The Northrop YF-17, commonly known as the Cobra, was a prototype fighter aircraft developed in the 1970s. It was designed as a lightweight, single-seat fighter with excellent agility and high performance. The YF-17 served as the basis for the development of the F/A-18 Hornet, which is still in service with the US Navy and Marine Corps.

Origin and History

The YF-17 program began in the early 1970s when the US Air Force announced the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition to develop a new, low-cost fighter aircraft. Northrop, in partnership with McDonnell Douglas, developed the YF-17 to compete in the program. While the YF-17 did not win the LWF competition, it was developed further and eventually led to the development of the F/A-18 Hornet.


The YF-17 had a sleek and streamlined design with a slender fuselage and two General Electric F404 turbofan engines mounted on either side of the tail. The aircraft had a delta wing design with a leading-edge extension and trailing-edge flaps for improved maneuverability. Its cockpit was designed for single-seat operations and had advanced avionics and flight controls, including a Heads-Up Display (HUD) and a fly-by-wire flight control system.

Northrop YF-17 Cobra

Power and Performance

The YF-17 was powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines, which provided a total thrust of 28,000 pounds. The aircraft had a maximum speed of Mach 1.95 (1,450 mph) and a range of 1,200 nautical miles. Its performance was comparable to other advanced fighter aircraft of its time, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet.


The YF-17 was equipped with a range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, including missiles, bombs, and rockets. Its armament included the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile. The YF-17 could also carry a 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon for ground attack missions.

Military Use and Combat History

While the YF-17 did not see any combat use, its development led to the creation of the F/A-18 Hornet, which has been used extensively by the US Navy and Marine Corps in a variety of missions. The Hornet has seen combat use in conflicts such as the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan. The YF-17 also served as the basis for the development of the F-20 Tigershark, which was intended for export to foreign militaries but never entered service.

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