Northrop F-20 Tigershark
1982
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Northrop F-20 Tigershark

Initially known as the F-5G and officially redesignated F-20 in November 1982, the Tigershark single-seat tactical fighter was evolved as a company-funded development of the basic F-5E, having an 80% increase in engine thrust and only 21% increase in empty weight. Powered by a single General Electric F404-GE-100 turbofan rated at 7711kg with afterburning, the F-20 had an armament of two 20mm cannon and could carry up to 3175kg of ordnance on five stations. Three prototypes of the F-20, each embodying progressive improvements, were flown, these entering flight test on 30 August 1982, 26 August 1983 and 12 May 1984. A fourth prototype in the proposed fully-operational configuration was under construction when, following the October 1986 decision that an upgraded F-16A was to succeed F-4 and F-106 as the USAF's air defence fighter, Northrop terminated further development of the F-20 and ceased marketing efforts.

3-View 
Northrop F-20 TigersharkA three-view drawing (1278 x 872)


Specification 
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight12475 kg27503 lb
    Empty weight5089 kg11219 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan8.13 m27 ft 8 in
    Length14.17 m47 ft 6 in
    Height4.22 m14 ft 10 in
    Wing area17.28 m2186.00 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed2124 km/h1320 mph
    Range w/max.fuel2965 km1842 miles

Comments1-20 21-40
jimmy boom semtex, 19.09.2017

F-20 production improvements were to be:

bigger wing 220 sq foot compared to 185

bigger mission computer

1k lb extra thrust from the engine so 18k not 17k

bigger underwing drop tanks

bigger nose for bigger radar antenna

more weapons down the line eg AMRAAM

a 2nd seat from 4th or 5th built jet

and other improvements i forget

i love this jet and it's a sad what if. Even now an awesome jet.

Goose, 21.12.2016

Oops. F - 20 is the Mig - 28 in the "Top Gun" Bull shit.

Stan Nonis, 22.03.2016

Nick C, what happened to all the F20 production tooling. Given cost escalations of the F35 making it out of reach of most nations and a market full of MLU F16s with the F16 line looking to shut there is still a market for the F20 more then ever.

Stan Nonis, 22.03.2016

Nick C, what happened to all the F20 production tooling. Given cost escalations of the F35 making it out of reach of most nations and a market full of MLU F16s with the F16 line looking to shut there is still a market for the F20 more then ever.

Nick C, 09.03.2016

I worked on the F-20 project and it did not help that we lost two of the prototype planes in demonstration flights.

Bill, 11.07.2015

WFflyer don't know what he is talking about.

Bill, 11.07.2015

The main problem with the F-20 was it was not developed by an Air Force contract My dealings with the Air Force System Safety people was they didn't know Squat about airplanes but
they were always saying that the Air Force wouldn't accept what Northrop designed and what made the F-20 such a great aircraft. It was 1st choice by several countries and could best the pants off the F-4, F-16 and other Aircraft the Air Force invested in.

ALLEN HILL, 10.06.2015

IN THE LONG PLANNED UP COMING WWIII THE F-20 IS VASTLY SUPERIOR TO ANY OTHER FIGHTER WE HAVE BECAUSE: IF IS 50% CHEAPER TO OPERATE, IT CAN OPERATE ON VERY BASIC RUNWAYS UNSUITABLE FOR ALL OTHE US FIGHTER AIRCRAFT, IT IS MUCH EASIER AND CHEAPER TO MAINTAIN, MUCH QUICKER TO GET STARTED, INTO THE AIR AND AT ALTITUDE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, IT CAN HOLD ITS OWN IN JUST ABOUT ANYTHING IT NEEDS TO DO FOR AN AIR SUPERIORITY FIGHTER WHILE BEING THE BEST DOG FIGHTER OF THEM ALL. WITH PRES. CLINTON AND CONTINUED TO THIS DAY STANDING DOWN OF OUR BALISTIC MISSILE SYSTEMS, ONLY THE SURVIVING AIR CRAFT AFTER THE PLANNED RUSSIAN/CHINESE FIRST STRIKE WILL SURVIVE. THE F-20 IS BUILT TO OPERATE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT AND NOT OTHER FIGHTING AIRCRAFT THE US HAS CAN DO THAT!

TORBJÍRN KAMPE, 25.04.2015

It only takes 3 minutes for a MIG-25 and MIG-31 to come to Sweden from Finland.
The cowardly geeks JAS-39 Gripen, it takes a 15 minutes to get up in the air. WHEN THE GRIFFIN PLAN IS IN THE AIR TO HAVE ME-31 Snapped ALL JAS-39 Gripen. Uner one minute is more a 80% OF SWEDISH AIR FORCE verdict.

Matt, 27.09.2014

F-20 is faster and has longer range than F-35.

Charles, 13.08.2013

The text above says there was a 21% increase in empty weight, but when I use the empty weight figure given above for the F-20A in comparison to the F-5E, the increase is only 16%. Even so, that's quite a bit of weight- what accounted for such a large increase?

jerry, 04.09.2012

really?? a spin up time of 20 seconds. I was one if the engingeers developing the F20 radar system. the radars used a TWT that had to warm up for about 60 seconds before it could transmit. it could do this while the plane was rolling down the tarmack. Once the Weight on wheels signal (WOW) indicated that plane was off the ground the radar could transmit. WOW prevented transmitter operation on the ground so that ground personnel were not irradiated by the radar. The real slowdown of a fighter air craft of that era was the spin up time of the inertial navigation system. The F20 used ring Lasers rather than gyroscopes. They were solid state having no moving parts to get to operational speed and at stability, thus nearly instant on.

