Aircraft And Military Development & Applications
47-Northrop YF-17 Cobra                          
The Northrop YF-17 was a prototype lightweight fighter aircraft designed for the United States Air Force's Lightweight Fighter 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.

Maiden flight: 09 Jun 1974  Length: 56.00 ft  Wingspan: 34.45 ft  Passengers: 2  Manufacturer: Northrop Corporation  Types: Fighter aircraft · Prototype fighter aircraft.
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet traces its direct ancestry to the Northrop Cobra, a twin engine multimission fighter design developed for the export market in the late 1960s.

In the early 1970s the Air Force pressed for development of a new generation of lightweight fighters-single-seat jet aircraft "optimized" for agility and air combat maneuvering, with high thrust-to-weight ratios (above 1 to 1), and good acceleration. Out of this interest came the so-called "Lightweight Fighter" program. In January 1972, the Lightweight Fighter Program solicited design specifications from several American manufacturers. Participants were told to tailor their specifications toward the goal of developing a true air superiority lightweight fighter. General Dynamics and Northrop were asked to build prototypes, which could be evaluated with no promise of a follow-on production contract. These were to be strictly technology demonstrators. The two contractors were given creative freedom to build their own vision of a lightweight air superiority fighter, with only a limited number of specified performance goals. Northrop's entry was derived from the Cobra design. Northrop produced the twin-engine YF-17 using breakthrough aerodynamic technologies and two high-thrust General Electric YJ101 engines. General Dynamics countered with the compact YF-16, built around a single F100 engine.

Midway down the development path the stakes changed; what had been a technology demonstration became a Department of Defense competition for a new fighter for both the Air Force and Navy, and for allied nations as well. First flight of the YF-17 was in June 1974. By this time, the Air Force had decided to proceed with Air Combat Fighter (ACF) Program, based on flight testing of the YF-16 and YF-17 prototypes. The Navy was also initiating a program to develop a new VFAX in this time period--a strike fighter to replace both the F-4s and A-7s in its carrier air wings.

When the Lightweight Fighter competition was completed early in 1975, both the YF-16 and the YF-17 showed great promise. The two prototypes performed so well, in fact, that both were selected for military service. The Air Force selected the F-16 to be produced for the Tactical Air Command, and the Navy was directed by Congress to base the VFAX on either the YF-16 or YF-17 designs. The Navy, unhappy with the outcome, proceeded independently with a derivative of the YF-17 Cobra, this evolving into the Navy's Northrop F-18 Hornet fighter program. To meet Navy requirements, considerable improvements in areas such as combat radius and radar capability were incorporated, in addition to carrier suitability features. The resulting redesign was extensive and, when the McDonnell Douglas design was selected as winner in 1976, it was assigned the F-18A designation.

After sitting briefly in storage, the two YF-17 prototypes flew again, this time as development aircraft for the proposed F-18. At the request of the Navy, Dryden flew the first YF-17 for base drag studies and to evaluate the maneuvering capability and limitations of the aircraft. NASA pilots-all of whom got at least one flight in the plane-and engineers examined the YF-17's buffet, stability and control, handling qualities, and acceleration characteristics.
General Characteristics
Crew: 1
Length: 55 ft 6 in (16.92 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
Height: 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m)
Wing area: 350 sq ft (33 m2)
Empty weight: 21,000 lb (9,525 kg)
Gross weight: 23,000 lb (10,433 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 30,630 lb (13,894 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × General Electric YJ101-GE-100 turbojet, 14,400 lbf (64 kN) thrust each (with reheat)
Role: Prototype fighter aircraft
Manufacturer: Northrop
First flight: 9 June 1974
Status: Retired
Primary user: United States Air Force (intended)
Number built: 2
Developed into: McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
Maximum speed: 1,320 mph (2,124 km/h; 1,147 kn) at 40,000 feet (12,000 m)
Range: 2,800 mi (2,433 nmi; 4,506 km)
Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,000 m)
Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.79 in) M61 Vulcan Gatling gun
Missiles: 2× AIM-9 Sidewinder
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Nigel G Wilcox
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