Northrop F-20 Tigershark

The Northrop F-20 Tigershark (initially F-5G) was a privately financed fighter aircraft, designed and built by Northrop. In 1975, Northrop began development on the F-20 Tigershark, a fighter plane designed to be reliable, easy to fly and inexpensive to maintain. Northrop didn’t accept any funds from the government to develop the plane, so the company didn’t have to consult the Air Force or any other government agency to make design decisions. As a result, the development process went fairly quickly. Northrop built three planes to take around the world to fly in demonstrations for potential customers.

The first flight of the Tigershark was made August 30, 1982. The Mach 2 class F-20 Tigershark’s basic single-seat configuration was formally designated the F-20A. The F-20 combined propulsion, electronics and armament technologies with improvements in reliability to sustain high sortie rates in adverse weather.

The F-20 incorporated a combination of advanced technology features. The F-20 could carry more than 8,300 pounds of external armaments and fuel on five pylons. It could carry six Sidewinder missiles on air-to-air missions. For air-to-ground missions, more than 6,800 pounds of armament could be carried. Two internally mounted 20mm guns were standard equipment on the Tigershark.

The avionics system features a General Electric multimode radar, Honeywell laser inertial navigation system, General Electric head-up display, Bendix digital display and control set and Teledyne Systems mission computer.

The F-20 is powered by a General Electric F404 engine, with 17,000 pounds of thrust. The F404 is recognized as one of the world’s most reliable advanced technology engines. It is also used to power the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps F/A-18A Hornet strike fighter.

Once airborne, the F-20 pilot utilized his multi-mode radar, which could detect and track targets at ranges of up to 48 nautical miles “look up” and 31 nautical miles “look down.” The F-20 mission computer coordinated the aircraft’s weapons systems. The head-up display placed critical weapons, target and flight data at the pilot’s eye level. This allowed him to fight without having to look down. Northrop designed a new panoramic canopy for the F-20 that gave the pilot a 50 percent increase in rearward visibility over previous Northrop fighters. An improved seat and headrest design combined to substantially expand over-the-shoulder visibility, which is critical in air-to-air combat.

Aerodynamic features of the F-20 included an enlarged leading edge extension to the wing, which generated up to 30 percent of the lift maneuvers. The “shark-shaped” nose allowed the F-20 to maneuver at much higher angles of attack than current operational fighters. The F-20 airframe could withstand nine G’s.

According to many pilots, the Tigershark was an excellent plane. It could be ready for combat just one minute after takeoff, and it could climb 53,800 feet per minute. Northrop planned to sell the plane to foreign countries for use in their military. However, as a result of many political changes as well as competition from other aircraft such as the F-16, the market for the plane never developed.

The F-20 was reliable and easy to maintain. Based on comparisons with the average of contemporary international fighters, the F-20 consumed 53 percent less fuel, required 52 percent less maintenance manpower, had 63 percent lower operating and maintenance costs and had four times the reliability.

Northrop F-20 Tigershark

Maximum Speed Mach 2 class
Sea level rate-of-climb 52,800 feet/minute
Combat ceiling 54,700 feet
Takeoff distance 1,600 feet
Takeoff Distance 4,200 feet
Scramble order to brake release 52 seconds
Scramble order to 29,000 feet 2.5 minutes
Time to 40,000 feet from brake release 2.3 minutes
Acceleration Time 0.3M to 0.9M, at 10,000 feet 28 seconds
Sustained Turn Rate 0.8M at 15,000 feet 11.1 degrees/second
Maximum Load Factor 9g
Length 46 ft 6 in
Height 13 ft 10 in
Wing Span 26 ft 8 in
Internal Fuel 5,050 lbs
External Fuel 6,435 lbs
Takeoff Weight clean 18,005 lbs
Combat Thrust/Weight ratio 1.1
Combat Weight 50% fuel, 2 AIM-9 missiles 15,820 lbs
Maximum Weight 27,500 lbs
Armament Two AIM-9 missiles

Five pylons, more than 8,300 lbs external armaments

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The P-38 was not just a pursuit fighter, it  was so versatile it could also be a bomber, a ground strafer, a reconnaissance plane, and an escort.  It flew at a very high-rate of speed and altitude for its time.   The P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. The multi-engine configuration reduced the Lightning loss-rate to anti-aircraft gunfire during ground attack missions.

That second engine was vitally important, single-engine airplanes equipped with power plants cooled by pressurized liquid were particularly vulnerable to ground fire. Even a small puncture in one coolant line could cause the engine to seize in a matter of minutes.

The firepower was equally as impressive consisting of one 20MM cannon and four .50 caliber machine guns mounted in the central nacelle.  These guns allowed for incredible precision and concentrated fire power when shooting at the target because they were all lined up right in front of the pilot.

