Northrop F-20A Tigershark - Germany 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.

Tests were conducted by WTD 61 throughout 1984 at Edward AFB in California 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 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.

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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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