Northrop Corporation
Founded1939; 85 years ago (1939)
FoundersJack Northrop
Defunct1994 (1994)
FateMerged with Grumman
SuccessorNorthrop Grumman
United States of America
Key people
SubsidiariesRadioplane Company

Northrop Corporation was an American aircraft manufacturer from its formation in 1939 until its 1994 merger with Grumman to form Northrop Grumman. The company is known for its development of the flying wing design, most successfully the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.[1]

Northrop Corporation F-5E Tiger II of the Swiss Air Force arrives at the 2016 RIAT, England


Jack Northrop founded 3 companies using his name. The first was the Avion Corporation in 1928, which was absorbed in 1929 by the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation[2] as a subsidiary named "Northrop Aircraft Corporation" (and later became part of Boeing).[3] The parent company moved its operations to Kansas in 1931, and so Jack, along with Donald Douglas, established a "Northrop Corporation" located in El Segundo, California, which produced several successful designs, including the Northrop Gamma and Northrop Delta. However, labor difficulties led to the dissolution of the corporation by Douglas in 1937, and the plant became the El Segundo Division of Douglas Aircraft.[4]

Northrop still sought his own company, and so in 1939 he established the "Northrop Corporation" in nearby Hawthorne, California, a site located by co-founder Moye Stephens. The corporation ranked 100th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.[5] It was there that the P-61 Black Widow night fighter, the B-35 and YB-49 experimental flying wing bombers, the F-89 Scorpion interceptor, the SM-62 Snark intercontinental cruise missile, and the F-5 Freedom Fighter economical jet fighter (and its derivative, the successful T-38 Talon trainer) were developed and built.[1]

Northrop Corporation wordmark from 1960

The F-5 was so successful that Northrop spent much of the 1970s and 1980s attempting to duplicate its success with similar lightweight designs. Their first attempt to improve the F-5 was the N-300, which featured much more powerful engines and moved the wing to a higher position to allow for increased ordnance that the higher power allowed. The N-300 was further developed into the P-530 with even larger engines, this time featuring a small amount of "bypass" (turbofan) to improve cooling and allow the engine bay to be lighter, as well as much more wing surface. The P-530 also included radar and other systems considered necessary on modern aircraft. When the Light Weight Fighter program was announced, the P-530 was stripped of much of its equipment to become the P-600, and eventually the YF-17 Cobra, which lost the competition to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Nevertheless, the YF-17 Cobra was modified with help from McDonnell Douglas to become the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet in order to fill a similar lightweight design competition for the US Navy. Northrop intended to sell a de-navalized version as the F-18L, but the basic F-18A continued to outsell it, leading to a long and fruitless lawsuit between the two companies. Northrop continued to build much of the F-18 fuselage and other systems after this period, but also returned to the original F-5 design with yet another new engine to produce the F-20 Tigershark as a low-cost aircraft. This garnered little interest in the market, and the project was dropped.

In 1985, Northrop bought, the sixth .com domain created.[6]

Based on the experimentation with flying wings the company developed the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber of the 1990s.[7][8]

In 1994, partly due to the loss of the Advanced Tactical Fighter contract to Lockheed Corporation and the removal of their proposal from consideration for the Joint Strike Fighter competition, the company bought Grumman to form Northrop Grumman.


Model name First flight Number built Type
Northrop Alpha 1930 17 Single-engine transport
Northrop C-19 Alpha 1930 3 Single-engine transport
Northrop Beta 1931 2 Single-engine sport airplane
Northrop Gamma 1932 60 Single-engine transport
Northrop Delta 1933 13 Single-engine transport, 19 additional aircraft built by Canadian Vickers
Northrop XFT 1933 1 Prototype naval fighter
Northrop YA-13 1933 1 Prototype attack aircraft
Northrop A-17/Nomad 1935 411 Attack/light bomber
Northrop BT 1935 55 Dive bomber
Northrop N-1M 1940 1 Experimental flying wing
Northrop N-3PB 1940 24 Floatplane patrol bomber
Northrop P-61 Black Widow 1942 706 Night fighter
Northrop N-9M 1942 4 Experimental scale flying wing proof of concept for B-35
Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet 1943 2 Prototype tailless fighter
Northrop F-15 Reporter 1945 36 Reconnaissance aircraft based on P-61
Northrop XP-79 1945 1 Prototype jet flying wing fighter
Northrop YB-35 1946 2 Prototype strategic bomber
Northrop Pioneer 1946 1 Trimotor transport
Northrop YB-49 1947 6 Prototype eight-jet-engine strategic bomber
Northrop F-89 Scorpion 1948 1,052 Interceptor
Northrop X-4 Bantam 1948 2 Experimental trans-sonic tailless aircraft
Northrop YC-125 Raider 1949 23 Trimotor transport
Northrop F-5 1959 2,246 Lightweight fighter
Northrop T-38 Talon 1959 1,146 Advanced trainer
Northrop X-21 1963 2 Experimental boundary layer control aircraft
Northrop M2-F2 1966 1 Experimental rocket powered lifting body
Northrop HL-10 1966 1 Experimental rocket lifting body
Northrop M2-F3 1970 1 Experimental rocket lifting body
Northrop YA-9 1972 2 Prototype attack aircraft
Northrop YF-17 1974 2 Prototype fighter, led to F/A-18
Northrop Tacit Blue 1982 1 Experimental stealth aircraft
Northrop F-20 Tigershark 1982 3 Prototype lightweight fighter derived from F-5
Northrop B-2 Spirit 1989 21 Strategic stealth bomber
Northrop YF-23 1990 2 Prototype stealth fighter


Unmanned aerial vehicles


See also


  1. ^ a b Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 93-106, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  2. ^ "John Knudsen Northrup". Encyclopedia Britannica. 1998. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Northrop Grumman Corporation | American company". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  4. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 25, 93, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  5. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  6. ^ "100 oldest .com domains". Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
  7. ^ Ioanes, Ellen. "The legendary B-2 stealth bomber made its first flight 30 years ago today — here's why it's still one of the world's most feared warplanes". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  8. ^ "B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, United States of America". Airforce Technology. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  9. ^ Buttler, Tony (2010). American Secret Projects: Bombers, Attack and Anti-Submarine Aircraft 1945 to 1974. Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85780-331-0.
  10. ^ Zichek, J., 2015. Northrop N-63 Convoy Fighter: The Naval VTOL Turboprop Tailsitter Project of 1950. Retromechanix Productions.