Northrop F-20A Tigershark - Germans Abroad

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During the early 1980s, the Bundeswehr was seeking a replacement for the ageing F-104G Starfighter which were soon to be retired from service as well as a supplement to the F-4F Phantom II which had entered service a decade earlier. To this end, they once again turned to the United States to meet their requirements. The German Air Force evaluation unit WTD 61 would assemble a team including pilots Horst Nickl and Horst Philipp which would be sent across the pond to evaluate the latest offerings of the US aerospace industries, including the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and the subject of this suggestion, the F-20A Tigershark.

The Northrop F-20A Tigershark, also known as the F-5G, was a supersonic fighter aircraft that had its roots in the widely successful Northrop F-5 family. The development of the F-20 can be traced back to the late 1970s when Northrop sought to modernise and enhance the capabilities of the F-5E Tiger II. The F-20 was designed to be a cost-effective, highly manoeuvrable, and reliable air superiority fighter for both domestic and international markets. Northrop positioned the F-20 as an affordable alternative to more expensive fighter aircraft, hoping to attract potential foreign buyers and fill a gap in the market for a lightweight, capable fighter, claiming it to be 95% as effective as the F-16 while being 70% of the cost.

The F-20 incorporated numerous improvements, including a more powerful General Electric F404 turbofan engine, the advanced AN/APG-67(V) radar set, and a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including the AIM-9P Sidewinder, AIM-7M Sparrow, AGM-65 Maverick and various dumb munitions including bombs and rockets. The F-20 also had two 20mm M-39 cannons mounted in the nose, with a total of 450 rounds. It also boasted a significant amount of parts commonality with the F-5 and T-38 series of aircraft, which significantly reduced manufacturing and maintenance costs, particularly for nations who already operated these types.

Flight tests were conducted by WTD 61 at Edward AFB in California, 1983 and evaluation of the aircraft was carried out until 1984 where it was determined that the F-20 was unsuitable for the needs of the German Air Force who instead opted to pursue the F-4F ICE modernisation in the short term and the Eurofighter Typhoon for the long term. Ultimately, the F-20 Tigershark failed to secure any major contracts, and the program was cancelled in 1986. The F-20 could make an interesting addition to the German tech tree as it was a private venture by Northrop and was never adopted by any country.


General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 14.43 m
Wingspan: 8.53123 m with wing-tip missiles, 8.13 m clean
Height: 4.2228 m
Airfoil: NACA 65A004.8 modified
Empty weight: 5,357 kg
Gross weight: 7,264 kg Combat TOW - 50% fuel 2x AIM-9
Max takeoff weight: 12,474 kg
Fuel capacity: 2,291 kg in integral and bladder tanks
Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F404-GE-100 afterburning turbofan engine, 49 kN thrust dry, 76 kN with afterburner


Maximum speed: 2,124 km/h
Maximum speed: Mach 2
Range: 590 km in air superiority mission with 2 × AIM-9 and 5 minutes air combat
Ferry range: 3,732 km with full internal fuel and 3 × 1,200 L drop tanks
Service ceiling: 17,300 m
Combat ceiling: 14,572 m
g limits: +9
Power/mass: 1.1
Sustained turn rate: 13.2°/s at M0.8 at 4,572 m
Take-off run: 434 m
Take-off run at MTOW: 1,082 m
Landing run: 655 m


2 × 20 mm (0.79 in) Pontiac M39A2 cannons in the nose, 280 rounds each and a General Electric 30 mm gun pod which can be mounted on the fuselage

7 external hardpoints with a capacity of 3,600 kg of bombs, missiles, rockets, gun pods and up to 3 drop tanks for extended range

2 × CRV7 rocket pods or
2 × LAU-10 rocket pods with 4 × Zuni 5 in (127 mm) rockets each or
2 × Matra rocket pods with 18 × SNEB 68 mm rockets each

2 × AIM-9 Sidewinders on wing tip launch rails
Up to 4 × AIM-7 Sparrows or AIM-120 AMRAAMs on underwing launch rails
AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile on hardpoints and or the fuselage

Various air-to-ground ordnance such as Mark 80 series of unguided iron bombs (including 3 kg and 14 kg practice bombs), CBU-24/49/52/58 cluster bomb munitions, M129 Leaflet bomb



F-20 4

F-20 5


Frederick A. Johnson, Northrop F-5/F-20/T-38 - Volume 44

Bernd and Frank Vetter, Modern Luftwaffe Unit History: WTD 61

John W.R. Taylor, Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1984–85

NTM 1F-20A-1 - F-20A Utility Flight Manual


Unique addition in a tech tree that is lacking in modern equipment


It would be pretty neat to have this in the german and american tech trees.


