Cold War Era

Vintage video shows Northrop YF-17 rollout

The Northrop YF-17 Cobra was a lightweight fighter aircraft designed for the United States Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter (LWF) technology evaluation program.

The silent film footage in this post shows the unveiling of the Northrop YF-17 Cobra, a jet fighter aircraft that, unfortunately for Northrop, never made it past the prototype stage, but still provided the basis for the F/A-18 design. The film starts with the Apr. 4, 1974, unveiling of the prototype plane, and then shows the aircraft in flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.

The Northrop YF-17 was a lightweight fighter aircraft designed for the United States Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter (LWF) technology evaluation program. The LWF was initiated because many in the fighter community believed that aircraft like the F-15 Eagle were too large and expensive for many combat roles. The YF-17 was the culmination of a long line of Northrop designs, beginning with the N-102 Fang in 1956, continuing through the F-5 family.

Although it lost the LWF competition to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the YF-17 was selected for the new Naval Fighter Attack Experimental (VFAX) program. In enlarged form, the F/A-18 Hornet was adopted by the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps to replace the A-7 Corsair II and F-4 Phantom II, complementing the more expensive F-14 Tomcat. This design, conceived as a small and lightweight fighter, was scaled up to the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which is similar in size to the original F-15.

Photo credit: Northrop via Ron Monroe

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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