Naval Air Station Fallon Adversaries Part One: VFC-13 Saints


Those of you who know me, know that I am a huge fan of adversary (aggressor, in USAF lingo) aircraft. Besides being an avid modeler, I also enjoy taking photographs of military aircraft. Fortunately, the two hobbies go hand in hand! This will be a two part photo-feature covering the adversary aircraft of NAS Fallon, Neveda.

Fallon is the US Navy's adversary stronghold. Two of the three dedicated USN adversary units are stationed here. They are VFC-13, which flies the F-5E, and F-5F, and the Naval Strike & Air Warfare Center (NSAWC), which flies the F-18A/B, F-14A, and SH-60F. The first part of this feature will cover the Tiger II's of VFC-13.

Both parts of this feature represent two years work, and six trips to Fallon. They are not meant to be complete works, but rather to give the reader a good idea of the aircraft these units fly. There are a number of aircraft from both units that I have never even seen, let alone photographed. None of these photos would have been possible without the assistance of Petty Officer Michelle Lewis of NSAWC. My everlasting thanks to her for her co-operation, and patience!

VFC-13 Saints

The Saints of VFC-13 are one of two US Navy Reserve units flying the adversary mission. VFC-12 out of NAS Oceana, Va. is the other, flying the F-18A. They arrived at NAS Fallon from NAS Miramar in early 1996, when the active duty Navy's last adversary unit, VFA-127, disestablished. Upon leaving Miramar they retired their trusty TA-4Js, and A-4Fs. VFC-13 did fly F-18A/Bs briefly at Miramar before moving to Fallon. Upon arrival at Fallon, they inherited VFA-127s F-5E/Fs, but not their F-18As, some of which were later sold to Spain.

The Saints operate approximately 16 F-5Es, and 3 F-5Fs. The F-5Es carry "bort" numbers on the nose of 00 to 25. The F-5Fs are numbered 30 to 32. They are a mix of survivors of the Navy's original adversary program, "Top Gun", and ex-USAF machines. All are maintained by Boeing personnel.

At first, most of the a/c wore the paint schemes they inherited from VFA-127. A few machines were still even in their USAF aggressor schemes. In about the last year, though, VFC-13 has been actively repainting their Tigers in a number of wild "tiger stripe" schemes, among others. I was told by a pilot that these schemes are not overly effective in "combat", but they do allow inexperienced Fleet pilots to pick out the small F-5s at a distance, while still affording some degree of camouflage.

The Saints usually fly against visiting Hornets from NAS Lemoore, but also harass aircraft of all types when the Carrier Air Wings are in town for work-ups, prior to deployment.

There have been rumors flying around about VFC-13 acquiring more F-5E/Fs that are surplus to Swiss Air Force needs. I have also heard of ex-USAF F-16s going to Fallon for adversary service, but weather the Saints, or NSAWC, would get them is unclear. Whatever the case, these remain rumors, but I've got my fingers crossed!

Editor's note. Fred has done a superlative job of photographing and acquiring other shots he missed to do this article. Each subsequent page will feature several of the Tigers of VFC-13. These images are copyrighted by the photographer and used with permission. Now that that is out of the way, on to the images.

Please note that there are not images for all aircraft.

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For images of all USN serialed F-5s, go here