Sure it would help the tree +1


Would love to see this being added, preferably both for Germany and the US in the same update!


+1 Yes yes yes! It would be fantastic to have an F-5 pattern aircraft in the German tree. It goes without saying that the F-20 should be added to the US as well.


Not so widely known fact, but the Tigershark was also actively marketed in Switzerland (for some time you could even buy model kits with Swiss markings). So as also the Swiss Hunter F.58 ended up in the German tree, the F-20 there would be doubly reasonable, but US of course as well…


It would be a good addition to add as a stop gap before the German Eurofighter. Which I don’t think the Eurofighter is coming for awhile anyway.

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YES PLEASE! I love the F-20 and REALLY want to have it in the game. +1

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This would be an excellent bridge between current/potential near-future fighters in the German tree (F-4 ICE, MiG-29G etc.), and much later additions such as the Eurofighter family. +1, but would also like to see it in the US tree in some form

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This implies that the F.58 being added to Germany was “reasonable”. Which it wasn’t. Anyway, on topic, no, I don’t want to see this plane in Germany. It’s frankly one step removed from the F-16AJ as according to the guy who took the photos of the F-20 in Luftwaffe markings the Germans test flew it in 1983 at part of a sales pitch on one (1) test flight. Unless you mean to suggest that this plane should also go to the UK through Jordan and China via Pakistan.

In fact the F-20 with a German flag was photographed on October 11th, 1983, and the same one was photographed without on October 28th, 1983. Forget evaluating through 1984, they didn’t even use it for all of three weeks.

I’ll concede your book source does say the Luftwaffe gave the F-20 a proper evaluation in 1984, but it’s one sentence that is not corroborated by any other material that I can find. And I’ll also concede that what I’ve provided is not corroborated by anything else I can find. The fact is, though, is that there is one source supporting your claim while Mr. Svendsen’s story fits within the widely accepted timeframe of the F-20’s evaluation.

Photo source: Keith C. Svendsen


Evaluation includes more than just the test flight. It’s an overall consideration whether an aircraft meets the operational needs of the Luftwaffe, whether the aircraft fits within budgetary constraints, whether parts can be manufactured domestically, considerations of what the future prospects of the aircraft might be, comparisons against the other options, etc. Such things could easily carry the evaluation into 1984.

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Fair, but that’s not what the post is framing it as.

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It does not matter. The advertising campaign was carried out in other countries, under exactly the same conditions. This aircraft has never been considered by any country as a potential candidate for service, even in the United States. If we take into account the fact that Germany has a meager set of aircraft, and will not be able to compete with the USA or USSR in this regard in the future. Not to mention the interest in this gaming nation at the moment in terms of aviation

I have edited it for clarity.

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Thanks, I’m not gonna be a huge stickler about it because I can’t really say for sure that your book is wrong. This isn’t some gotcha moment, I’m just saying I find it dubious.

Yeah, I get the feeling, trust me, Germany’s air could use some love. This one just doesn’t sit right with me though.



Tbf the F-20 Tigershark is intended as an export aircraft so Germany getting it is not too egregious especially when they actually evaluated it and did test flights in it

Two other notes in regards to the F-20 Tigershark

Various Middle-eastern countries evaluated the model, Jordan which is one of them, Bahrain is another, Morocco is a third one that i can think of, Egypt placed an order of them and there are images of Tigersharks flying in Egypt (Egypt cancelled the order in favor of the F-16)

Another country (this time out of the Middle East region) to show interest in the F-20 Tigershark is New Zealand of all places though it never went as far in terms of extensive evaluation as countries like Egypt, South Korea or West Germany

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I would rather see the F-20 in the US tree it’s a more natural home for it. It’s an American aircraft and it was evaluated by the USAF, USN, and ANG; so there’s more to link it to the US tree than the German tree.

In general I’m not a fan of giving vehicles to nations which only considered them (without committing to buy any), at least where the nation who built it is already in game. Likewise I’m against Britain being given a British F-14, F-15, F-16, M1A2, or Leopard 2 just because it evaluated them all at various points.


The purpose of this suggestion isn’t top exclude the possibility of the F-20 also coming to the US tree. Personally, I think it could be a good edition to the German tree because besides the US, Germany is the only other in-game nation to evaluate the F-20. It’s also not surprising the US air tree is completely stacked even now, the addition of the F-20 would hardly be noticed. Germany on the other hand… does not have a very promising future for its air tree, all that’s left to add is the F-4F ICE and Eurofighter. Unlike Britain, Italy or Sweden, Germany does not have a sub-tree or Commonwealth nations to fall back on. At least, not yet.

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