N-102 Fang
Patent images of the N-102 design
Role Light fighter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Northrop Corporation
Status Project only
Developed into Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter

The Northrop N-102 Fang was a fighter aircraft design created by Northrop Corporation and proposed to the United States Air Force in 1953. The Fang was explicitly designed as a ”light” or “lightweight fighter” in direct response to what Northrop saw as the ever-increasing weight, size, complexity, and cost of Western fighter designs. While the Fang was ultimately overlooked in-favor of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Northrop’s interest in the lightweight fighter concept would ultimately come to fruition with the F-5 Freedom Fighter, itself spawning a moderately successful fighter family.

Design and development

In the early 1950s, concerns grew in the United States about the growing weight, complexity and cost of modern fighter aircraft, and in late 1952, Northrop started a design study for a simple, lightweight, supersonic fighter aircraft, the N-102 Fang, with the design team headed by Welko E. Gasich, Northrop's Chief of Advanced Design.[1][2][3] On 12 December that year, the United States Air Force (USAF) issued a requirement for a lightweight air superiority aircraft to replace the F-100 supersonic fighter. The new aircraft was expected to enter service in 1957 and was required to have a speed of at least Mach 1.3 at 35,000 ft (11,000 m) and a combat radius of 400 mi (650 km). Northrop proposed the N-102 to meet the requirement, while other competitors were from Lockheed (the CL-246), North American Aviation (the NA-212) and Republic Aviation (the AP-55).[4]

The N-102 had a shoulder-mounted delta wing and a small all-moving tailplane mounted behind the wing. It would be powered by a single turbojet mounted in the lower aft fuselage which was supplied by air from a variable-geometry ventral air inlet. This promised smoother, more efficient airflow to the engine at the risk of being more vulnerable to ingestion of foreign objects and damage to the engine.[5][6] A number of different engines were proposed, including the Pratt & Whitney J57, the Wright J65 (a license-produced derivative of the British Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire), the Wright J67 (a license-built Bristol Olympus) or the General Electric J79, with all of the engines giving an estimated speed of at least Mach 2.[7]

In early 1953, the USAF selected Lockheed's CL-246, which became the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, but Northrop at first continued work on the N-102 with the hope of gaining export orders, building a mock-up of the aircraft in USAF colors.[8] However, the use of a single, large engine meant that the aircraft could not be as light or cheap as Northrop wanted, and Northrop stopped work on the N-102 during 1954.[5][2][9] Northrop continued work on lightweight fighters, basing its further studies on the use of two small General Electric J85 engines, which allowed a much lighter and cheaper aircraft,[5] with Northrop's design team believing that twin engines would increase the reliability and safety margin.[10] The J85-powered design studies eventually formed the basis of the F-5 fighter family.[11][12][13]

The design was the subject of a 1957 design patent.[14]

Specifications (J79 engine - performance estimated)

Data from Northrop N-102 "Fang"[7]

General characteristics



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


Media related to N-102 Fang at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ Scutts 1986, pp. 6–7.
  2. ^ a b Lake & Hewson 1996, p. 48.
  3. ^ Pelletier 2012, pp. 71–72.
  4. ^ Pelletier 2012, p. 72.
  5. ^ a b c Scutts 1986, p. 7.
  6. ^ Pelletier 2012, pp. 72–73.
  7. ^ a b Pelletier 2012, p. 73.
  8. ^ Pelletier 2012, pp. 73–74.
  9. ^ Pelletier 2012, p. 74.
  10. ^ General Electric Company (1979). Seven decades of progress: a heritage of aircraft turbine technology. Fallbrook, CA: Aero Publishers. p. 108. ISBN 0-8168-8355-6.
  11. ^ Lake & Hewson 1996, pp. 48–49.
  12. ^ Scutts 1986, pp. 7–8.
  13. ^ Lorell, Mark A.; Levaux, Hugh P. (1998). The cutting edge: a half century of fighter aircraft R&D. RAND Corporation. p. 114. ISBN 0-8330-2595-3.
  14. ^ US design 180297, "Aircraft", published 1957-05-14, assigned to Northrop Aircraft Inc.