In April 1943, America’s intelligence decoded a Japanese message that informed them that Admiral Yamamoto was going to visit the northern Solomon Islands on April 18th. Yamamoto was still considered to be a major figure in the Pacific War and the decision was taken to  kill him. Sixteen P-38 Lightning fighters from 339th Fighter Squadron were ordered to intercept and shoot down Yamamoto’s plane. They intercepted two G4M ‘Betty’ bombers escorted by six Zero fighter planes. Both ‘Betty’ bombers were shot down and Yamamoto was killed

By the end of the war, over 10,000 P-38 Lightning’s had been built in a variety of versions, and was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.

The P-38 Lightning turned out to be a real “work horse” for the USAAF. It served around the world as a fighter, fighter-bomber, and photographic reconnaissance aircraft and will always be considered one of three great USAAF fighters of World War II.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Type: Fighter
Crew: 1 Pilot
Armament:(4) .50 cal machine guns and (1) 20 mm cannon

Length: 37″-10 inches;
Height: 12″-10 inches;
Wingspan: 52″
Max Weight: 17500 lbs loaded

No. of Engines: 2
Power plant: Allison V-1710’s
Horsepower: 1745 hp each
Range: 1100 miles
Ceiling: 40000 feet

Wireless Power to Electronic Devices

A friend and I have argued for quite some time about if we will ever have true wireless power, similar to how we have wireless Internet connectivity, Bluetooth, Infrared, etc.  I always tell him, if you start sending energy willy-nilly through the air, you will hit someone and kill them.

A company called Powermat has developed some pretty cool technology that creates an “almost” wireless power source.  It is called the powermat and utilizes the principles of magnetic induction to transmit electrical power via an ultra thin mat embedded in, or overlaid on, any surface or wall, to electronic devices placed randomly upon it.  While not truly wireless, it does seem like it could help de-clutter our cabled power world.

For now, I still think I have won the bet, as technically a device still needs to contact the powermat, but who knows, maybe true wireless power delivery will exist someday…

Take a look at it here.  They also have a witty blog here.

Tesla Roadster spotted in Chicago

It looks like the Tesla Roadster is finally starting to make an appearance.  As most people know, the Tesla has suffered from delay after delay, frustrating those who have been so excited to start seeing them out on the road.  Initially they had issues with their transmission, but it looks like they now have that behind them.

Tesla Roadster Spotted in Chicago 5

Tesla Roadster Spotted in Chicago 4

Tesla Roadster Spotted in Chicago 3

Tesla Roadster Spotted in Chicago 2

Tesla Roadster Spotted in Chicago 1

Check out Lion Electric Vehicles

I recently stumbled across Lion Electric Vehicles.  These guys have some great new technology that enables you to hop-up your existing hybrid by swapping out your existing batteries with new batteries can greatly increase your range.


And even more incredible is that they are selling Ford Escape Hybrids that have already been modified with their new technology.  Changes to the battery pack and the sensor program allow it to run on EV entirely within city speed ranges.  On the highway it operates as an ICE vehicle with electric boost.


These guys are based out of VA, but have facilities all over the world.  It is nice to see a US company developing new technology that will help power the new energy-independence economy.  I am hopeful that our current energy crisis well help pour capital into companies like Lion which will help develop the new technologies required to achieve our goal of energy independence.

The Th!nk City Electric Car

I recently noticed the press release for this nifty little new electric car that is produced by the Norwegian firm Th!nk Global.  Ironically, Ford Motors actually developed this vehicle but sold it to Norwegian investors back in 2003.  Ford Motor Company owned the TH!NK brand from 1999-2004.

While the four-seater has a 110 mile range and a top speed of 65 mph, studies have show that this type of performance is adaquate for almost all city drivers, as well commuters that have less than 20 mile commutes.

Th!nk Global also claims that the car is made from 95% recyclable materials, will cost less than $25,000, and become available in the U.S. in 2009.  Recently Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, the leading venture firm that is investing in and accelerating Green technology solutions and policy innovations, has pumped additional funding into Th!nk so that they can expand into North America.

While I am certainly excited about the prospects of more and more companies getting into the electric car market, it is a shame that our Big Three are not leading the charge.  The technology innovations required for these new cars should be coming from our own companies, and the manufactoring jobs would certainly be welcome in the Detroit area.

The Th!nk City electric car, a four-seater with 110 mile range and top speed of 65 mph, priced under $25,000, made from 95% recyclable materials, and available in the U.S. in 2009T, but the actual mass roll out is slated for sometime in 2011.!nk.asp – Old Press Release from Ford on the Th!nk!

2014 Update

Again, at a time when electric car makers were praying for good news, Th!nk City came along and got laughed out of the industry with its lackluster product. The automaker went bankrupt not once, not twice, but three times before it was all said and done. In retrospect, the “cute” exclamation point in the name didn’t help, either

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