The 35PRS went to war with the Lockheed F-5E Photo Lightning, the unarmed photo reconnaissance version of the famous P-38 Lightning fighter.  The unit trained with it at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma in late 1943/early 1944, before deploying overseas by ship.  F-5Es were shipped to India, where the unit arrived in June, 1944.

There appears to be some delay between when squadron personnel arrived in India and when the F-5s arrived.  At least one story attributes the delay to the loss of a ship carrying the aircraft.

Once the aircraft arrived in India, the squadron completed assembly of them, flight tested them and prepared to fly them from India, over the Hump and into China to begin combat operations in September, 1944.  Some pilots went ahead of the squadron and flew the F-5 with the 21st PRS in China to gain some initial experience in the combat zone prior to the 35PRS arrival at Kunming.

T/Sgt Anthony A. Garra, Chief of the 4th Photographic Technical Unit based at Kunming poses with a 35PRS F-5E, circa 1944-1945.  (Thanks to Ms. Aileen Garra Lim for the ID of her father!)  The squadron emblem, the Redhawk, is displayed prominently on the nose of the aircraft.  The emblem, slightly adapted, is still in use today, with the 123rd Fighter Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard.

The F-5E could carry a wide variety of aerial cameras in the nose area of the plane, and up to six cameras, depending on the type and mission requirement.   There were several sub-variants of the E – it is a point of ongoing research to identify the actual block(s) (2, 3 and/or 4) which the 35PRS flew in combat.

A Lockheed F-5E Photo Lightning rests with others of its kind, probably at a training base in the U.S.


The 100 F-5E-2s were converted from P-38J-15s in the field. They had larger camera windows than earlier F-5s, surrounded by a teardrop shaped fairing.


105 F-5E-3s were converted from P-38J-25s.


508 F-5E-4s were converted from P-38Ls


35PRS Official Histories

Lockheed : F-5E : Lightning