Cold War Era

THIS COOL F-20 PROMOTIONAL VIDEO (FEATURING AN INTRO BY SUPER ACE CHUCK YEAGER) WILL MAKE YOU WANT A TIGERSHARK SO BAD

In his autobiography, which he wrote after the F-20 was canceled, Yeager touted the Tigershark as “magnificent.”

The cool F-20 promotional video in this post was taken in the 1980s and features an intro by super ace Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, who at the time was a spokesperson for Northrop.

In his autobiography, which he wrote after the F-20 was canceled, Yeager touted the Tigershark as “magnificent.”

The F-20 Tigershark (initially F-5G) was a privately financed light fighter, designed and built by Northrop. Its development began in 1975. The aircraft which was a further evolution of Northrop’s F-5E Tiger II, was powered by a new engine that greatly improved overall performance, and a modern avionics suite that included a powerful and flexible radar.

Compared with the F-5E, the F-20 was much faster, gained beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air capability, and had a full suite of air-to-ground modes capable of firing most U.S. weapons. Thanks to these improvements, the F-20 became competitive with contemporary fighter designs such as the General Dynamics F-16/79 (a modified export-oriented version of the F-16A/B designed for use with the outdated General Electric J79 turbojet engine), but was much less expensive to purchase and operate.

Much of the F-20’s development was carried out under a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) project called “FX.” FX sought to develop fighters that would be capable in combat with the latest Soviet aircraft, but excluding sensitive front-line technologies used by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) aircraft. FX was a product of the Carter administration’s military export policies, which aimed to provide foreign nations with high quality equipment without the risk of U.S. front-line technology falling into Soviet hands. Northrop had high hopes for the F-20 in the international market, but policy changes following Ronald Reagan’s election meant the F-20 had to compete for sales against F-16’s latest variants and not the downgraded F-16/79.

The F-20 Tigershark program was abandoned in 1986 after three prototypes had been built (two of which crashed after their pilots blacked out due to excessive g-forces) and a fourth partially completed.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  • I remember when the aircraft first came out, I was in the air force at the time, I thought well that solves a lot of problems, will sell bucket loads, then they buried it...

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