ACCESS: Top Secret
- Aug 2, 2006
- Reaction score
FighterJock said:Yes I remember the YF-17, the loosing competitor to the F-16. Having seen it in aviation books back in the 1980s when I ordered them out the local library. A great pity it was not chosen because I am sure that it would have made a great fighter for the USAF, apparently there was not that much to separate the YF-17 from the F-16 in the fly off.
There is what SFerrin posted above, which is completely true, but there is more to it than just that. The YF-17 was actually being developed to a European specification, most likely West German. I base that on the fact that they never bought the F-16 and when the LWF competition was won by GD, Dornier started work on the TKF-90, of which the early versions looked like the YF-17. Northrop never said who their "European" customer was driving the design, to the best of my knowledge. As such, the YF-17 wasn't actually designed for the LWF program, though it did influence it's creation.
There was a version of it with a single F-100 engine and I've read various reasons as to why they went with the twin engine; From the USAF wanted a single and twin to compete against each other, since they didn't want two aircraft too similar in the competition, to their "European" customer not wanting a single engine aircraft. I lean towards the latter, though both may be true, as it helps explain further why West Germany never bought the F-16.
As such, I've always felt the YF-17 was somewhat handicapped in the competition as the F-16 was more tailored for the requirements. You also have to consider the YF-17 was more "multi-role" than the YF-16, which was a pure daylight A2A fighter. Of course, after it won the USAF added a whole lot of weight to the F-16 and didn't touch the wing area. It was still a good aircraft but lacking when compared to the YF-16, at least in terms of maneuverability. I think this was partly to keep the F-15 the star of the show. But I also think it was pragmatic, in that if they had increased the wing area at the time they would have greatly increased the cost as well. Which was due to all of the new testing that would have had to been done and the costs of the bigger wing itself.
Having said all of that, if Northrop had entered the single engine YF-17 in the competition, I still think the YF-16 would have won. I base this on the YF-16's FBW FCS and the incredible fuel fraction it has, assuming the flight performance of both aircraft would have been very close.