The Republic of Vietnam received 18 F-5Es in 1972, all aircraft
diverted from deliveries scheduled for Iran. Other F-5Es followed
later. However, it seems that these F-5Es were relatively little used
by the South Vietnamese Air Force, since their more advanced
electronics suite made them more difficult to maintain. Most air
action still took place with the earlier F-5A/B model.
During the final North Vietnamese assault on Saigon in 1975, many
SVNAF Tiger IIs and earlier F-5A/Bs were flown to refuge in Thailand.
A total of 26 F-5s arrived, 22 Es and four As made it to Thailand.
They were returned to the USA and stored at MCClellan AFB, pending
sale to other customers. However, most remained in the USA to form
the nucleus of agressor training programs,
87 F-5As and 27 F-5Es were left behind when the South Vietnamese
government fled in 1975. These were pressed into service with the
Vietnam People's Air Force. There are reports that these planes were
used by Vietnam during its invasion of neighboring Kampuchea in 1978.
In 1979, nine Tigers were reported to be operating from bases near
Hanoi as part of a composite squadron also equipped with the MiG-21.
The Hanoi unit is believed to have been joined by three other
F-5/MiG-21 regiments. The F-5E/Fs were reportedly more popular with
their Vietnamese crews than were the Russian-built aircraft that
provided the primary strength of the Vietnamese air force, which is a
a rather unique testimonial. They were particularly appreciative of
the comfortable cockpits and the ease of handling of the F-5.
There were several attempts by the Vietnamese government to sell its
captured F-5s to other customers. By now, it seems likely that no
F-5Es remain flying in Vietnam, the lack of spares probably leading to
their grounding, despite cannibalization.