation enthusiast.

It’s a card covered, A4 sized book with 64 pages containing 135 b&w photos, along with a colour centre section with 25 colour photos, 8 colour maps, 16 colour profiles plus scrap art, glossary, tables and bibliography. There’s also an ‘About the Author’ paragraph that makes for interesting reading!

Iran was the biggest export customer of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter operating eventually over 300 of the type and variants including the later F-5E Tiger in fighter, ground attack and counter-insurgency operations with the Imperial Iranian Air Force and later the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. Since the first delivery in January 1965 until today, the F-5 has been the major type operated by the IIAF and IRIAF and though long outdated continues to serve.

The bulk of the book is on combat service from just before the fall of the Shah in 1979 and the Iraqi invasion in 1980 through until its end in 1988. Combat was frequent and bloody with fifty-five F-5s lost during these years and the research covering this is considerable. Further actions are then recorded and the need to upgrade, modify and produce new aircraft occupy the remaining pages. Overall, it’s a major undertaking of a war not well understood nor studied here in Australia and the text well and truly presents much of the day to day occurrences without going into political ideology.

So, is it worthwhile? A definite yes for two reasons – firstly, it provided for me an exacting account of a little known aerial war and secondly on the modelling aspect offers some unusual colour schemes plus the possibility of modelling a lesser known type such as the indigenous Saeqeh -80, a twin finned F-5E variant. It is available from Hyland’s Bookshop in Melbourne or 03 9654 7448 for about $43.

Many thanks to Ms Orietta Colussi of DLS Australia for the review copy.