Ron, 13.12.2011

The Tigershark was last offered to USAF (as the Air Guard Air Defense Fighter) with a fixed price 20 yr, $550/flight hour, warranty. All logistics support for the weapon system was provided by Northrop Grumman except for operating base maintenance personnel. Maintenance Man Hours per flight hour were half of the F-16 and cost per flight hour was approximately one third that of the F-16. Included in the warranty was a guaranteed readiness rate.

Mahon MacRi, 07.02.2011

Although I'm not a pilot, I'm a lifelong aviation enthusiast with well over 10,000 hours of simulation time (everything from WWI/WWII tail-draggers to Gen 4+ jets) and I've spent decades researching the history, performance specifications and capabilities of various military airframes.

This final incarnation of the F5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger II family (aka "the flying razorblade," especially to pilots who flew against it at Top Gun/Red Flag, because it was "murderously hard to see until it was right on top of you") exhibited vastly superior performance to the Fighting Falcon in many respects. Unfortunately, double-dealing back-room politics killed this magnificent fighter, leaving the US and its NATO allies in the lurch and forced to rely on the lesser Fighting Falcon and the compromise-laden Hornet strike/fighter instead.

The F20 Tigershark was a 100% privately-funded development; a 1.1/1 thrust/weight ratio, dedicated air superiority fighter that was a joy to handle and exhibited no vices of any kind. in fact, it has often been said that she would not "depart" under all but the most extraordinary circumstances. I've spoken with two high-hour pilots who flew the Tigershark, and they were unanimous in their praise of her capabilities. Especially praiseworthy was the F20's ability to achieve supersonic speeds at milpo (which the Falcon needs reheat to accomplish!) and its superb trust-to-weight ratio and high alpha capabilities, which meant it could hang in there in prolonged high-G turns that would've left the Falcon sucking dust.

The hard-earned lessons of the past have been largely forgotten by buzz-word-addicted politicians/procurement-committee-types and air staff officers, most of whom have never seen combat and have been promoted far beyond their level of competence. One of the most important of these lessons is that it is ALWAYS more cost-effective to maintain a mix of purpose-built fighter/strike types than to develop and maintain a handful of overly-expensive, compromise-laden multi-mission/multi-role "self-escorting" strike/fighters.

The problem with that kind of heavily compromised airframe is that when bounced by purpose-built dogfighters (even ones that are one or two generations older, as we saw repeatedly in Vietnam) these "self-escorting" F/A strike fighters have to dump their heavy A/G loads in order to fight effectively in the A/A role.

This amounts to nothing short of a "mission kill," and as all fighter pilots know, "a mission kill is almost as good as a real kill."

That's why they should bring back the mixed approach of dedicated strike planes doing what they' best at, all the while being covered by dedicated dogfighters doing what they're best at.

Charles, 30.12.2010

Since the F-16's couldn't hack Red Flag and Top Gun without structural fatigue problems, they should at least invest in an upgraded F-5 to restore DACT.

It's to bad Northrop also fell on the wrong side of politics with the F-23. The Pentagon chose the F-22 because they had plants in Georgia. The chairman of the Senate Armed services Committee at the time was Sam Nunn (from Georgia, of course).

ForTheRecord, 28.12.2010

For the record, the primary reason the F16 won is because it uses the exact same engine as the F15 which created a considerable savings in interchangeability, people training (which is always the highest cost), and speed to manufacture. F16 was not targeted to be an air superiority fighter. What they were looking for was a 'cheaper' F15. I am a fan of the F18 over the F16 but the F16 was a much smarter decision as the F18 was much smarter in its carrier and multifunction role.

shark, 03.08.2010

The F-16 did have greater range at altitude due to its turbofan engine, although the F-20 had slightly better range on the deck. However, longer range was not one of the main criteria for the target market and the F-20 had sufficient range to meet the objectives. Compared with the then current F-16 it had better radar, a better fire control, had better flying characteristics, greater versatility, got airborne Much faster and had all systems up sooner, had a better engine, a more comfortable cockpit, was cheaper to acquire and operate, was easier to maintain and was much, much more reliable. Also, those who had flown both and didn't have a vested interest reported it was easier and more fun to fly.

USAF's objection was that for every F-20 sold an F-16 wasn't sold, and the more sales of F-16s lowered their price. GD also knew how to market better. Taiwan wanted up to 250, but the sale was blocked by State because the Chinese objected. At least one other sale was reportedly blocked for similar reasons. There was a competition between the F-20 and the F-16 for an Air Defense fighter for the US. Neither plane was really suitable for US air defense, but the F-20 was better at the role, and this became clear. Then midway through the competition, USAF announced it wouldn't buy either but rather would modify some existing older F-16s. This became the F-16 ADC. At this point it was clear what was happening and Northrop threw in the towel. The F-16 ADC entered service, but having already performed its function to kill the F-20, was quickly retired.

swarˇn, 29.03.2010

y asi de esa manera con 3 derrotas consecutivas y el recorte del presupuesto del B-2, fue herida de muerte la Northrop, una lastima, pues sinceramente la empresa del Sr. Walther Northrop merecia algo mas que ser absorbida por otras compa˝ias.

Joe, 06.02.2010

The only thing the F-16 had over the F-20 was political maneuvering, as Frank correctly stated. The F-20 had PLENTY of range, weapons carrying capability, and flight characteristics that made it too hot to sell overseas - the USAF couldn't export a fighter that would beat the pants off their F-16. Switzerland, Israel, S. Korea, Taiwan, and others were lining up 3-deep to buy them. But politics won out - Switzerland is the hardest buyer to please - and they refused to buy the F-16. They kept their F-5s instead. U.S. taxpayers got a politically-expedient G.D. shortcoming for their hard-spent dollars.

FWflyer, 02.02.2010

The F-20 was great if you wanted to bomb the end of the runway. It had no range which is one of the main reasons why the F-16 won the competition.

1-20 21-40

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